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Last edited 17 Jun 2018
Developing a brief for a building project
Briefing documents are crucial to the success of a project as they describe the requirements for which the design provides the solution.
Briefing is a joint, collaborative activity between client and consultants (generally lead by the architect), developed gradually as needs are better understood. The level and timing of consultant input will vary depending on the client and their needs. An experienced client may be able to prepare a detailed brief in the very early stages that does not require a great deal of further development (for example a retailer who regularly opens new stores), whilst an inexperienced client may benefit from input by independent advisers to help prepare a strategic brief, and this may then be developed with the help of the consultant team.
This is the client's very first attempt to describe their possible requirements, before it has been decided that a project is merited or what form such a project might take.
If consultants are to be appointed to assist with preparing a more detailed strategic brief and to assess the feasibility of the proposed project, the nature of their role and scope of services may be based on the project description in the statement of need.
For more information see: Statement of need.
The strategic brief is written by the client, perhaps with input from external advisors, and provides sufficient information about the project to allow the appointment of a consultant team. It is then developed by the client with the benefit of feedback from the consultant team.
A thorough strategic brief can take a considerable time to develop and is prepared through a process of:
- Developing the information in the statement of need and preliminary business case.
- Consulting with champions, user panels and stakeholders.
- Visiting similar facilities.
- Lessons learned from previous projects.
- Feedback from consultants during the selection process.
- Testing ideas with feasibility studies and options appraisals.
For more information see: Strategic brief.
The project brief is the key document upon which the design will be based.
It is developed by the consultant team, typically lead by the architect, and evolves through the early stages of the project with the benefit of information gained from consultations with the client and other stakeholders and ongoing design development.
It may be developed based upon:
- Existing information such as the business case, the statement of need and the strategic brief.
- Site surveys, site information and site appraisals.
- Analysis of existing accommodation.
- Workshops with champions and user panels to establish needs, expectations and priorities.
- Input from other stakeholders.
- A wider consultation process.
- User surveys.
- Input from statutory authorities such as the fire brigade, statutory utilities, local authority, heritage organisations and so on.
For more information see: Project brief.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Briefing documents.
- Business case.
- Employer's information requirements.
- Feasibility studies.
- Output-based specification.
- Preliminary business case.
- Project brief.
- Project directory.
- Project execution plan.
- Statement of need.
- Strategic brief.
- User panels.
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