Is all going according to plan?

One year on, how is the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 performing in practice?

Last May’s launch of the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 was a major step in the evolution of the core process map for the construction industry. It introduced a number of changes, including five key issues.

First, the overall structure was rationalised into eight rather than 11 stages, to reflect more accurately the way that the industry functions in the 21st century. New pre-­project (strategic definition) and post-occupancy (in use) stages were introduced, reflecting the need to consider a project within the context of the client’s broader business objectives and the whole life cycle of the building.

Thirdly, the provision of task bars enables the Plan of Work to be customised to suit ­different procurement methods (including tendering) and to provide flexibility in relation to the timing of planning applications. 

Two key management roles are clearly defined: the project lead, responsible for managing all aspects of the project and ensuring delivery in accordance with the programme; and the lead designer, who manages and co-ordinates the design, including integrating specialist subcontractors’ design. ­Finally, there is new emphasis on the collective responsibilities of the collaborative project team, encompassing the design team, client and contractor, in successful project delivery.

Many visitors have gone on to produce bespoke versions of the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 to suit their own practice and project needs

There has certainly been a huge amount of interest in the RIBA Plan of Work 2013, with more than 70,000 unique visits to and nearly 20,000 downloads of the overview document already. Many visitors have gone on to produce bespoke versions of the plan to suit their own practice and project needs. Briefing sessions in the RIBA nations and regions have attracted some 1,500 attendees, and there have been more than 50 bespoke briefing sessions for practices, major clients and contractors.



Now seems an appropriate time to address some of the common questions arising as the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 begins to be used. 

Can the 2013 plan readily be deployed on smaller, simpler projects being procured in a traditional way?

Yes, it is straightforward to produce a bespoke version mapped to a traditional approach, with the planning application submitted at stage 3 (developed design) and tenders sought at stage 4 (technical design) on the basis of full design information. The RIBA’s Small Project Services schedule, mapping the architect’s services to the plan, is designed for use with the RIBA Agreements and can be downloaded free from

Will we need to change our fee structures to reflect the changes in the Plan?

The RIBA anticipates that fees for stage 0 (strategic definition), stage 1 (preparation and brief) and stage 7 (in use) will normally be on a time charge basis. The fees for any project need to reflect the resources required to deliver the agreed services as well as ­profit and added value. The new stage 3 (developed design) requires the development of a fully co-ordinated design, including structural and building services elements, and so can be considered to go beyond the old stage D. This suggests practices will probably need to charge more of the overall project fee at stage 3.

The task bars enable customisation of the Plan of Work, but can we add our own text and guidance for clients?

The plan provides a framework for the project process. defines core objectives and activities at each stage as well as several levels of additional guidance. At the moment customisation is limited, but we will respond to feedback and intend to provide even more flexibility in future. This is likely to include a free text box so practices can insert specific additional content.

There is often pressure to submit a planning application as soon as possible, as it can be crucial for obtaining funding and releasing value. Can the 2013 plan accommodate this?

Yes, a key feature of the new planning task bar is that it recognises the importance of pre-application activity and provides flexibility for applications to be made at the end of stage 2 (concept design) where appropriate. It is of course important that the client understands that the advantages of an earlier application need to be balanced against the risks inherent in moving to planning on less information and design certainty.

The RIBA Plan of Work 2013 sets out the activities to be undertaken at each stage and identifies key roles, but does not specify who does what. What assistance is there to manage this on larger, more complex projects, with several members of the design team?

The RIBA has published the Plan of Work Toolbox, which can be accessed free of charge at This includes a design responsibility matrix and multi-disciplinary services schedule which can be used in the management of design responsibilities. 


Adrian Dobson is RIBA director of practice
Dale Sinclair is RIBA vice-president, practice and profession, and director at Dyer

Procurement & Contracts
Procurement & Contracts