05 July 2022

The RIBA Plan of Work

This is part of a series of articles looking at The Digital Plan of Work

The RIBA Plan of Work was initiated in 1963 as a framework for architects to use on projects. Over the years, it has become an industry-wide tool. It explains the expected outcomes, core tasks and information exchanges throughout the life of a construction project.

The 2020 version of the Plan of Work includes an ‘Information Exchanges’ taskbar, as shown below in Figure 1. The information produced at the end of a stage then influences the decisions and the work required throughout the next stage. For example, the ‘Business Case’ at the end of Stage 0 then informs the ‘Project Budget’ that is developed as part of Stage 1. With respect to the more structured information requirements, the ‘Responsibility Matrix’ and the ‘Information Requirements’ delivered at the end of Stage 1 are critical to the success of the project.

Figure 1.1 - The ‘Information Exchanges’ taskbar within the RIBA Plan of Work.

(Click the image to see in more detail)

The RIBA Plan of Work Overview

Although this article focuses on the planning and delivery of information requirements, the wider aspects of the RIBA Plan of Work are covered in the free ‘Overview’ guide. The guide looks at three main areas:

  • Background – an introduction to plans of work, and a look at the feedback from the 2013 edition and the 2020 modifications.
  • RIBA Plan of Work 2020 – chapters on the taskbars, the work stages and the project strategies. A special focus is given to both sustainability and procurement strategy.
  • Changing Processes – a detailed look at setting information requirements and the changing nature of the industry.

Download The RIBA Plan of Work Overview


The RIBA Plan of Work Toolbox

As part of the launch of the RIBA Plan of Work 2013, NBS and the RIBA worked together with respect to the digital aspects of the Plan of Work. NBS also worked with RIBA and other industry bodies to develop an online digital plan of work tool as part of the Innovate UK-funded BIM Toolkit. NBS and RIBA worked closely together to align both.

The online version within the BIM Toolkit was retired in June 2022. NBS recommends using the RIBA Plan of Work Toolbox for defining who is in the project team and what each party in the project team needs to do. The Toolbox contains template content for a ‘Project Roles Table’, a ‘Responsibility Matrix‘and ‘Multidisciplinary Schedules of Services’. The Responsibility Matrix allows for the planning of aspects of design, giving clear responsibility for delivery at each stage, and indicators for level of detail (LOD) and level of information (LOI).

Clarity is also needed on where the design responsibilities lie between the design team and any specialist subcontractors. This is not the same as simply setting the procurement route. Traditional projects may have elements of specialist subcontractor design where descriptive information is needed. Equally, design-and-build projects may have elements of prescriptive information where the client would like the design team to have responsibility for certain system and product decisions. With this in mind, it is essential that a Responsibility Matrix is set up prior to the design stages of a project. Clearly, the Responsibility Matrix will be updated as the project progresses, and it is essential that this is reviewed at the start of the technical design stage of a project (RIBA Stage 4) so it is clear who is producing the final information for construction.

The screenshots below illustrate how a Responsibility Matrix in the RIBA Plan of Work Toolbox may develop throughout the project timeline. Click to view a larger version of each screenshot.

Responsibility Matrix – prior to the design stages

Figure 2.1 shows an example Responsibility Matrix within the RIBA Plan of Work Toolbox developed prior to the design stages. This considers the design practice ABC Architects planning the design prior to the procurement strategy being known. Note that:

  • The aspects of design are at a high level of classification – for example, the designer expects the project to include ‘flat roof covering systems’ but is not yet clear as to the specific type(s) of flat roof cover. In this example, the third level of the Uniclass ‘Systems’ (Ss) table is used. Alternatively, if this level of information is not yet known, the ‘Elements/ functions’ (EF) table could be used.
  • Aspects of design not expected to be in the project have been removed.
  • ABC Architects makes it clear to the client at this stage that the final technical design of the flat roof covering systems will be expected to be completed by a specialist subcontractor. They will develop descriptive information that will act as a brief for the specialist subcontractor to then develop the prescriptive solution.
  • Whether the client decides to adopt a traditional approach or a design-and-build approach as the overall procurement strategy is not yet known. Who the specialist subcontractor will be is not yet known. Neither is it yet known whether ABC Architects will be novated, if a design-and-build approach is taken.

Figure 2.1 – Example Responsibility Matrix within the RIBA Plan of Work Toolbox, developed prior to design stages

(Click the image to see in more detail)

Responsibility Matrix – prior to the technical design stage

Figure 2.2 shows the same example Responsibility Matrix prior to the technical design stage of the project. This example demonstrates a design-and-build project, where the main contractor has not novated ABC Architects, and the designers (DEF Architecture) are now part of the design team. The specialist subcontractor XYZ Roofing is now also named. Note that:

  • The specific types of flat roof and floor tiling systems are now known and itemized. These classifications now go to the lowest level of the Uniclass ‘Systems’ (Ss) table as this precision is now known.
  • Each type of system has an additional type code (RFA-001, RFA-002) that is unique within the project to assist with cross-referencing between model, drawings, schedules and specification.
  • The flooring systems will be developed to an information banding of 4 by the designer – this corresponds to a prescriptive level of specification. The roof covering systems will be developed to an information banding of 3 by the designer (descriptive information) and the prescriptive information (banding 4) will be completed by the specialist subcontractor.

Figure 2.2 – Updated Responsibility Matrix prior to technical design stage

(Click the image to see in more detail)

Specification planning – prior to the technical design stage

Figure 2.3 shows the same example specification summary sheet within NBS Chorus prior to the technical design stage of the project. This shows how expert platforms such as Chorus can add further detail over and above the Responsibility Matrix developed in tools such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Note that:

  • Each specific system has a brief description, which adds a further level of information to assist the specification writer.
  • The prefix column has a clear [D] or [P] indicator to show whether the specifications being prepared will be descriptive or prescriptive.
  • The suffix column includes a package code and an incremental number to represent a cross-referencing code that is unique within the project.
  • Clicking on each specification title will open the technical specification in the editor.
  • Where a primary manufacturer product has been specified, as shown in the floor covering prescriptive specifications, an image is shown to illustrate how this product looks visually

Figure 2.3 – Specification summary sheet in NBS Chorus reflecting information requirements detailed in the Responsibility Matrix

(Click the image to see in more detail) 

At the end of the technical design stage, final requirements for handover information will be known. The specification itself will list these system completion tasks and information requirements. A master information delivery plan should then be developed to reflect these requirements, and in this further LOD and LOI bandings for the construction and handover stages of the project may be referenced.

The RIBA Plan of Work is intended as a multidisciplinary tool that is used by the lead designer. Further discipline-specific guidance is provided by other institutions. These are linked to below:

The RIBA Plan of Work sets out the need for clear information exchanges and the responsibilities for delivery, but does not provide guidance in terms of more detailed information management. The resources at the UK BIM Framework website sets out the approach for implementing BIM in the UK using the framework for managing information provided by the ISO 19650 series. It includes: the published standards called upon to implement BIM in the UK; the UK BIM Guidance Framework; and useful links to other resources.


NBS and RIBA webinar series on the core project strategies

This article has focused on good information management and clearly defined responsibilities. However, these are enablers to deliver against client requirements and the project outcomes.

When the RIBA Plan of Work 2020 was published, NBS worked with the RIBA Plan of Work team to jointly run a set of webinars introducing the Plan of Work and also the core project strategies to deliver successful outcomes against client requirements.

These webinars can all be accessed ‘on demand’ at the links below: