Your Project Brief – Getting It Right First Time

It barely needs saying to construction professionals that a project brief is the final stage in defining the client’s requirements and expectation for the development of a built asset. For civil engineering in North Wales and beyond, these are increasingly detailed documents that that come in varying parts.

The Project Brief’s Statement of Need is the first attempt to describe the requirements of the project. The Strategic Brief develops from the statement of need and describes the client’s requirement in sufficient detail to allow the appointment of consultants. It is then developed further with the benefit of comments made thereupon. Those are the tenants for a good project brief. The intent of such is that everyone involved within the project is on the same page, and amendments, especially after the appointment of consultants, are to be expected. The document is one that isn’t set in stone – instead it is intended to evolve through the benefit of information gained by consultations with the client, other stakeholders, and through ongoing design development.

But how is a brief prepared? It’s a matter that’s likely coordinated by the project’s lead consultant. This brief may be developed based upon existing information such as the business case, statement of need, and the strategic brief. Site surveys, site information, and appraisals, workshops with user panels to establish needs, expectations and priorities, input from other stakeholders, input from consultants, user surveys, and input from statutory authorities such as local authorities, heritage organizations, and even the fire brigade. This stage might feel tedious, but it’s better that problems are identified before an asset is built, rather than later.

There are a number of things a good brief will contain, be them descriptions of clients (for the purpose of identifying the client’s vision, mission, objectives and how to best convey the client’s brand, culture and organization) site information (such as building and site surveys, and legislative constraints) spatial requirements (schedules of accommodation, areas and special requirements – as well as required adjacencies, groupings and separations) technical requirements (waste and water management, pollution control, durability and lifespan) component requirements (potential requirements for specialist design or the need for specialist contractors) and project requirements and other issues (such as planning requirements, the budget, and key milestones)

Any project brief should also be frozen at the end of the concept design stage, and change control procedures introduced to prevent further changes. Most project briefs usually are presented as reports, though information and requirement should be scheduled appropriately. With the advent of BIM (Building Information Modelling) Employer information requirement may be considered a parallel document to the project brief. Any project brief is a document intended to set out requirement for physical, built assets. An Employer Information Requirement defines the information the employer needs to enable them to develop and operate the asset after completion.