Every project follows the RIBA Design Stages. Please see a summary below of our 6-Stage Design Process.
This page explains what you can expect from our service at each stage. You can also use our Fee Calculator for a budget quote for Architectural Services.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss your project.
RIBA Stage 1 - Preparation and Brief
Stage 1 is where we begin to understand your project. We are really interested in your project objectives and if you have a project budget. We often need to have a look at your property and assess the location and context before providing any advice. It's important at this stage that we can clearly define your Project Brief, including spatial requirements.
We usually recommend arranging a Feasibility Meeting on-site so we can meet, discuss and experience the project in person. At this meeting we can explore initial Design Ideas and indicative costs with you. When we agree on the scope of the project, we can provide you with Strategic Advice and Relevant Contacts to progress. We will also be able to provide a detailed quote for Architectural Services at this stage.
Often, the next step is to review or gather appropriate survey information. This can include a topographical (land) survey or measured building survey. Sometimes these are already available or we may need to procure them. We will generally download a scaled site OS Plan in .dwg format at this stage, showing the size, context and orientation of the site. We set up our project files and prepare a Location Plan Drawing, indicating your ownership boundary which will be confirmed with you. Once all relevant survey information is in place, we can prepare a set of Existing Site Drawings using 3D CAD software, including drawings such as existing site plans, floor plans and 3D views as appropriate.
Depending on the project, we may also need to complete a Feasibility Study at this stage. This study can test the capacity of the site or how realistic the objectives are. Often, if the project is in a sensitive location, or if the planning position is questionable we may recommend completing a Pre-App Planning Consultation with the Local Authority.
RIBA Stage 2 - Concept Design
Stage 2 is where the design of your project really comes to life. Initially, we observe and record project opportunities and constraints onto a Site Analysis drawing. This can include details of; site access, restrictions from neighbouring properties, overlooking, noise, sun-paths, levels, views, security, local planning policies and historic maps etc. This research can make all the difference resulting in a design that makes the most of the site for your needs, and that is favourable in obtaining planning permission. We also record and update your project brief and any project strategies for approval.
Once our understanding of the site is documented we start preparing concept Design Options for the project. We like to explore several options at this stage, often there are features of one option which are combined with features of another option in the progression of the design. We present these design options using floor plans and 3D views, supported by relevant Precedent to help visualise and inspire the project. As design can be quite subjective, we encourage our Clients to share any of their own ideas and any inspiration they may have too.
During the concept design process, we develop and define the Big Ideas for the project. This may include a strong concept of form or materiality which is carried through the design or the particular detailing of specific design elements to respect and recognise the local context or history of the site. It’s important that each project has a clear definition and sense of place to add value to the site and community. Alongside the form and function of a project, we also discuss and develop project strategies including ideas for Sustainability at this stage. This may include options for the building structure, passive heating and cooling, air-tightness, MVHR and renewable technologies.
The Concept Design process is a fluid and organic balance of trying to achieve the spatial requirements of the brief, whilst responding to the local planning guidance and developing an aesthetic to meet the project vision.
Once initial design options are prepared, these are presented to you and we begin an Interactive Design Development process. We explore the positives and negatives of different options, from a functional and aesthetic perspective and continue to develop the concept design for your approval. These Design Reviews are presented in 3D, making the selection and development of a design clear, simple and easy to visualise.
We continue to develop and refine the Concept Design according to your feedback until you are happy. Costs and budgets can be reassessed at this stage to ensure your project is on track. Outline Specifications are prepared and a route to Building Control compliance is recorded.
Sometimes an Outline Planning Application is completed at Stage 2 if full planning permission is not required. This can save costs for a developer who may want to be adding value to a site and selling the project on. The scope of an Outline Planning Application can vary considerably and elements such as access, parking, density and massing can be agreed in principle, however full planning permission (or Permitted Development rights) will be required before any building work can commence.
RIBA Stage 3 - Spatial Coordination
Stage 3 is where the final concept design is formalised for planning approval or permitted development. The design evolves to include selected specifications and coordination with other consultants is carried out as required. A check review of Building Regulations at this stage ensures the design is compliant and ready to move forwards without significant changes. It’s important to develop and integrate the key features of a project at this stage, including strategies for sustainable design.
Drawings, documents and Planning Application forms are prepared. These usually include existing and proposed; plans, elevations and 3D views. For larger projects a Design and Access Statement is also recommended to present the design.
Once all relevant documents have been completed these are presented to you and updated as required, before they are submitted to the Local Authority for approval. We generally complete the planning application forms and submit online via the Planning Portal (if a Planning Consultant is not part of the project team). The Planning Application is validated by the Local Authority once payment for planning fees has been made by yourself and they have checked that all required documentation is present. For smaller applications, planning approval may take 8-10 weeks, for larger applications this could be 13-15 weeks but is sometimes delayed.
While the planning application is being processed, we check in periodically with the Local Authority or Planning Officer for any updates and to offer our support with any additional information which may help and speed up the process. We keep you updated on any changes requested or modifications required during the process.
We often ask our Clients for Feedback at this stage on their experience of the process so far.
Once we are confident that the design is being assessed, we’ll provide you with a set of A3 prints and access to your design via a 3D BIM Model Viewer. This is a web link that allows you to view the building in 3D. You can ‘spin’ the model around and complete a walk-through of the project to see the spaces created. Please note that at this stage the internal fit-out or interior design is often not completed.
As the design becomes formalised by the Local Authority, we may prepare some Visualisations. These are often more photo-realistic and can sometimes be exported as 360° VR Images for use with a VR headset, which we can demonstrate at our office locations. If required, we can also produce a 3D Printed Model, which is subject to an additional cost depending on size.
Usually we wait for Planning Approval to be granted before we progress to the next stage, however if you are confident with the application and are keen to speed up the process we can proceed with Stage 4 - Technical Design at your risk.
Please note that the local authority fee for a planning application will be paid directly by and you may be required to provide an Energy Statement and other documents to support your application. We can recommend and obtain quotes from relevant consultants as required.
RIBA Stage 4 - Technical Design
Stage 4 is when all the technical design for your project is prepared. This includes detailed drawings and specifications for a contractor to price. As lead designer we often recommend any relevant additional Consultant Contacts required at this stage and often help with obtaining quotes for their involvement. If they have not already been appointed, this can include Structural Engineers, M&E Engineers, Interior Designers and Landscape Architects etc. but is dependent on the project. When all required consultants are confirmed, we arrange Design Team Meetings to discuss and develop the Technical Design.
Throughout the Technical Design process we coordinate the design with the other consultants and prepare the Architectural Design and Specifications for Tender. This often includes, Setting-Out Plans, Sections, Details and Schedules. Our expertise in material specifications and detailed design helps to ensure a comprehensive and realistic tender return, often resulting in consistent and comparable quotes and minimising unforeseen costs.
As we are developing and coordinating the details we often ask for your preference on strategy or specifications. For instance, in some cases it is beneficial to proceed with a pre-fabricated build strategy, rather than traditional build. The technical definition will sometimes involve the design work and details of specialist subcontractors or suppliers. Before the project information is sent for Tender we present the design and details to you and update as required. Usually we recommend a Quantity Surveyor is appointed to price the project and manage the Tender process. We can advise on Recommended Contractors and suppliers as required.
During discussion with the selected Contractors and as quotes and prices are obtained, we are here to provide support and advice until the Contract has been awarded.
RIBA Stage 5 - Manufacturing and Construction
Stage 5 is the manufacturing and construction stage of your project. Your preferred Contractor leads this stage to deliver your project on-site and your consultants provide support and guidance along the way. Once the Contractor is appointed we can discuss the preferred route for Building Control Approval. This can be via the Local Authority or an Approved Inspector. As Lead Consultant we communicate directly with Building Control, ensuring that the Technical Design which has been prepared is compliant with the Building Regulations. Any updates to the design are captured at this stage and the drawings are issued for construction.
Before the project starts on site we recommend arranging a Pre-start Meeting with the Contractor. At this meeting we can present the Technical Design including any significant design decisions, objectives and considerations. This is a good opportunity for the Contractor to ask any questions of the design and to present their construction programme.
Depending on the project size and complexity we can arrange regular meetings on-site, advising on design details or variations and assessing quality as required. As the construction programme progresses we can respond to any Design Queries. Sometimes, changes to the design, requests for additional information or a requirement for more detail means that we provide Additional Details and Coordination at this stage.
We are here to help with any advice or clarifications throughout Construction and we are flexible and often keen to have regular involvement on-site. Depending on the scale of the project, we will budget a recommended amount of time for our involvement, which can be variable. As the project nears completion, we can ensure that all coordination and certification is completed.
RIBA Stage 6 - Handover
Stage 6 is the Handover for your project. At this stage we can help with the creation of a Building Manual, including the preparation of As-Built Drawings. We like to have a de-brief with the Project Team at this stage to discuss Project Performance and any learnings to take forward.
We also like to take completed Photos of the project and gather Feedback and a Testimonial from you. This feedback is really valuable to us as it helps us to continue to improve as a business.
If you have any questions about our 6-Stage Design Process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.