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Manage project costs with the Plan of Work 2020

05 March 2020

The RIBA Plan of Work 2020 Overview, published in February, contains useful Project Strategies, which support the Plan of Work itself and were developed in parallel with the design stages. The nine Project Strategies include Fire Safety, Conservation, Procurement and Planning and each one suggests stage-specific concerns, issues and tasks to be completed.

The Cost Strategy has been significantly expanded. Steven Thompson, Professional Groups Associate Director of the Built Environment at RICS, was closely involved in the revised text.

The cost control elements of each stage have been defined in more detail and made more explicit: this better reflects what happens under the wide range of procurement routes that exist within the industry, Thompson explains.

“In the previous Plan of Work’s Project Strategies there was a range of options and recommendations presented for planning costs,” he points out. “There still is, only they are now expressed more fully.”

“The new Plan of Work should make it clearer to architects what level of information they should be providing to assist the cost consultant: the design information appropriate to each specific point in the project life-cycle,” he continues.

Accordingly, the Cost Strategy progresses from big-picture or high-level costs to specific elemental costs. A "rough order of cost estimate" is called for at Stage 0 in the Strategy, for example: this might be calculated using standard off-the-shelf price references or database costs that practices have maintained for similar past projects.

“In a project’s very early days, cost considerations might focus on outline details such as size, shape and location of the building – without any need for the exact finish of external walls necessarily. Later on, more detailed design options need to be taken into account: choosing between different elemental items where the choice has a fundamental cost impact. Whether the external envelope is mostly glass or not, for example.”

At Stage 2, which calls for the preparation of an initial formal Cost Plan, the revised Cost Strategy reinforces the principle that providing relevant design information will enable a better quality cost plan to be prepared. At this point, cost planning can start to include elemental choices, such as the type of external cladding.

Moving from big-picture cost estimates to more detailed, elemental costs, the Cost Strategy guides architects through each RIBA Stage.

Some of the additional guidance on cost planning is addressed more to the Quantity Surveyor or cost consultant on the team than the lead designer, though this will depend on the nature of the project and the architect’s specific responsibilities. At Stage 1, the Cost Strategy states: "Prepare order of cost estimates to test the feasibility of achieving the emerging Project Brief", for example. Thompson reassures architects that these strategies will be abundantly clear to cost consultants.

One area that may have been neglected in the past by cost consultants and clients is the final Stage 7: the in-use and Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) stage. There are likely to be additional cost considerations here to be discussed with clients.

The Cost Strategy at Stage 7 calls for final cost data to be embedded into a Facilities Management model for building maintenance and repair. Monitoring of operational costs for a whole-life cost assessment will provide feedback as part of any POE: this can inform future projects. Speaking with his surveyor’s hat on, Thompson says the value here is not just to the client, but also to members of the project team in building up their own building cost databases.

Cost strategies aside, attentive architects may have spotted that cost planning has been brought in earlier within the Plan of Work itself. Developing a Project Budget makes its first appearance in Stage 0, as part of preparing the client’s strategic business case.

This arrival of the Project Budget in Stage 0 is a result of feedback from users of the previous Plan of Work. It makes the basic point that client requirements and project budget must be broadly aligned at the outset if the project is to proceed successfully.

This might seem obvious, but the revision is there to ensure that cost considerations should never be overlooked, however embryonic the project.

Thanks to Steven Thompson, Professional Groups Associate Director of the Built Environment, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas.

RIBA Core Curriculum Topic: Procurement and contracts.
As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, Professional Features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD Core Curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.

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