Whilst the difficulties and changes presented by the covid-19 pandemic continue to sow caution and confusion into our day to day lives, there is some semblance of certainty within the architectural world with the newly published RIBA Plan of Works 2020.
With seven years having passed since the last major update to the industry standard document in architectural design and construction, 2020 presents an opportunity to consolidate all the sectoral changes, issues, improvements and lessons learned into its vast-encompassing reach.
There are several key clarifications within the document that evidence the increased awareness of the importance of specialist knowledge and experience at each stage of the building lifecycle. Notably Fire Safety has become a much more defined element of each building phase, and the considerations that are asked of design teams intimate the challenge of identifying the limitations of their own experience, and where the appointment of a fire specialist may be necessary.
To this end, it is encouraging to see such key guidance reflect the need to employ professionals with
specialist fire safety knowledge at each stage of the project lifecycle, underpinning the importance and caution with which Fire should be held by all professionals within (and users of) the built environment.
The document references the changes to the design team as an evolution since the last publication incorporating the inclusion of fire engineers as key consultants – ultimately it is the evaluation of competence and accountability which has increased the demand and requirement for fire safety specialists, as Fire has always been a key consideration of building design for centuries. Certainly at IFC we have seen a consistent global increase in the inclusion of fire engineers at early design stages.
UPDATE (April 2020): The RIBA Plan of Work organises the process of briefing, designing, constructing and operating building projects into eight stages and explains the stage outcomes, core tasks and information exchanges required at each stage.
Download the RIBA Plan of Work 2020 Overview for the complete guidance.
One of the most defining items of the 2020 edition is the delineation of Fire Safety into each project stage, where previously the concept of a supporting Fire Engineering Strategy was limited to a glossary term. The Core Tasks list defines the project strategies to be considered throughout each plan of works and in the case of Fire – whilst slightly obfuscated by use of the phrase ‘might include’ – is a great improvement by emphasising its inclusion within the plan of works template.
Each stage then includes broad-brush recommendations on the type of critical considerations for Fire Safety. Whilst not a definitive list, it is again encouraging to see the improvements in recognition of fire safety as a project critical consideration, placed in a more obvious and more detailed manner than in previous editions.
Lastly, one further piece of evidence of the document’s recognition of the sector improvements concerning fire safety is the inclusion of a description of a Fire Safety Strategy; a benchmark project design document.
“One of the most defining items of the 2020 edition is the delineation of Fire Safety into each project stage”
The phased process and requirements for developing this document are recognised as a core strategy now listed within the 2020 Plan of Work table, and whilst the form of document itself is a long-established one, it is an evolutionary document and one that will continue to evolve alongside regulatory and guidance changes. Its inclusion within the Plan of Works signifies the increased recognition of the importance of the document.
We hope that these changes within the 2020 publication go some way to continuing to improve design team assessment of competence, experience and knowledge in critical fire safety matters from the earliest project stages through to completion, and that this in turn will mean that all users of the built environment will be the benefactors of a safer and more fire-conscious environment in the future.
Matt Stevens, Business Operations Manager, IFC Group
About the IFC Group
Our holistic approach ensures IFC is able to assist projects of any size and complexity involving Fire Safety Engineering, Fire Risk Management, Product Evaluation, Computational Modelling (CFD), Fire Life Safety Systems, Expert Witness Testimony, Fire Protection Training as well as UKAS Accredited 3rd Party Certification.
Our expertise spans right across the built environment spectrum; from residential, education and healthcare structures, through to iconic buildings such as historical royal palaces and stately homes.