RIBA Plan of Work 2020 is good for lighting specification

The RIBA has published its Plan of Work 2020 and very interesting reading it makes. Why do we care?

I think everyone associated with UK construction understands that’s it’s an industry in crisis; poor procurement practices lead to bad building; poorly briefed architects lead to bad decision-making . . . which leads to bad buildings; insufficient attention being given to specialist design services, leading INEVITABLY to bad buildings. You get the picture.

Plans of Work, Scopes of Service, whatever we choose to call them, all carry the shadow of bad practice. If everything was tickety-boo, there’d be no need to write a 146-page Plan of Work. Wearing our best deerstalker, what can we derive from a forensic examination of the RIBA Plan of Work 2020?

Firstly, if this all goes to plan, its good news for the lighting sector. Read on!

Click on the image to see the template for the Plan of Work  – it may help with what follows.

Part One of the Plan of Work Overview document talks the architect through the stages of a project and conveniently includes commentary on common failings during project development. The theme that comes up time and again is . . . TIME. Architects are being cajoled to produce information more quickly than the process of design development can stand – and we all know that one.

For architects, it means that the client is pushing them to move beyond their contracted work phase, usually to get some hard numbers into the cost plan, even though no one may yet know how the building will work.

The Plan of Work 2020 is waving a red flag at that practice and – hopefully, we might see some practical benefits come out of that

The lighting specification sector can take heart with the section of the Plan of Work 2020 that discusses the engagement of specialist design services. Current practice, as we know, is for lighting input to be sought once everything else has been done – possibly once the client body has realised that they’re not going to get a decent service out of their contracts team; possibly once there’s an electrician standing poised, screwdriver in hand.

The Plan of Work 2020 actively seeks the inclusion of specialist design services during Stage 3 of project development. The intention of Stage 3 is to complete the majority of Project Strategies. It does NOT mean having to come up with a fully prepared, fully costable, specification of kit. That comes in stage 4, when specialist design comes face-to-face with the contracts team.

Recognising that specialist lighting input is part of the overall scheme development, safe within the architect’s  ambit, is a way of locking-in competency at an early stage of the process and is to be celebrated.

And then there’s the RIBA pledge towards Sustainability.

We need a bit more background for this, because there’s a ticking device under the table of many a lighting manufacturer who may not be paying attention.

RIBA has signed up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The RIBA Sustainable Outcomes Guide encourages architects to consider a number of sustainable outcomes in their scheme designs.

  • Net zero operational carbon
  • Net zero embodied carbon
  • Sustainable water cycle
  • Sustainable connectivity and transport
  • Sustainable land use and bio-diversity
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Sustainable communities and social value
  • Sustainable life cycle cost


There are a few things here specifically for the lighting sector to do something about:

  • Net zero operational carbon
  • Net zero embodied carbon
  • Sustainable connectivity and transport
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Sustainable life cycle cost

Which is quite enough to keep us busy.

The practical impact of the RIBA promoting sustainability in this way is that we must expect Pre-Qualification Questionnaires to change. The way that points are allocated to PQQ returns will take far more interest in the ways that lighting companies produce their product. Its no longer just about energy efficient fixtures; expect far more emphasis to be placed on

  • product design (the conversation around Circular Economy is well under way);
  • the supply chain (recent exposés of child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo have hit companies like Apple and Google)
  • the healthiness of the lighting specification (not just wellness lighting, but characteristics of luminaire performance, such as flicker and glare)
  • in-house sustainable house-keeping practices (employment practices, transportation, energy usage and the like)

To learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, click on the image:

And for more commentary on the changing nature of the PQQ, read:
The People Matter Charter: Mind your PQQs

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