The Project Brief; The Importance of Developing & Recording

When you are about to embark on a construction project, the old Benjamin Franklin quote ‘If You Fail to Plan, You are Planning to Fail’ often comes to mind. So, where do you begin planning your project? It is very tempting to jump to a solution where the form of the build is fully developed without taking time to consider the needs, options and objectives in addition to the opportunities that the site and context affords.

The importance of a defined and agreed project brief can often be underestimated – and even sometimes missed as an essential step, leading to a final product that does not match your vision and misses opportunities to deliver more value for the same level of input.

In this blog, we explore what the brief is, how it is developed and its importance in directing the design process.


What is the Project Brief?

Simply put, the Project Brief is a record of the scope of a project. It is created right at the beginning of the design process and developed with increasing amounts of detail at each successive stage. Based on our experience, we recommend you don’t try to write the brief – instead the best thing you can do is to work with us and to write the Brief together.

Everyone spends their days negotiating issues and solving problems in search of the right solution, so when it comes to your construction project, it will be tempting for you to try to write a detailed and thorough Brief, and to try to present a fully formed solution. The risk with this approach is, by including lots of detail at the start, it becomes difficult to explore anything other than a fixed solution in the early stages and miss opportunities by making incorrect assumptions.

Also, when we write the brief together, you will know we have been listening to your requirements and understand the more subtle objectives for your project.


How does the Project Brief evolve?

In our practice, we use a structure which breaks down the brief development in the following stages. This is a tried and tested formula for project initiation which pays dividends in the delivery of your project.

Stage 0 – Strategic Brief

This is developed as part of our initial consultation, clearly setting out your objectives and what you wish to achieve with the project including accommodation, functional requirements, sustainability standards, level of quality and preferred procurement route together with the outline project budget. It should also outline the project team and who will be the key decision makers in the process.

Stage 1 – Initial Project Brief

Following appointment, we further explore the project brief in detail covering technical, managerial and design intentions and how these requirements can be met. It will be based on several sources including feasibility studies, site or building surveys, research into functional needs, sustainability considerations, statutory constraints, risks and construction cost estimate.

Stage 2 – Final Project Brief

The Final Project Brief should further define the design requirements, with an outline delivery programme and will be signed-off by you. Any subsequent changes to any parameter should be recorded, identifying their impact on the project and our services and formally agreed before proceeding.

Throughout Stages 1 and 2, the brief can be challenged through testing of the design to evaluate and refine the brief.


Why is the Project Brief Important?

The project brief ensures that all the issues important to you are considered from the outset of your project, which will enable the delivery of a design to match your expectations. Just like every design, every brief is unique. It is vital the brief is clear from the outset of the project help define the important aspects of the project and aid in progressing towards a complete solution.

It is crucial to understand that the brief is an ever-evolving document. As demonstrated in the Stages noted above, the brief starts as a comprehensive summary of what you want to achieve and, after that, will undergo changes and refinements in light of new information, inspiration and outcomes from testing the design. This ensures that our understanding and views are aligned with your objectives. In essence, a well-defined brief ensures that we, as designers, and you, as the client, are aligned to the same goal – to design a home that is uniquely yours.

Furthermore, not only does it help you create a cohesive design that is consistent throughout, it will also guide you in selecting consultants to form your Project Team. For instance, if you want a sustainable home that’s super-insulated, energy-efficient, and uses alternative energy sources, your brief will record this goal and signal that an energy or sustainability consultant (i.e. Passive House Designer) should be engaged early in the design process.


Are you considering embarking on a design project?

Whether it is a new-build home, extension or renovation to your existing property or a commercial development, get in touch with us today to set off in the right direction.