Forming a Brief

Hello BIMfans,
It goes without saying that projects can be complex.  Therefore, as discussed in my Prologue, before I begin producing any information I need to establish a brief.  Not just any brief, ideally a clear brief which is not open to interpretation.

ProjectCartoon is a great way of explaining common project issues.

So before I establish my brief, what is it?  As defined within ISO 6707-2, a brief is a:

document that states the requirements for a project
[SOURCE: ISO 6707-2:2017, 3.2.18]

Ok, so the brief will include all of the relevant project requirements; that’s fairly straightforward.  So, how do I go about writing a brief?  Luckily for me, two British Standards have been produced to support the production of design and construction briefs:

  • BS 8536-1, code of practice for building design & construction briefs; and
  • BS 8536-2, code of practice for infratrcutre design & construction briefs.

Note: As I don’t own my road, I will only be using BS 8536-1.

BS 8536-1 provides recommendations on how to produce a brief which considers the needs of the owner (me), operator (me), and end-user (me); being all three means that this standard is a great starting point for me.  Within BS 8536-1, it recommends the use of an evidence-based approach where requirements are captured as performance outcomes; set at the beginning of a project against a plan of work.   The success of these outcomes measured against clear targets using key performance indicators.

Effectively, BS 8536-1 is recommending SMART criteria:

  • Specific.  What is specifically needed?
  • Measurable.  How will progress be measured?
  • Achievable.  Who will do it, are they capable?
  • Realistic.  How realistic is it?
  • Time-bound.  When is it needed by?

Note: If you any of you friended followed connected to me on LinkedIn, you may have read my post on The Great British BIM off.  In essence, it uses The Great British Bake off to demonstrate that SMARTer the brief, the easier it is to meet.

So, that helps me form the structure of my brief but what outcome do I want to achieve?

As discussed within my Prologue, I want to use an asset information model to inform operational decisions about my home.  As such, there is no design or construction (my home has already been built!) so I don’t need to capture any design-related or construction-related requirements.  However, to achieve this outcome I do need to capture enough relevant information to be able to inform these decisions.  Therefore, my brief will need to capture some information requirements.

As defined within ISO 19650-1, an information requirement is:

information requirement
specification for what, when, how and for whom information is to be produced
[SOURCE: ISO 19650-1:2018, 3.3.2]

Information requirements feature heavily within ISO 19650-1 and form a fundamental part of information management.  By providing information requirements, a delivery team can then responding by planning and subsequently delivering information for approval.


A principle of both ISO 19650-1 and BS 8536-1 is that information requirements are produced to answer decisions-related questions.  For example, the question “How expensive is this project likely to be?” would require cost information to answer.  Within BS 8536-1, these are referred to as plain language questions.

Therefore to write my information requirements, I’m going to need some Plain Language Questions

Note:  If you have any comments regarding how to form a brief, then please let me know either on Twitter, or by commenting below.

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