RIBA Plan of Work and Procurement Routes explained (part 1)


In this entry, I will be covering both the RIBA plan of work and finish off with the procurement routes. The reason why I am covering the RIBA Plan work is to give you a better understanding of the sequence of a building project. This will help you better understand the procurement routes.

The RIBA plan of work is set out in several stages. At each stage a Quantity Surveyor will be involved in producing cost estimates, cost plans, advising, managing contracts, etc… And this will help you understand procurement and your role in the development of a construction project.

You will also find that most outline plan of work has 5 general phases pre-design, design, tender, construction, maintenance. However, to explain procurement and tendering routes (in a future entry) I will be only be using 3 phases to make it easier to understand. These phases are Design, Tender, and Construct. This is roughly how the describe it in the RICS guidance notes.

I will start off explaining the RIBA Plan of Work 2007 and 2013. I will also include some of the differences. Even though the newer version is more comprehensive, the version released in 2007 is simple to understand.

RIBA Plan of Work 2007

The RIBA work stages outline plan of work organises the process of managing, designing, administrating building projects into work stages.

The RIBA plan of work

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 20.31.59

The RIBA plan of work includes the following stages:

  • Preparation
    • A – Appraisal
    • B – Design Brief
  • Design
    • C – Concept
    • D – Design Development
    • E – Technical design
  • Pre-Construction
    • F – Production Information
    • G – Tender documentation
    • H – Tender Action
  • Construction
    • J – Mobilisation
    • K – Construction to Practical Completion
  • Use
    • L – Post practical completion

You may believe that those who worked on the contractors side would only experience stages J to L with a client. And you may think that someone working on the client side (in a PQuantity Surveyor firm) would gain the experience between A to H. well…you are wrong.
Working on the contractor’s side ( main contractor ) you would have worked on stages A – H with your supply chain. You might be skipping a few stages such as D and E because you may not need to develop the design if the client has produced the drawings. I’ll explain this in much more detail when I start to get into the different procurement routes later on in this entry. I’ve added a diagram below to illustrate the difference sequences in the stages for different procurement routes. But for now you need to be able to see where you are on the plan of works both on the contractor’s side or client’s side as you are not missing out.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 20.40.13

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 20.43.09


My Take:

Procurement Route Overview
Procurement Route Overview

RIBA plan of work 2007 in detail

Preparation work stages

The aim of the preparation work stages is to identify the project’s objective and identify the best way to proceed. With enough detail from the Appraisal stage, a Design brief can be produced to allow for the design to start.

Appraisal (Stage A)

Under this stage, the client needs to investigate their need and objective of the project. Usually, options reports are produced to compare the available and practical solutions for the construction project.

Design Brief (Stage B)

During the design brief, the object is turned into client’s specification where the design will be developed on. The design brief should include enough detail to allow the design team to produce concept designs.

The design brief may include:

  • User requirements
  • schedules of accommodation
  • site information
  • design and material quality
  • facilities management
  • environmental services
  • sustainable development policy
  • whole life costing
  • timetable of critical events
  • target cost/cash flow constraints
  • procedures, time and cost controls
  • professional appointment
  • partnering
  • construction procurement
  • Risk, Value and quality management policy

Design (Stages C to F)

During these stages, the design is produced while the cost consultant (Quantity surveyor) prepares cost estimates. The design will be based on the employer’s requirement from the design brief.
Depending on the procurement route the detailed design may be moved around to suit its needs. For example, the detail design (stage F) can be undertaken after the tender in a design and build procurement route.

Tender (Stages G-H)

During the stage G to H, the design (detailed for traditional and brief for design and build) is used to prepare the tender documents for the potential contractors to submit their tender.
This is where you’ll go out to tender, by sending out your enquiry, PQQ, ITT, the form of tender, etc… and get comparable prices to analyse to produce your tender report.
Again this stage can be moved around to suit the procurement route. For now you just need to know that there is a tender stage.

Mobilisation and construction (J-K)

At this stage, a contractor has been awarded the works to complete the construction works to practical completion.
This stage can be pulled earlier in the sequence of work depending on the procurement and tender route selected. For example managing contracting, design and build and construction management may potentially have an early mobilisation due to early stage design being completed while the rest is done.

Post practical completion (Stages L)

After the contractor has completed the works and has achieved practical completion, the client starts to occupy the building.
There is usually a handover phase on the operation of the building.

Moveable stages

As mentioned previously some of the stages can be moved depending on the procurement route selected. These are:

  • Stage D – Design Development
  • Stage E – Technical design – Statutory standards and construction safety
  • Stage F1 – Production information – Application for statutory approvals
  • Stage F2 – Production information – Further information for construction
  • Stage G+H – Invitation and appraisal of tenders

You just have to keep these in mind for now until I start to cover the procurement routes.

Note: However, you will need to know the stages at the interview. So it’s best to start working on memorising them now.

Parties to the RIBA Model

There are five roles required for the RIBA Work Stages model to work. This includes:

  • The consultant team
    • Architectural Designer
    • Cost consultant (Quantity Surveyor)
    • Structural Engineer
    • Building Services Engineer
    • CDM Co-ordinator

RIBA Plan of Work 2013

Now I am going to go through the RIBA plan of work 2013.
The main differences between the RIBA plan of work 2007 and 2013 are that there are fewer stages and the inclusion of BIM & Green Overlay (‘Environmental’) in the outline.
I will cover the other detail differences in the stages below and go through each of the new stages to briefly explain its role in the new plan of work.

Note: If you want to learn more about the RIBA plan of work 2013 in a lot of details get the RIBA Job book 9th edition

Get a copy of the RIBA plan of work 2013 (Download) and RIBA Plan of Work 2013 overview (Download)

List of changes between the RIBA Plan of Work 2007 to 2013

The list below highlights all the major changes in the stages of the two Plan of work.

  • Stage 0 is a new stage that identifies the Business Case needs before initiating the works in getting detail briefs. This is a derivative of the old Stage A.
  • Stage 1 combines both the old Stage A (‘Appraisal’) and Stage B ‘(Design Brief’) into one stage
  • Stage 2 is the same as the old Stage C (‘Concept design’)
  • Stage 3 is similar to Stage D (‘Design Development’) with additional requirements that were previously covered in old Stages E (‘Technical design’). Stage 3 also includes for computer aided design requirements and BIM processes.
  • Stage 4 is similar to the old Stage E (‘Technical design’) and F1+F2 (‘Production information’)
  • Stage 5 is equivalent to the old Stages J (‘Mobilisation’) and K (‘Construction to Practical Completion’)
  • Stage 6 is equivalent to the old Stage L (‘use’). It additional covers the defects liability period from the point of issue of the practical completion certificate. It also includes post-handover activities such as Soft Landings and initial post-occupancy. Soft Landings helps iron out performance gap between the intended design and the operational outcome.
  • Stage 7 is new, it covers post-occupancy evaluation and facility management.

Stages in the new RIBA Plan of Work 2013

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 16.32.27

To fully understanding the new RIBA Plan of work 2013, you need to be aware of two elements; Stages and Tasks.
Under each stage, there are a couple of tasks that are identified.

The 7 Stages of the new RIBA Plan of work 2013 details the following:

  • Stage 0 – Strategic Definition
  • Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief
  • Stage 2 – Concept design
  • Stage 3 – Developed Design
  • Stage 4 – Technical Design
  • Stage 5 – Construction
  • Stage 6 – Handover and Closeout
  • Stage 7 – In Use

Under each Stage, there are eight tasks, of which 3 are moveable/variable. These are:

  • Core Objective
  • Procurement (Variable)
  • Programme (Variable)
  • Town (planning) (Variable)
  • Suggested Key Support Tasks
  • Sustainability Checkpoints
  • Information Exchanges – At stage completion
  • UK Government Information Exchanges

For the details below I will only be covering the first 4 tasks and cover any i

Let’s get in the details

In the following sub-sections, we’ll go in-depth on each of the stages and explain each task.

Stage 0 – strategic definition

At stage 0, we ensure that the client’s business case and strategic brief have been considered to prepare the initial project brief.

The requirements and needs are clarified at this stage. Key issues such as financing, budget, time constraints and building lifespan are considered and addressed.

Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief

At stage 1, the project brief is developed, and a feasibility study is undertaken.
This includes the projects requirements, outcome, budget and site information (including building surveys).

Stage 2 – Concept Design

At Stage 2, the concept design is developed from the project brief. It includes the outline proposals for structural design, building services systems, outline specifications and preliminary cost information.
The project team also develops some project strategies.

The output of this stage are:

  • Concept design
  • Project Strategies
  • Cost information (budget estimates)
  • Final project brief
Stage 3 – Developed Design

At Stage 3, the designed is further developed from the concept design that includes the proposed structural design, building services systems and outline specifications.
From these design cost estimates and project, strategies are produced. What you’ll be interested here is the taking the design to build cost estimates.

The output of this stage are:

  • Developed design
  • Cost information
Stage 4 – Technical Design

At Stage 4, the overall design is further developed from the previous stage. It is now refined to provide a more technical definition of the project and design work.
With enough detail, any specialist subcontractor or supplier undertaking any design works can start producing their design for implementation.

The design from the technical design stage will be used for tendering purposes as sufficient detail is available for pricing.

The output of this stage is Technical design.

Stage 5 – Construction

At stage 5, the mobilisation and construction phase takes place in agreement with the construction programme. The process continues until practical completion.

The output is As-Construction information

Stage 6 – Handover and close out

At Stage 6, we hand over the development and conclude the building contract.

The output here is the updated ‘as-constructed’ information.

Stage 7 – In Use

Finally at Stage 7, the development is complete and in use.

The output at this stage is an on-going updated ‘as-constructed’ information with client feedback.


route photo

Procurement Route

Now we’ll be covering the procurement routes available and their characteristics. It is important for any Quantity Surveyor to be able to advise on which procurement route to follow as it will dictate how the contract will be managed.
In choosing a procurement route, you will always need to look at the client’s requirement and constraints.
For example, if the client needs to open a venue within a few months and they don’t care much about the price you may not want to use a traditional procurement route. This is because it will take some time to develop the design fully, then tender and finally construct. What you would probably want in that scenario is a quick mobilisation on a site, which design and build, management contracting or construction management could provide an early start advantage.

I will show you how to differentiate the different types of procurement routes in the following subsections.

Side note: check this draft guidance note from the RICS out (original here)

The Procurement Routes

There are six procurement routes you need to be aware of, and they are listed below:

  • Traditional
  • Design and Build
  • Construction Management
  • Management Contracting
  • Partnering (covered in a future entry)
  • Public Private Partnership (covered in a future entry)
design construction photo
Photo by urbaguilera

Traditional procurement route

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 18.51.09


Traditional procurement route is the less riskiest route out of all the routes as there is a level of certainty for the design, cost and duration.
In traditional route is sequential in nature, and one stage must be fully completed before the next can start. The design must be fully completed before the tender can start and once the tender is complete and analyse then you can start to construct.
However, with this sequential procurement route it is relatively slow to start on site. You can see the sequence of design, tender and construct in the figure above.


In traditional procurement, the design must be fully completed before a competitive tenders can be invited to tender. During this stage, the cost estimates and budgets can be formulated by the Quantity Surveyor in much greater detail and BOQs can be produced with much higher detail at tender.
The contractors are not involved at this stage and do not provide any input towards the design.

At this stage, the client would have their own design team to produce the design prior to tender. The selection of the designer would be based on experience or fee (usually both).
They have a lot more influence during the design stage because they have a direct contractual relationship with the design team. Once the construction start, they will not have much influence in the design without varying the works that it becomes costly.


During the tender stage, the fully designed and spec developed during the design stage is used to produce the pricing documents for a competitive tender. The design should include the specification of workmanship and materials to sufficient detail so that the price are truly competitive and that the client gets the best value. This is to avoid assumptions.

The client handles the quantities specified in the quantity. However, this liability can be transferred to the contractor.

During this stage, a Quantity Surveyor is involved to produce the BOQ and help the client during the tender process.


Once the contractor is selected during the tender process, the contractor can start on site.
The client is still responsible for the design throughout construction and should be able to answer any technical query that the contractor may have. One common problem that could surface is that the design is not buildable and may need adjustment via a variation.

  • Competitive tender received as all contractors are bidding on the same information and there is little to no assumptions made.
  • Client leads the design and has a lot more influence in the design and quality of the development
  • Price certainty at contract award
  • Programme certainty at contract award
  • Overall project duration may be longer as the stages are sequential
  • There is no design input (buildability) from the contractor. For example design input would be required in city centre development where construction buildability will affect the delivery of the project due to logistics restrictions.
Factors Summarised:
Time (Speed or certainty)
  • Duration of development: Long
  • Time certainty: only after tender receipt which can be very late in the development
  • Start on site: Late
Cost (Price or certainty)
  • Overall price: very competitive
  • Cost certainty: only known after tender receipt at a later stage of the development
Performance (Design, Quality, functionality)
  • Client’s influence on quality: high
  • Buildability input from contractor: none

design construction photo

Design & Build

Design & Build Route


In design and build procurement route the contractor is liable for the design and construction of the development. Due to the integration of the design this allows for an early start on site while the design is still being completed. (see figure above for illustration).

There are different degrees of design and build where there can very little from the client for the contractor to price on to a concept design where the contractor will need to finish off the technical design. However, the less information provided to the contractor the higher the risk pricing and no control over the looks of the building.

A design and build contractor is liable to the client for providing a building that is fit for purpose. This is a much higher liability than an architect owns during a traditional procurement where they are only liable for due skill and care.


As mention previously there are different degrees of design and build based on the design brief provided by the client. This is often called employer’s requirements.

Little to no brief

In some occasions, there are clients who may just provide functional spec such as “10 flats with 2 bedrooms each in 1000m2 of land”. From there the contractors will design concepts for the tender returns for submission with their price. As there are going with little to no information, they would be placing higher risks in their pricing.

some brief but contractor finishes it off

This halfway house is where the client would get the design to a concept design and then go out to tender for the contractor to develop the design and finish off the technical designs.

Design and dump

Another variance of this is where the client provides the developed or concept design for the contractor to price on the design and build, but the client wishes to novate all the design risk onto the contractor. For example on of my tender we priced in the middle east the client wanted us to take on the risk of pricing the design and build as well as taking on all the risk of the design and topographical information they have provided. We had to price at quite a high risk as the topographical information was very old (10 years).

In summary, the more information the client provides, the less the risk is included in the price.

Also, any designers appointed to produce the employer’s requirement would be based on fee similar to Traditional procurement.


In design and build tender, the contractor will provide a contractor’s proposal of the design to complete the project. For example, if the client only provides very brief requirements the contractor will need to expend money to produce a contractor’s proposal including concept and specifications to what standards they have priced their work.
Due to this variance in contractor’s proposal the prices from the tender may not always be truly comparable. But the advantage of this is that there will be less time spent analysing the tenders.

At tender, the client will be certain of the price and time earlier.


Once awarded the contractor can start mobilising on the site once part of the design is complete (usually the substructure designs). While the construction of the substructure is underway, the rest of the design is being produced to allow other phases to be built after the foundations are done.

This allows for the early start on site.

  • Client only deals with one contractor who handles both design and build
  • Client risk is reduced
  • The design will have better buildability
  • Price certainty before construction starts
  • Total project time reduced
  • Difficulties in the client produce adequate design brief to meet their objectives
  • Client may require committing to concept design before the detail design is complete and may not have a lot of say on the design
  • Tenders are difficult to compare as each contractor’s proposal would be different
  • Client changes to design post award can be expensive
  • Quality may be compromised as the contractor takes off the design after award
  • The development may be less aesthetically appealing
Factors Summarised:
Time (Speed or certainty)
  • Duration of development: less than traditional – due to early start
  • Time certainty: only after tender receipt which is early in the development of the project
  • Start on site: early
Cost (Price or certainty)
  • Overall price: not competitive as prices are based on contractor’s own proposal
  • Cost certainty: only known after tender receipt (early)
Performance (Design, Quality, functionality)
  • Client’s influence on quality: low to none
  • Buildability input from the contractor : high input from the contractor as they handle design.

women in construction photo

Management Contracting

Management Contracting
Management Contracting

Under management contracting, the client engages a management contractor to manage the whole development of the project.
The client appoints a management contractor by going to tender on a small amount of design to allow them to price their fees and prelim for the project.

On appointment, the management contractor breaks down the work into small packages where it is then designed, tendered and constructed by subcontractors until the last package is let to out.

The subcontractors are directly engaged by the management contractor and not the client. The management contractor undertakes the payment and in return is reimbursed by the client. The management contractor does not undertake any physical construction but only provide site attendance and other preliminary attendance on the site.


The design is led by the client and is managed by the management contractor. Before the appointment of the management contractor, a small amount of design is prepared to allow the management contractor to price for the prelims (cranes, site offices, etc…) and their fee.
Once appointed the management contractor manages and coordinates the work packages. The design is still led by the client’s design team where each package is designed and tendered.


As explained previously the tender of the management contractor is based on their fees and prelims. However, the tender for the work packages are undertaken after the design for each work package is complete. There will be occasions each work packages are worked on in parallel which allows for faster delivery.


As mentioned the management contractor does not undertake any construction activities but manages them. The subcontractors engaged for the work packages are the ones who undertakes the physical delivery of the development.

  • Due to the overlapping of the design, tender and construction of the work packages there are programme efficiencies.
  • The client gains from buildability expertise from the management contractor
  • The client has a higher control of the design and can have late design change as long as the package has not been let out.
  • work packages are competitively price
  • The client is heavily relied upon for the design brief
  • there is no certainty of the price until the last package has been tendered
  • the route relies on good management contractors instead of an agent acting as a post box for the client.
  • there is little to no incentive to work on contractor’s claim by the management contractor as there is no benefit
  • there is a high design management requirement for this route to work.
Factors Summarised:
Time (Speed or certainty)
  • Duration of development: less than other routes – due to an early start on early packages and being able to work simultaneously on the design, tender and construction of different packages.
  • Time certainty: only after tender receipt of the last package which is late in the development of the project
  • Start on site: very early
Cost (Price or certainty)
  • Overall price: competitive on each package but high cost of management to deliver the overall project
  • Cost certainty: only known after last work package tender receipt (late)
Performance (Design, Quality, functionality)
  • Client’s influence on quality: very high as it is lead by the client
  • Buildability input from the contractor : high input from contractor and construction management.
women in construction photo
Photo by Leshaines123

Construction Management

Construction Management
Construction Management

Under construction management route, the client takes on the risk of managing the whole team. He employs the design team with a construction manager on a fee basis to develop the project.
The construction manager is employed to manage, programme and coordinate the design and construction activities to facilitate collaboration with the subcontractors.

The actual tender of the construction manager is based on their fees and experience. They are not tendering for the job but only providing a service to aid the client to manage and deliver the development.

The actual tender of the construction work is based on work packages that the construction manager has broken down. Each of these work packages is designed, tendered and constructed until the last package has been designed, tendered and construction.

It is similar to management contracting, but the difference is that the liability rest on the client as the contractors are directly engaged with the client and that the CM has been tendered on fees. This allows for a faster start on site as illustrated in the figure above.


The design is undertaken by the design team who has been employed directly by the client. The construction manager coordinates the design and the work packages. The liability of the design is on the client and not the construction manager.

When appointed the construction manager breaks the work down in work packages to allow the design team to work on the design for tender. This allows for an earlier start on site.


As explained above after each package has been designed it is tendered out to the contractors.
Only after the last package is subcontracted can the client have certainty on the price and programme.


The actual construction work is undertaken by contractors who have been appointed at tender. The construction manager does not undertake any construction but manages the work packages.

  • The total development period is shorter than the other procurement route as the design and construction for each package are worked in parallel
  • The client gets better buildability with the experience from the construction manager.
  • Roles, risks and relationships for all parties are clear
  • Changes to design can be accommodated later during the development. (as long as that work package has not been subcontracted)
  • Client has direct contracts with the trade
  • The client has better control over quality
  • Price and time certainty is only achieved when the last package has been let.
  • A strong team is required from the client’s side to manage the works
  • There is a high commitment required from the client to enable the design to proceed through the duration of the project.
  • the design team must be controlled and kept on programme
Factors Summarised:
Time (Speed or certainty)
  • Duration of development: less than other routes – due to an early start on early packages and being able to work simultaneously on the design, tender and construction of different packages. (faster than management contractors as no design and tender is required to engage the construction management team)
  • Time certainty: only after tender receipt of the last package which is late in the development of the project
  • Start on site: very early
Cost (Price or certainty)
  • Overall price: competitive on each package but high cost of management to deliver the overall project
  • Cost certainty: only known after last work package tender receipt (late)
Performance (Design, Quality, functionality)
  • Client’s influence on quality: very high as it is lead by the client
  • Buildability input from the contractor : high input from contractor and construction management.

Procurement strategy

Now that you understand the procurement route, we’ll take a step backwards and look at procurement strategy and what you’ll need to consider when providing advice.

The whole point of having a procurement strategy is to identify the most efficient route to deliver the client’s objectives.

The first action as a QS when preparing a procurement strategy is to gather the client’s objective and requirement. These requirement should check off the client’s expectation on budget/financing, quality they are seeking to achieve, the duration of the project (or any time constraints) and any other risks they’d like to transfer.

The brief is developed at Stages 1 and 2 of the RIBA plan of work.

The factors to consider from the client’s requirement are:

Cost /finance

You will need to identify how the project is going to be funded and how much fund is available from the client at the moment. This is important because certain client requires to borrow funds or get board approval before taking on these projects. Therefore, cost certainty might be a factor in selection.


You will need to identify the required completion date or important milestone/key dates that a portion of the works needs to be completed by. You also need to identify the desired completion date and absolute last delivery date so that you can have some float in your programme in terms of delivery of the development.


You will also need to identify the required functional performance of the development and an indication of the quality. For example, if the client is not bothered with the aesthetics then you may be able to look at just providing the works to a normal standard which would certainly keep the cost down. Another example is if the client wants to get their hands involved in the quality or design for the development of the property then a traditional route procurement would be most suitable as they are more likely to get that control before tendering and getting prices in.

Capital vs. operational costs

You will need to identify the requirements over the running cost of a new development with the client. If the client wants a development with little maintenance or cheaper maintenance, then this will definitely affect the specification for the design. As the designers may need to design a building to last much longer or with very efficient maintenance.


You will need to identify from the project brief the level of risk or planning required for the project. For example, if you’re building in a city centre you may need to consider additional requirements for traffic management and design restrictions when advising for the procurement route.

In terms of risk there is a nice illustration in the Latham report which shows the risk transfer on the contract type. Even though it is the contract option rather than the procurement route it gives you an indication that the more that the contractor does and the less you provide the more risk they are undertaking.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 12.39.15

In addition to the risk table there is also a nice table highlighting the advantage and disadvantage of some of the procurement routes we’ve discussed in this entry.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 12.39.54

If you haven’t done so, I would strongly recommend reading Constructing the Team by Sir Michael Latham. It is very informative and interesting on introducing the NEC and other concept such as project bank accounts which is implemented in New South Wales. You can read a bit more about this on Wikipedia, for some reason the NSW government updated their website and the report is not available in the public links. I have attached my archived copy here.

To summarise I have listed the 3 main factors that affect the procurement strategy:

  • Time (Speed or certainty)
  • Cost (Price or certainty)
  • Performance (Design, Quality, functionality)

Cautionary Note:
The above does not include any CDM regulation procedures and requirements. You need to be aware of the CDM regulation and requirement throughout the plan of work. I may cover this in the future in another post.

Photo by Leshaines123


Part 2 can be found here


Interested in this article? why not sign up?

[thrive_leads id=’6410′]

2 responses to “RIBA Plan of Work and Procurement Routes explained (part 1)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *