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Last edited 02 Nov 2022
Project brief for design and construction
 What is a project brief?
The project brief is the final stage in the process of defining the client's requirements for the development of a built asset such as a building. It follows the preparation of a number of earlier, less detailed briefing documents:
- The statement of need is the first attempt to describe the possible requirements of the project.
- The strategic brief develops on from the statement of need and describes the client's requirements in sufficient detail to allow the appointment of consultants. It is then developed further with the benefit of comments made by the consultants.
- The project brief is the key document upon which the design will be based.
The project brief will evolve through the project brief stage and the concept design stage with the benefit of information gained from consultations with the client and other stakeholders and ongoing design development.
 How is a project brief prepared?
- Verify the objectives and priorities of the project.
- Ensure space, time and budget parameters are aligned with the client’s vision and needs.
- Ensure expectations are reasonable and attainable.
- Clarify client roles and the project structure.
- Establish how much the client knows already and their level of experience; do they already have a clear brief?
- Gather contextual information.
- Gather user information.
- Establish the building life span and flexibility requirements.
It may be developed based upon:
- Existing information such as the business case, the statement of need and the strategic brief.
- Feasibility studies and options appraisals.
- 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.
- Information from previous similar projects.
 What should be in the project brief
- A description of the client's brand, culture and organisation.
- A description of the client's vision, mission and objectives.
- A description of the client's priorities and the criteria that will be used to measure success.
- Organisational structure and decision making processes.
- Changes to the client that the project will bring about.
- Interfaces with other projects.
- Client policies that may be applicable to the project (for example; transport policy, energy policy, natural ventilation policy, sustainability policy).
- Client preferences for the project (for example; image, use of local materials, use of landscape, etc.), and quality expectations (including health and safety, sustainability and design quality).
- A description of the principles that will be adopted in the development of the design.
- Building surveys.
- Site surveys.
- Information about ground conditions.
- The location and capacity of utilities.
- Access and other constraints.
- Legislative constraints.
- Existing planning consents.
- Schedules of accommodation, areas and special requirements.
- Schedules of users (including external users), their numbers, departments, functions, organisational structure and operational characteristics.
- Spatial policies (for example, open plan or cellular offices, daylighting requirements, temperature ranges and acoustic standards).
- Required adjacencies, groupings and separations.
- Circulation guidelines and identification of major circulation flows.
 Technical requirements
- Structural strategy (columns and gridlines to be adopted, special loads, floor-to-ceiling heights).
- Servicing requirements, including specialist requirements.
- Comfort conditions and level of user control.
- Acoustic requirements.
- Equipment requirements.
- Specialist requirements for furniture, finishes, fixtures and fittings.
- Information and communications technology (ICT) requirements.
- Requirements for specialist processes and plant.
- Fire compartments.
- Maintenance and cleaning requirements.
- Likelihood of future change (for example, staff numbers) and flexibility required.
- Sustainability objectives and energy use targets.
- Safety and security requirements.
- Resilience to potential hazards or threats.
- Waste and water management.
- Pollution control.
- Flexibility and future uses.
- Durability and lifespan.
- Other performance requirements.
- Benchmarking information.
- Long-lead items.
- Potential requirement for specialist design or specialist contractors design.
- Cladding strategy and materials selection procedures.
- Planning requirements.
- Outcome of any consultation processes.
- Project programme and key milestones.
- Known risks.
- Targets for post occupancy evaluation outcomes and other performance targets.
The project brief will become increasingly detailed throughout the project brief and concept design stages, and may ultimately include very specific information such as room data information for each room.
 How should information be presented in a project brief?
The project brief is likely to be presented as a report, or a series of reports (perhaps with separate detailed sections for schedules of accommodation and so on). This should be easy to understand, and may include diagrams to explain relationships between requirements, proximities of accommodation and so on.
However, where possible, detailed information and requirements should be scheduled in a database or spreadsheet format that will be easy to expand and will make it easy to use to test whether design proposals that are prepared satisfy the requirements of the brief.
On projects that adopt building information modelling (BIM), the employer's information requirements (EIR) may be considered a parallel document to the project brief. Whereas, the project brief sets out the requirements for the physical built asset, the employers information requirements define the information the employer needs to procure to enable them to develop and operate the built asset.
- Briefing documents.
- Business case.
- Client requirements.
- Employer's information requirements.
- Feasibility studies.
- Output-based specification.
- Preliminary business case.
- Project brief derogations.
- Project execution plan.
- Spatial requirements.
- Statement of need.
- Strategic brief.
- User panels.
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