Last edited 27 Feb 2018

Strategic brief for construction projects

The client's strategic brief is part of an ongoing process to define the client's requirements:

The strategic brief may begin as a development of the information in the statement of need and preliminary business case.

It is the client's first attempt to write a brief for the project and should describe requirements and significant constraints in as much detail as possible. It should focus on what the project needs to achieve rather than prescribing potential solutions.

In the first instance, the strategic brief may be used to help define the scope of services that will be required from consultants (or independent client advisers in the public sector).

The strategic brief should then be developed with the benefit of input from those consultants (or independent client advisers) to provide sufficient information for feasibility studies to be undertaken and options assessed.

It is important however, that the strategic brief remains a client document, 'owned' by the client, setting out the client's requirements and bought into throughout the client organisation. Its development may require specialist advice (such as space planning advice), but is is not the designers view of what they think the client wants. The designers view of what the client wants is the design, not the strategic brief.

A thorough strategic brief can take a considerable time to develop and is prepared through a process of:

The strategic brief may include:

  • The client's mission, objectives and vision.
  • The overall context for the project.
  • The triggers for change and requirements for future proofing.
  • Other stakeholders needs.
  • The qualities that will be required from the project, and their relative priority, including any design quality indicators.
  • Any comparable facilities that set the standard.
  • Functional requirements.
  • Overall sizes, adjacencies of spaces, ceiling heights and other known spatial requirements.
  • Information about the site if it has been selected, or potential sites that may need to be assessed.
  • Information about existing facilities.
  • Internal environmental conditions.
  • Spaces that require separation.
  • Departmental structure.
  • Technical requirements described in sufficient detail to allow feasibility studies to be carried out (such as broad servicing requirements).
  • Assumptions about the procurement strategy.
  • Project procedures, including any existing client procedures, frequency of progress reports, and so on.
  • Targets for whole-life costs showing; initial costs, periodic costs, annual costs, income and disposal value.
  • Durability, lifespan and maintenance requirements.
  • Flexibility and future uses.
  • Physical and operational constraints, such as site access issues.
  • Planning constraints (the client may have an existing relationship with the local authority and there may be existing planning conditions or obligations relating to the site)
  • Health and safety issues.
  • Environmental standards. This might include a requirement for formal assessment of the project, such as BREEAM.
  • Project programme, key milestones and any phasing requirements.
  • The project budget.
  • Inclusions and exclusions.
  • Previous studies.
  • Access for people with disabilities.
  • Transport and parking strategy.
  • Security policy.
  • Conditions imposed by funding bodies.
  • Targets for post-occupancy evaluation.

Wherever possible, information in the strategic brief should be provided in a format that will be easy to use and interrogate during the development of the project and in the operation of the completed built asset, for example, spreadsheets scheduling existing accommodation, 3D laser surveys, and so on.

Specialist formats, some native file formats and even PDF’s may not be genuinely usable by an employer, that is, it may not be possible for the employer to interrogate or modify the information that they contain.

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Readers wanting more info might find it useful to refer to the principles of PRINCE2 and use the "Managing Successful Programmes" (MSP) which provides a standardised framework for defining the project outputs ("products") and a widely recognised structure in the "Mandate", "Brief" and "Plan" which makes up the strategic part of successful projects.