RIBA Plan of Work Overlay embraces smart buildings

Abstract image of smart building technology for RIBA smart buildings overlay to Plan of Work
Image: Nmedia |

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has launched a smart buildings overlay for the Plan of Work.

Developed with ScanTech Digital, Glider Technology, Kier and Hoare Lea, the RIBA Smart Building Overlay is free and is designed to support anyone involved in the design of new build, retrofit or refurbishment projects that involve the implementation of smart building technology.

Across all eight stages of the Plan of Work, the overlay’s authors repeatedly reinforce the need for early engagement and coordination of smart technology requirements and expertise.

RIBA president Muyiwa Oki said: “As we are seeing increasingly in our overlays, early engagement and coordination is critical to successful outcomes and a cost-effective project. Industry feedback is consistent in reporting that smart building designers are not included early enough in concept design discussions and are instead an afterthought, too late in the design process to meet client aspirations, project outcomes and to even dissect the client’s requirements into tangible smart building technology.

“The Plan of Work supports a linear process of working, which as project complexity evolves, may result in a more circular approach to work stages where early engagement is not considered.

“Where technology is involved, it would be remiss to not also cover procurement. The overlay also addresses the sensitivity of ‘current’ technology and future planning – not just to anticipate emerging technology, but to also allow for the timeline from design to delivery. It is therefore important that procurement routes are discussed early and, where possible, specialist design incorporated at the earliest opportunity.”

Applicable to all

The RIBA Smart Building Overlay can be applied to projects of all scales and sectors, whether residential, healthcare, education, commercial or industrial. The purpose is to prompt the client and project management team to discuss smart building technology at each work stage and make timely decisions. Project aspirations articulated at the outset can thus be delivered at completion and when in use.

The overlay advises that smart building systems be designed in a coordinated manner. This would avoid potential interoperability or compatibility issues between technologies and allow the opportunity to implement user interface platforms that will reduce the need for multiple standalone applications to manage the building.

The overlay also emphasises that it is vital to recognise that smart building technology is advancing rapidly and with a “remarkably short iteration time by comparison to more traditional aspects of the building design”.

For example, new building materials take a long time to come to market, whereas the development, testing and certification of sensors and their subsequent installation into existing components is rapid. The quality, availability and functionality of these technologies are “increasing at a phenomenal rate, which may lead to more frequent upgrades and updates to maintainable assets compared to traditional components”, the overlay warns.

Therefore, consideration should be given to the potential for the future retrofit of smart building technology relatively early in the project’s life: system capacity and physical capacity can be designed-in to allow future installation or upgrade as technology develops further.

Combatting obsolescence

The overlay notes that the length of typical design and construction programmes may mean that technology available at project conception might be obsolete by the time it comes to be installed. Therefore, final selections may be best left until the latest practicable time.

The overlay states that Stage 4 of the Plan of Work “is the final opportunity to make these choices so that detailed design, detailed coordination and procurement can take place along with any statutory applications ahead of construction works”.

The overlay authors also sound a cautionary note about data. “As well as technological change, building users, operators, owners and suppliers may change and new suppliers and software may come on board. Therefore, it is important to consider an independent data layer that retains ownership of that data, but democratises it and ensures it is secure and in the right format – i.e. the data is retained in the client’s servers and feeds applications and systems rather than the data sitting in and potentially owned by the system provider.”

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