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Industry snubs new Plan of Work: 54 per cent don’t use it

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Six months on, changes to the RIBA Plan of Work have not been adopted by the majority of the construction industry, writes Laura Mark

Less than half of the construction industry is using the RIBA’s new Plan of Work, according to a survey carried out by the AJ.

The questionnaire revealed that just 46 per cent of architects, developers, engineers and consultants had made the transition to the institute’s Plan of Work 2013 – six months after it was introduced.

The shake-up of the RIBA’s 50-year-old Plan of Work was first mooted last October (2012) and, after consultation, consigned to history in May.

However, almost 10 per cent of the 115 professionals surveyed said they would never use the new Plan of Work, which controversially replaced the familiar A-L work stages with eight new, numbered steps.

The findings suggest a widespread lack of take-up – a fear which many raised when it was first launched. In May, the AJ reported concerns that the Plan of Work 2013, based upon the Construction Industry Council’s (CIC) schedule of services, was too vague for architects (AJ 15.05.13).

The old plan was difficult to explain. The new one is even worse.

Explaining why his practice hadn’t adopted the plan, Christopher Moore, director of NC Architects, said: ‘From a client perspective, the old plan was difficult to explain. The new one is even worse.’

The survey revealed that 57 per cent of those polled preferred the old plan – although the figures were exactly reversed for those based in the north.

In terms of industry adoption, Jerry Tate, principal at Jerry Tate Architects, added: ‘We don’t use the new Plan of Work and actually nobody we work with has even mentioned it. It seems to be a pretty slow take-up from our end in truth.

‘The trouble is that the industry has been using the old RIBA stages as shorthand for so long that it will take a bit of time to get changed.’

John Assael, director of Assael Architecture, added: ‘With our clients, it simply doesn’t reflect the market that we operate in. Most of our clients have bespoke contracts to planning and then another bespoke contract from planning to completion.’

Are you being asked to use the new RIBA work stages when bidding for work?

Are you being asked to use the new RIBA work stages when bidding for work?

Research suggests that the new plan has not been adopted for competitions or bids either. A huge 70 per cent said they were not being asked to use the updated RIBA work stages when vying for new projects.

One anonymous respondent to the survey said: ‘We’ve not been asked for the Plan of Work 2013 when bidding. We’re usually asked for the old schedule of services, but only because clients are not aware that the new Plan of Work is operational.’

Small practices also said they were unlikely to be asked to use the Plan of Work 2013 when bidding for work – just 18 per cent had been.

Andrew Goodman, founder of Good Architecture said: ‘The Plan of Work is not on the radar of our typical client.’

The data revealed that just 34 per cent of small practices had actually begun to use the 2013 version.

The survey also discovered that in spite of the RIBA’s attempts to communicate the changes, just six per cent thought that the Plan of Work 2013 had been ‘very well’ communicated throughout the industry.

Robert Guy of Arturus Architects said: ‘I’m not sure it has been communicated well to contractors and, of course, private clients are completely dependent upon architects communicating how we work.’

Despite this, Dyer Architects’ Dale Sinclair, who was instrumental in producing the new plan, maintained that it was only a matter of time before the Plan of Work 2013 is widely adopted.

He said: ‘The government is embracing the new Plan of Work. And we are hearing that clients in the private sector are keen to adopt the new plan due to it is post-occupancy emphasis.’

Last week, the government announced that its new framework for design team services for public work would reference the new RIBA work stages. The London School of Economics will also be using the new stages when they launch an international design competition for a new £100 million building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields next year.

Some practices have still not picked up on its existence

Commenting on small practices’ reluctance to take-up the plan, Sinclair added: ‘The residual resistance to using the new plan is coming from some more established smaller practices that have used and interpreted the old plan of work for many years. Some practices have still not picked up on its existence.’

But it is early days for the schema, and many practices contacted by the AJ said they were in the process of adopting it.

Robert Sakula, founder at Ash Sakula Architects added: ‘We are in a transition period. I still default instinctively to the old Plan of Work, but I can see that the new plan is better suited to the way we work now.

‘Most people are still using the old system, but there is a growing number that are using the new one, and I think it will become the norm in time. It is starting to appear in documentation. Meanwhile, it’s easy enough to be bilingual. Rather like the slow shift from pounds to kilos.’

Kieran Gaffney of Konishi Gaffney agreed: ‘So far there has been no pressure on the projects we work on to use the standard RIBA stages, but I can see that coming especially as a few of our bigger projects get past planning. We have been thinking of changing our system to more closely match the new work stages and get used to change before it happens.’

Plan of Work 2013

Comment: Dale Sinclair, editor of RIBA Plan of Work 2013

The RIBA Plan of Work 2013 represents the most radical update of the key construction industry process map since it was first developed in 1963. A change to a well-established standard will inevitably take some time to be fully understood and adopted by the construction industry. The RIBA has always anticipated the need to continue to support both the 2007 and 2013 versions for some time.

The AJ survey results are encouraging. The fact that nearly half of the architects surveyed are actively utilising the new plan is very positive.

The old, well-known A-L work stages were deeply embedded in the collective conscious of our profession, and there was always going to be a need to win over hearts and minds by demonstrating the benefits of the new version.

The positive feedback we are getting from early adopters is beginning to feed out and it will help to convince those who remain reluctant to immediately take the plunge and move on from a trusted and familiar document, albeit one which is showing its age.

The fact that nearly a third of architects are being asked to use the new plan when bidding for projects represents significant take-up by clients. It takes time to get the message across to a complex and fragmented construction industry. Architects who perceive the benefits of the new plan have a key role to play in promoting these benefits to existing and new clients.


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