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Last edited 01 Sep 2020
Strategic brief for construction projects
- Statement of need: A first attempt to describe the possible requirements of the project, which may be used as the basis of appointment for independent client advisers.
- Strategic brief: 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 during the appointment process to allow feasibility studies to be carried out.
- Project brief: The key document upon which the design will be based.
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.
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:
- Developing the information in the statement of need and preliminary business case.
- Consulting with champions, user panels and stakeholders (unless these groups support and feel ownership of the strategic brief they are unlikely to become advocates for the project).
- Visiting similar facilities.
- Lessons learned from previous projects.
- Feedback from consultants during the selection process.
- Testing ideas with feasibility studies and options appraisals.
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.
NB The RIBA Plan of Work 2013 defines the strategic brief as: 'The brief prepared to enable the Strategic Definition of the project. Strategic considerations might include considering different sites, whether to extend, refurbish or build new and the key Project Outcomes, as well as initial considerations for the Project Programme and assembling the project team.'
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Briefing documents.
- Client requirements.
- Feasibility studies.
- Output-based specification.
- Preliminary business case.
- Project brief.
- Project execution plan.
- Statement of need.
- User panels.
- Value planning.
 External references
- OGC Achieving Excellence Guide 9 - Design Quality.
- Construction Companion: Briefing, David Hyams, RIBA Companies Ltd, 2001.
- OGC Achieving Excellence Guide 3 - Project Procurement Lifecycle page 10.
- For a detailed description of KPIs and DQI's see OGC Achieving Excellence Guide 8 - Improving Performance page 20.
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