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Section 1 Briefs

Section 2 Design Brief

Section 3 Verbal Briefs

Section 4 Communication                      


Description:  The purpose of this unit is to enable you to explain the importance of the briefing process, and illustrate the contractual and communication routes linking building services engineers and other parties involved in construction project.

Author:  Gates MacBain Associates

Section 1  Briefs

Before we look at the types of brief we should be aware of what a brief is. There are a number of definitions and we need to be clear about what we are referring to. 

A brief is:
  • using few words; concise; succinct:
  • a short and concise statement or written item.
A Brief is also the requirements relating to the Design of a project which is given by a client in order to ensure that a project/system which is to be produced meets their requirements and this is known as the Design Brief.

Section 2  Design Brief

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Explain the requirements of a design brief.

A design brief is a comprehensive written document produced jointly by the client and the designer. The document is focused on the desired function that the system/building must achieve. 

Design briefs are extremely important to ensure that the designer understands the systems that are required to be performed by the proposed building/project/installation. 

The production of the brief tends to be an on-going process which is continuously reappraised as the requirements become clearer - this is known as 'firming up the brief': This results in a clear set of instructions setting out the goals and detailed requirements. This may specify the number and size of rooms that will be required, the relationships between rooms and groups of rooms, the finishes, equipment, furniture that will fit the room for its functional purpose and the environmental conditions that will assist the purpose. Environmental conditions might include temperature range, humidity, air movement, acoustic isolation, all of which will have an effect on the services requirements. 

In complex building, such as hospitals, a design brief may be produced on a room to room basis. With regard to Building Services, consideration will need to be given to the needs, engineering services required: power, lighting, air-conditioning, water, drainage, communications, etc.; environmental conditions: air temperature, humidity, noise level, air movement; access and security needs. It will need to consider dimensions, power requirements, energy evolved, noise produced, ventilation and extraction needed, service and operating clearances; fire safety.  

The Design Briefing Manual (Listed below) provides an outline of the procedure for the preparation of design briefs for the building services components of buildings. The procedure identifies the key activities of the four stages - inception, feasibility, outline proposals and scheme design involved in briefing, and highlights the main considerations the designer should take into account. 

Guidance on the production of a brief relating to Building Services Engineering can also be found in the Building Services Job Book listed below.  

A brief might be anything from a single page to a multiple volume set of documents depending on the complexity of the project. Though it will contain a number of subject areas.  These can be found in Chapter 3 of the Phillips book listed below. Guidance on the writing of a design brief can be found in this book and on the websites below.  



  • Phillips, P,(2004) Creating the Perfect Design Brief: How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage; New York: Allworth Press
  • BSRIA (1990) Design Briefing Manual, BRSIA, Bracknell
  • BSRIA (2009) Building Services Job Book, BRSIA: Bracknell

Self-Assessment Task

  • Explain the purpose of a design brief and produce a template for one which could be used to assist the design of a services system.

Section 3  Verbal Briefs

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Describe the purpose of a verbal brief and the types that can be used.

Although a brief can be written, it can also be given verbally, the briefing of personnel on the work to be carried out must ensure that all aspects have been covered and that the person knows exactly what is required. You should also be aware of the requirements of a brief according to its purpose and how they will differ according to the people being briefed. 

Within the work situation you must be able to give a brief, which would inform personnel of the task to be completed and provide them with sufficient information to be able to carry out the task. Briefs fall into three types:
  • Informal
  • Formal
  • Presentation
Information on Giving a Presentation can be found by visiting the PowerPoint Presentation  below. 

Planning your Briefing 

Before giving any briefing you will need to know:
  • The purpose of the briefing
  • What needs to be include
  • To what depth
  • How it will be presented/delivered
  • The resources/aids needed
  • How you will confirm people understand.

PowerPoint Presentations

Self-Assessment Task

  • Describe the purpose of a verbal brief and state the types that can be used for different situations.

Section 4  Communication

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Understand the processes involved with communication.

Communication is the act of imparting or exchange of information, ideas or feelings.   It should be a two way thing and should flow up as well as down. This therefore requires the ability to listen as well as speak. It also involves the ability or organise thoughts and place them in an appropriate medium to convey.  

Aspects relating to communication are dealt with in the constructionsite unit ‘Communication’ linked to below. You should work your way through this ensuring that you are familiar with the aspects covered relating to the lines of communication.    

The Need for Communication 

In order to ensure the building/project is produced according to plan, in the right place, at the right time, for the right cost, in a way that conforms to all statuary requirements and is fit for purpose we need to be able to communicate these requirements to those who will be carrying out the work.  A failure to communicate efficiently can result in, at best problems which will need to be rectified resulting in delays or increased costs to worst, the failure of the project.  

It is worth considering who we would communicate with and the type of information that is communicated; in the Activity below is a list of some of the parties that we have to communicate with, against this list indicate the areas of communication that you would have with these parties. 

Information transfer within the Company 

When designing a system for the internal transfer of information we need to consider:
  • Who needs it
  • For what purpose
  • How much they need
  • When they need it
  • Where it will come from.
Characteristics of a Communication System – in order to be efficient the system must be:
  • Simple
  • Understandable
  • Efficient
  • Reliable
  • Acceptable.
An effective system must be implemented which provides information to those who need it, when it is required and in a manner appropriate to the information being conveyed. All parties must know who they have to communicate with, the information which is to be communicated and the frequency that is to occur.  


  • Carysforth, C, (1998) Communication for Work, Heinemann: Oxford (Units 2, 38, 10 & 15)

Constructionsite Units

Self-Assessment Task

  • Discuss the factors which need to be considered in the establishment of a communication system.

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