12 June 2024

What is early-stage specification?

The addition of early-stage content provides a place to record information that forms the basis for the design development, which is information that is essential to preparing the technical specification during the RIBA Plan of Work Stage 4 ‘Technical Design’.

The early stage of a construction project covers the time frame from inception to the final design proposal. In the RIBA Plan of Work 2020, it incorporates Stages 0–3:

  • Stage 0: Strategic Definition.
  • Stage 1: Preparation and Brief.
  • Stage 2: Concept Design.
  • Stage 3: Spatial Coordination.

How does early-stage specification add value?

The benefits of early-stage content are that it allows specifiers to:

  • Keep early-stage information in one place rather than recording information in multiple separate and unrelated documents.
  • Focus specifically on the initial stages while preparing information, such as planning proposals, design briefs, subsequent design development, and performance specifications.
  • Specify initial information for a building or structure earlier in the project’s timeline, such as describing a building’s fabric – walls, roofs, floors and external works.
  • Gather and share different information earlier within the timeline and with new audiences, including, for example, the client, planning, building control and for public consultation.
  • Use language appropriate for these wider audiences. For instance, present information descriptively and less formally to relay how the building will be built, what it will look like and what its quality will be.
  • Collaborate, prepare and share information from multiple contributors earlier in the project.
  • Capture any requirements for specialist design.
  • Record and share ‘advisory content’ (for example, analyses, assessments, legislative and site restrictions, survey reports and third-party data).
  • Access cost and carbon data through links to BCIS live data.
  • Reduce risk by creating clarity. Using elements provides visibility of related systems, which avoids duplication, omission or error in specification.
  • Have early awareness of any project issues relating to the requirements of the Building Safety Act.

For Construction Information Service (CIS) subscribers, it enables earlier research, consultation of relevant documents and the addition of standards to the outline or final design specification.

What are ‘elements’ in Chorus?

Elements in Chorus expand the Uniclass content beyond systems and products. They serve as the bridge between the early-stage design and the technical proposal, recording the performance and design requirements of the building fabric or structure. They also bring together systems that work towards these requirements, and importantly, they can be used to form and enclose a space and to define, manage and control the environment in that space.

The requirements specified within an element should remain constant throughout a project’s timeline. They should serve as a basis for design development, a way to manage substitution and a way to validate compliance for completed works. This is essential to maintaining the principles of the ‘golden thread’ throughout the construction process.

They can be:

  • Major parts of a building’s fabric – its walls, roof, floors and openings.
  • Service installations.
  • Parts of a structure.
  • Landscape works.

What’s in this release?

Some of the things we’ve provided in this release include:

  • Introducing new, early-stage content for CAWS and Uniclass in Chorus.
  • Extending the structure of Uniclass in Chorus to enable users to specify elements.
  • A new element clause structure, which incorporates:
    • Performance and design requirements.
    • ‘Advisory content’ that helps users record information used to develop the specification.
    • ‘Constituent systems’ – broadening content by creating a way to bring systems together.
  • Suggesting ways to identify elements for specific projects by ‘type’, ‘version’ and ‘instance’.
  • Extending CAWS content to include whole project, whole building and construction clauses.

What’s next?

This is the first in a series of articles addressing early-stage specification, how to use elements and other related topics. We’ll also update you on what’s happening with Chorus and alert you to the latest content as it’s released.

Chorus offers flexible plans with options to suit different budgets. For more information, contact one of our team members at info@thenbs.com.

NBS Technical Authoring Team acknowledgements

Senior Technical Author Gordon Gray is an experienced architect and technical author knowledgeable about early-stage specification; he is the author of the source material used to create this article. He and our other technical authors are experienced professionals providing the valuable content and guidance found in Chorus. Other articles written or inspired by our authors can be found on the NBS website. These include:

Targeting net zero: addressing energy efficiency, ventilation and thermal comfort, written using source materials developed by Technical Content Authoring Manager Jason Dobson, Senior Technical Author Stephen Surtees and Technical Author (Architectural) Tom Yeadon.

The retrofit standards framework, written by Technical Author (Architectural) Tom Yeadon.

The Building Safety Act and specification, written by Senior Technical Author James Smith.

Building Safety Act implications for mechanical and electrical engineers, written by Technical Content Authoring Manager Jason Dobson.