Author Archives: Martin Hall

The RIBA Plan of Work 2020

The RIBA Library, London. Photo: Wikipedia

The RIBA Plan of Work is the definitive model for the design and construction process of buildings. To paraphrase their own statement, it is designed to organise the process of briefing, designing, delivering, maintaining, operating and using a building into eight stages. It is intended to be used as guidance for the preparation of professional services and building contracts.

It has come a long way from its first iteration in 1963, when it came in the form of a fold-out sheet that simply explained participants’ roles via a basic matrix. As projects increased in complexity, and the regulatory environment changed, so did the Plan of Work, with the current structure of eight numerical stages being adopted in 2013. Specifically, Stage 0 was introduced that year, in order to create a pre-commencement point so that a decision could be made regarding if a building project was the optimum way for the client’s needs to be met, as was Stage 7, which provided a method for acknowledging a building’s life when in use until such time as Stage 0 recommences. Now, after seven years of gathering feedback, the new version has been released.

What is the context?

In June 2019 the UK Government committed to be net zero carbon by 2050, and the RIBA, along with much of the construction industry, are of the view that to meet this target new projects and refurbishments must be designed and constructed that will not require retrofitting again before 2050. A deadline of 2030has been set to achieve this. The RIBA believes that if this is to be successful, it needs to start now.

What is new this time?

The work stages have been renamed and reordered:

0 – Strategic definition

1 – Preparation and briefing

2 – Concept design

3 – Spatial coordination

4 – Technical design

5 – Manufacturing and construction

6 – Handover

7 – Use

There are extensive sections on how each stage works and a larger glossary detailing how each of the topics underpinning the plan are important to the success of a project. Furthermore, project strategies are fully explicated in order to show how a legion of topics will need to be addressed as a project moves through each stage.

The plan has been increasingly affected by the need to centre sustainability. The RIBA Sustainable Futures Group had a role in developing the relevant project strategy section, which emphasises the value of aftercare activities at Stage 6. This has replaced the Green Overlay.

In terms of BIM, where there has been changes as well, the overlay in question has been replaced by a new section, with a view towards addressing the challenges of using next generation digital deliverables, in the context of ever-increasing intricacy of information requirements. There will be greater emphasis on keeping models live, and using embedded data to push evidence-based design and to aid asset and facilities management.

A principal change has come with the change to Stage 3, which was in the previous version entitled ‘Developed Design’. The 2020 version suggests that the spatial coordination stage

“is fundamentally about testing and validating the Architectural Concept, to make sure that the architectural and engineering information prepared at Stage 2 is Spatially Coordinated before the detailed information required to manufacture and construct the building is produced at Stage 4… Stage 3 is not about adjusting the Architectural Concept, which should remain substantially unaltered, although detailed design or engineering tasks may require adjustments to make sure that the building is Spatially Coordinated.”

This has been changed and firmed up to address the issue of information being sought outside the main stage gateways, as it is not always possible for both deliverables and what tasks underpin them to be clear, and every stakeholder’s outputs may not have been taken into account. In short, the RIBA Plan of Work 2020 has been designed to prevent stages being split in two, as feedback suggested had been happening.

The other principal change has been to increase clarity between Stages 2 and 3. The concept should be got right at Stage 2, and should be fully signed off before Stage 3 begins. It shouldn’t be changed at that point. Rather, Stage 3 should comprise design studies for specific portions of the building, and detailed engineering analysis. The cost plan must be got right. Most importantly, the focus ought to be on the lead designer managing this information until Stage 3 is completed and 4 ready to begin.

The RIBA hopes that the Plan of Work 2020 “brings into focus the trends and innovations that are changing the construction industry and provides space for these to thrive on our projects while ensuring a simple and robust framework remains in place”.

It is a worthy ambition. In tandem with their Climate Change 2030 initiative, the RIBA is most definitely doing its part in the global fight for sustainability via the developing and implementing of transparent, measurable and achievable goals in the construction industry.

For our response to the new Plan of Work, see the Mainer RIBA Table.

Paris proof: a road map to sustainability

Windfarm, Friesland, the Netherlands. Photo: Pxfuel

As stakeholders ponder the different ways to achieve the aims of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, an innovative approach has been taken by the Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC) in the Netherlands. The goal? The creation of a Paris Proof built environment by 2040.

What does Paris Proof mean? A two thirds reduction of energy consumption in comparison to the current average. This is significantly more than what was required in 2016, which was a reduction of one fifth, and therefore represents one of the more ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) from any country.

This multi-year sustainability programme requires an array of route maps across a range of sectors, which will sit under the umbrella of the Delta Plan for Sustainable Renovation. It will require a range of approaches, dependent on the size of the sector in question. For the six largest ones (healthcare, offices, retails, housing, logistics and education), the DGBC has partnered with working groups to push the best sustainability model. This involves, not surprisingly, buildings being tested for their current consumption levels. That’s the first step of the Delta Plan.

How will this work in practice for an organisation? There are six steps along the road:

  1. A portfolio inventory
  2. An analysis
  3. A sustainability plan
  4. Financing the operation
  5. Realising it
  6. Monitoring it

What are the targets? An office building must only use 50 kWh per square meter per year. By 2050, a care building with overnight accommodation will be allowed 80 kWh per square meter. For supermarkets, the number is larger: 150 kWh per square meter per year will still be available by that time. This will hit the two-thirds reduction target.

Of course, there is a bigger picture here than how much energy a given building must be using by 2050. That is the amount of energy that will be available by then. The Netherlands is committed to producing all energy sustainably – by wind, or solar power, for example – by that year, with the result that there will be less energy available; in short, one third of the current amount, with none of it producing CO₂ emissions. Therefore, the overall amount of energy that will be available perfectly aligns with the target for reduction. The detailed figures can be found here.

Participants at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Photo: wikimedia commons

Paris Proof will allow organisations to hit targets 10 years earlier, at a point where the amount of energy available will still be more than the required use under the model. This will obviously aid in future proofing the Netherlands for the new world of 2050.

How was this plan realised? An important step was the Paris Proof working conference that took place in The Hague on June 13th 2019 comprising DGBC participants, members of the Paris Proof working groups and any other stakeholders. This half-day event saw the DGBC present their road maps, with the idea of encouraging businesses to make their own personal versions that are pertinent to their buildings and organisation.

In order to push their plan and encourage its take-up in other countries, the DGBC is hosting the Paris Proof Congress on May 28th this year. Let us hope it’s well attended, encouraging other countries to push aspirational NDCs. This will a huge help in giving the Paris Climate Agreement the best chance of success.

Upcycled breakfast waste: Throw Away IPA, Cast off Pale Ale and Sling it out Stout

Throw Away IPA. Photo: Seven Bro7ers

I bet you didn’t think your leftover breakfast could be recycled into something you enjoy in the evening, and with such snappy monikers, too? Well, Seven Bro7hers, a family-run brewery (the clue’s in the name) based in Salford, has gone into partnership with Kellogg’s to make it happen, producing three distinct beers:

  • Throw Away IPA: made with Corn Flakes
  • Cast off Pale Ale: made with Rice Krispies
  • Sling it out Stout: made with Coco Pops

Here’s how it works.

Some cornflakes, rice crispies and coco pops don’t make the cut; perhaps because they’re a little overdone or the wrong size or colour. However, they’re obviously edible, taste fine and still have value. These ones formed the basis for Seven Bro7hers’ beer-making experiment. Handily, after they’d been playing around with this idea, Kellogg’s moved their HQ to Media City in Salford, and were approached by the brothers.

It turned out that Kellogg’s were sending over 500 tonnes a year of unused Corn Flakes to be used as animal feed. Kellogg’s as a company are very keen to push a sustainability agenda and are investing in it, so the idea of turning waste into beer sat very well with them, as you’d imagine. They now send a percentage of their unused cereal to Seven Bro7hers.

The first of the beers to be born was Throw Away IPA in November 2018, available on draught or in cans. The brothers discovered that if they replaced 80kg of the malted barley in their already existing stout and pale ale with Coco Pops and Rice Krispies respectively, they had two more cereal beers, giving them a mini-range. It was a case of getting right the ratio of cereal to the existing grain mix; once that was achieved, the brothers say that it’s much the same as making any other beer. It is, but other beers, either those made in small craft breweries or by the giants of the industry, aren’t doing their bit for sustainability.

Food waste in a landfill. Photo: USEPA

As a New York Times article from this July suggests, this is not just a commercial venture: it’s a genuine attempt to contribute to arresting food waste, which as we know plays such a role in climate change. Why? Because a third of the world’s food lies unused, or is wasted or lost. It then goes to landfills, where it decomposes, and releases methane gas into the atmosphere.

Next time you have a drink, think about this, and consider a pint (or can) of one of these beers, particularly if you love the taste of cereal (and don’t we all?) It’s nice to think that every glass you sink is contributing in a small way to the fight against climate change, isn’t it?

New Guidance from BREEAM

YMCA Lakeside

In advance of a 3 year strategy to be announced in early 2020, BREEAM has written to all its assessors to inform them of a new Customer Service Charter and Code of Practice. The message is that there have been improvements in timescales and services but clients should be assured of their ongoing commitment to enhancement, with a particular focus on improving turnaround times for resubmitted assessments as well as assessments requiring translation. Included within the Charter is a set of newly defined Quality Assurance Principles, which describe the themes and behaviours by which their auditors will be guided when conducting technical reviews of assessments. There are three areas:

Communication: To work in partnership with assessors to deliver effectively for them and their client

Trust in Assessors: To recognise the professional competence, reputation and quality of assessors and their work

Confidence in QA: To inspire assessor and end-client confidence in BREEAM, their schemes and certification

Furthermore, the Charter commits BREEAM to delivering outstanding customer service through the motivation of their people to serve customers’ needs in a professional manner. They recognise that their role is to support assessors and their clients via transparent, quality-assured standards, procedures and outcomes that provide value and confidence.

To that end, they have published service level standards for QA audits and new guidance for certification application requests that provide a transparent timeline for audit, feedback and certification. At the assessor’s request, this information can be sent directly to a client. New guidance for registration and licence applications is also in the Charter, with attendant timescales. Guidance for Green Specification ratings is included, with a Green Guide Calculator to enable assessors to quickly and efficiently generate Green Guide ratings.

The Code of Practice aims to promote:

  • the best standards of practice and professional behaviour by Assessors
  •  confidence in the integrity of the Scheme, Assessors, Assessment Services and Certification

Assessors must ensure that they understand and comply with this Code and any accompanying guidance. They must adhere to the Code of Practice and meet its requirements in the following areas:

  • Personal and professional standards
  • Skills and ability
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Marketing
  • Information for the client

The Code of Practice will be rolled-out as part of assessors’ annual licence renewal over the next 12 months (or as part of any new licence application from 2nd January 2020).