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New skin, new ceremony: Review of the new 2013 RIBA plan of work.

The new RIBA Plan of Work 2013 marks a significant change for the construction industry and a major departure from the original 1963 RIBA Plan of Work version, with its familiar A-L work stages. Mark Klimt reviews the new 2013 model, including key changes in areas such as procurement, town planning, sustainability, BIM and construction delivery.

The RIBA have just launched their new Plan of Work, replacing the existing 50 year old lettered Work Stages.

The last time, therefore, something as revolutionary as this was introduced, Coronation Street was a popular soap opera, Britain was governed by an old Etonian Conservative Prime Minister and Manchester United were in a totally different league to Manchester City. That is not, though, to say that there is nothing new under the sun because a lot of work has gone into producing a new process model, designed to reflect the changes in the industry and its current pre-occupations such as flexible procurement methods, sustainable systems and building information modelling.

Inevitably, the new Plan of Work has attracted negative comments and has, for example, simultaneously been criticised for making insufficient provision for post-completion care and for making excessive demands on Architects at that stage. Nonetheless, it is a detailed response to an evident need to revise work stages which practitioners were finding increasingly awkward, whatever type of project they were involved in.

The RIBA Work Stages from A (Preparation) through to L (Post Hand over) are replaced with 8 Work Stages from the optional O (Strategic Definition) through:

  • (Preparation and Brief);
  • (Concept Design);
  • (Developed Design);
  • (Technical Design);
  • (Construction);
  • (Handover and close out)
  • (In Use).

In addition to the 8 new Work Stage columns, there are 8 rows for tasks as follows:-

  • Core objective;
  • Procurement;
  • Programme;
  • (Town) Planning;
  • Suggested key support tasks;
  • Sustainability Check Points;
  • Information Exchanges (at stage completion);
  • UK Government Information Exchanges.

Some of these rows are fixed and others are variable. The intention is to create a detailed and practical plan for the project which will define, in clear and plain terms, the stages of the project and what will be done within them. It can be generated in bespoke form online and is “procurement-neutral”; in other words, it does not presume a traditional form of procurement from which departures and adaptations are possible (as with recent previous terms) but instead allows a document to be created to fit the needs of a specific project, or to act as a template for various projects.

A frequent cause of disagreement between Client and Architect, and more specifically a common source of fee dispute is a difference of opinion as to the stage that a project has reached relative to the agreed fee. The new Plan of Works recognises that a project will not proceed uniformly from one Work Stage to the next and that, for example, some parts of the job will race ahead whilst other aspects will prove more problematic. The new Plan reflects that there will be some overlap between the activities from Work Stage to Work Stage. Whilst under the “old” system there would be common controversies between Client and Architect over when the next stage payment was triggered, the recognition under the new Plan of works, for example, that planning applications can be made at various stages of projects, facilitates more sensible and pragmatic fee arrangements.

That is not to say that the defined Work Stages might not act as staging posts for agreeing fees and a progress review, but it can all be done against a more realistic and inter-active backdrop.

As indicated above, every feature that can be described as an asset can also be feared as a potential problem. Some commentators, for example, have said that the Work Stages will make matters more difficult for domestic clients in particular, if they are seeking to halt a project after the planning stage. Some critics have also suggested that representatives of the architectural profession should have been involved and consulted more comprehensively and earlier. Perhaps they are right, although the relatively recent experience of an industry Institute when trying to produce a Consultant Appointment document which reflected the requirements of all members of a Construction Team (including the Employer) suggested that the final product ended up pleasing nobody. What is fairly clear is that if consultation had been wider those practitioners who were pressing for an updated and responsive Plan of Works are likely to have been waiting for another 50 years.


For further information please contact Mark Klimt, Partner on (0)20 7280 8802 or email mark.klimt@dwffishburns.co.uk

By Mark Klimt

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.