Last edited 28 Jun 2021

Main author

BriefBuilder Website

Requirements management


[edit] What is requirements management?

The concept of requirements management (RM) is relatively new to the construction industry, but it is well established in other engineering disciplines such as software development and aerospace engineering. The concept can be defined as follows:

RM is the process of gathering, structuring, communicating, analysing and verifying the requirements for a facility, with the purpose of ensuring that this facility will fulfil the needs of the stakeholders who will use, own, acquire and operate it.

RM clearly overlaps with the concept of briefing, but there is a difference in scope. While briefing traditionally focuses on the development of a building programme in the early phases of a project (i.e. the briefing phase), RM is a continuous process in which requirements are defined, refined, updated and verified throughout all phases of a facility’s life cycle.

Another defining aspect of RM is that it not only focuses on the client’s functional and spatial requirements—as briefing primarily does—but also on the technical and operational requirements concerning the building’s technical systems and elements, the delivery process, and the operation and maintenance of the facility. As such, requirements management is targeted at the architect, plus all the other actors involved, such as project managers, engineers, expert consultants, (sub)contractors, suppliers, asset managers and service providers.

Because of its broad scope, RM is often facilitated by database tools that allow project teams to manage a multitude of different requirements in a systematic way.

[edit] Why is RM important?

Requirements are the basis for any design or engineering project. They define what is expected, needed and required from the project in relation to important quality aspects such as usability, sustainability, safety and security, comfort, health, flexibility, efficiency and user experience.

Especially in complex construction projects (e.g. hospitals, labs, infrastructure), there is a lot to gain from a systematic approach to requirements. Such projects typically have to comply with a multitude of requirements, which makes it difficult to maintain an overview. This introduces the risk of requirements being overlooked or ignored, or not properly updated and verified during the project. The potential consequences include design defects, scope creep, budget overruns and delivery delays due to rework.

RM aims to avoid such problems. The central idea is that clear and error-free requirements, combined with systematic compliance testing, helps to ensure that projects meet the needs of their stakeholders.

[edit] Activities

Effective RM consists of the following activities:

  • Gathering requirements: collecting and eliciting requirements from project stakeholders.
  • Structuring requirements: creating a clear and logically organised set of requirements.
  • Communicating requirements: communicating requirements with the design/delivery team.
  • Analysing requirements: reviewing the clarity and feasibility of requirements.
  • Linking requirements to BIM models: linking requirements to objects in 3D-design models.
  • Verifying compliance: checking whether solutions are compliant with the defined requirements.
  • Managing change: logging and evaluating changes and requests for change (RFCs).
  • Evaluating and standardising requirements: creating standardized requirements for new projects.

Each of these activities is briefly explained below. The exact order and content of these activities depends on the complexity of the project and the chosen tender procedure.


[edit] Gathering requirements

The first step is to collect and elicit the needs and requirements of the project’s stakeholders (i.e. the construction client, real estate/facility managers, users, interest groups). This can be done by means of workshops, interviews, surveys, the examination of reference projects and document analysis.

These activities are classic briefing activities, preferably conducted in the project’s briefing stage. But requirements can also be gathered in a more ‘agile’ way, on an as-needed basis, at later stages in the project.

[edit] Activities

[edit] Structuring requirements

In this step, the information that has been collected in the earlier step—which is often quite ‘fuzzy’—is structured and refined. The goal is to produce a single, clear and well-organised set of requirements. Vague requirements are made specific. Inconsistencies are resolved. Missing requirements are added. Duplicate requirements are removed.

For simple projects, this exercise can be done in Excel or Word. For more complex projects, it will be useful to have a database tool that can handle large numbers of requirements.

[edit] Activities

  • Making breakdown structures of requested spaces and/or systems.
  • Making requirements ‘smart’ (i.e. adding explicit values and units of measure).
  • Identifying and solving possible inconsistencies, removing duplicates.
  • Prioritising requirements (must-have vs. nice-to-have).
  • Reviewing the total set of requirements with stakeholders.

[edit] Communicating requirements

Needless to say, it is essential to communicate requirements to those who will be designing and building the project. This can be done by means of reports, diagrams and datasheets.

Different actors will be interested in different requirements; an architect, for example, may be primarily interested in spatial requirements, a mechanical engineer in the technical requirements.

When communicating requirements, it is crucial that they are up-to-date. Requirements should preferably be accessible via an online platform rather than hidden away in a plethora of emails and reports, so that everybody has access to the same set of up-to-date requirements.

[edit] Activities

  • Giving project actors access to requirements (via documents or an online model).
  • Updating requirements, managing versions and communicating differences between versions (also referred to as baselining).
  • Creating dedicated overviews or reports for different actors.

[edit] Analysing requirements

A requirements analysis is a formal review of the project’s requirements, typically made by the design/delivery team before the start of the design process or during a tender process. It means that all the disciplines involved go through the entire set of requirements and flag requirements that they regard as unclear or risky in terms of costs or feasibility. These outcomes are then fed back to the client as input for further improvement of the requirements.

[edit] Activities

  • Making a risk analysis of the requirements set.
  • Reviewing the clarity of requirements.
  • Identifying possible omissions or contradictory requirements.
  • Discussing possible improvements with the client.
  • Allocating requirements to the various project actors (contractor, architect, etc.).

[edit] Verifying compliance

Verification is the process of checking whether a design proposal or built solution is compliant with the defined requirements. Typically it is the design team and/or the contractor who is responsible for this.

Verification can be done using a simple compliance matrix, but it can also be a more comprehensive procedure based on specifications concerning verification methods (e.g. calculations, simulations, inspections), verification moments and the documentation that needs to be provided (e.g. test reports).

[edit] Activities

[edit] Linking requirements to BIM models

If captured in the right format, requirements can then be linked to BIM models. The advantage of doing so is that the verification of design solutions can—in part—be automated.

In particular, requirements concerning room quantities, room sizes and the placement of FF&E items in rooms can easily be checked. Quantitative requirements concerning walking distances and indoor climate can, in principle, also be verified automatically, but that is very much dependent on how the design team has set up its BIM models.

[edit] Activities

[edit] Managing change

Ideally, requirements do not change during a project, but change cannot be avoided entirely. Changes may come from new insights, budget changes, feedback from contractors or regulatory changes. This need not be a problem as long as change happens in a controlled way.

Once requirements have been formally approved, changes should be made on the basis of formal requests for change (RFCs), which have to reviewed in terms of impact (on costs, time and quality) before they are implemented.

[edit] Activities

[edit] Evaluating and standardising requirements

Having developed an effective set of requirements, it makes sense to standardise and reuse them. Large clients may, for example, develop requirements templates for specific room types (e.g. patient rooms or classrooms) or systems (e.g. access control systems). Standardisation will help to create consistency across projects and speed up the specification process.

To ensure that standardised requirements are relevant, it is critical to maintain, manage and improve them on the basis of project evaluations.

[edit] Activities

[edit] Summarising

RM is a fairly new phenomenon in the construction sector, and although it overlaps with the existing practice of briefing, its scope is wider. RM covers the definition, analysis, communication and verification of all project requirements, through all phases of a project. Especially in large and complex projects, there is much to be gained from systematic RM, including avoiding design defects, budget overruns and delivery delays.

--BriefBuilder 15:24, 19 Apr 2021 (BST)

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again