RIBA Plan of Works Smart Building Overlay?

24 October 2023

My series on posts on LinkedIn about the shortcomings of the RIBA Plan of Works Smart Building Overlay have generated the most engagement of any I have written there, including this one from earlier this year that clocked up around 30,000 views. Part of that is confusion about who was invited to participate at the onset and why, and not least because of transparency.

Matthew Marson at JLL Technologies has written recently in Smart Building Magazine about how The RIBA Plan of doesn’t work (disclosure: Matthew kindly participated in a panel I moderated at the recent Smart Buildings Show). He makes a number of points including:

  • Engaging designers at Stage 4 being too late
  • The need to bring procurement processes forward into stage 3
  • The need to reconcile the more linear waterfall methodology of architecture, engineering and construction industries (AEC) with more agile one of software development

He also mentions how “design thinking methods really help a client to imagine what their future could feel like and focus on what’s valuable versus what’s just a gadget. The same could be said about the application of design thinking to the Smart Building Overlay, i.e. what is (real) the problem it helps solve?

I think that problem is linked to what I have co-written about in Smart Buildings Magazine about the distinction between ‘Building efficiency vs effectiveness’ that was discussed in a recent round table I facilitated:

Building users and facilities staff remain frustrated by the lack of influence and input they have over smart specifications defined during the design and planning phases, by stakeholders that will walk away at practical completion, even though they ultimately run the building. A proxy for that tension was captured by Giovanna Jagger, global market development director at the IWBI who raised the distinction between ‘efficient’ and ‘effective’ buildings. Her point being that technology and materials can be specified and deployed to make buildings more efficient (e.g. for energy consumption), but if they are not occupied they are not effective and therefore not sustainable.

Smart Buildings Magazine: Navigating the perfect storm: how strategies for future proofing retrofits need more integrated and joined up thinking (30th August, 2023)

I mention this because perhaps the purpose of the Smart Building Overlay should be about the plugging of the gap between the design and management of Smart Buildings, i.e. along the lines of the ‘Design to Manage’ philosophy my former colleague George Davies used to talk about with regard to solution development.

That could be seen as part of how the Operations ‘O’ gets added to AEC Industries to make it AECO, rather than it being an afterthought as is arguably represented by having only one stage for the managing of buildings in “Use” in RIBA’s Plan of Works.

But I also mention the above because it is about how Smart Buildings have evolved beyond just energy optimisation and that being represented in the increasing number of stakeholders involved. It’s not clear if that increasing number is represented by those collaborating on the Smart Building Overlay and particularly if they represent both the Efficiency and Effectiveness sides. That’s important because the ‘Occupancy’ issue of the Effectiveness side could be seen as the blurring of lines between Smart Buildings and Smart Offices. More on this in future posts and particularly with regard to retrofitting.

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I’m an author and market engagement specialist who helps joins the dots between research, innovation, go-to-market activation and business transformation around 3 core activities: content, connections and conversations. Connect with me on LinkedIn or get in touch there.