February 6, 2023
Mies van der Rohe once said: “An architect of ability should be able to tell a client what he wants. Most of the time a client never knows what he wants.” Not many clients will agree with these patronising words—nor, for that matter, will many architects. Yet, there is some truth in Mies’s statement in the sense that construction clients often have difficulty expressing what they want. To help solve this conundrum in a new era, Juriaan van Meel and Kjersti Bjørkeng Størdal have published their new book Construction briefing: a practical guide.
Briefing is an essential part of any design process. A good brief helps both the client and the design team to get a thorough understanding the project’s aims, constraints, and requirements. This notion is widely acknowledged, but there is little common guidance on how to develop a good brief. This book, now revised and updated, aims to change that. In clear and succinct language, the authors explain all the ins and outs of briefing.
Especially at the start of a project, clients may only have a hazy or limited notion of their needs and ambitions. Such vagueness is understandable, especially with first-time clients, but it is not good enough to guide major construction projects. If clients aren’t clear about their needs, the design team cannot be expected to deliver a fitting solution. As software engineers like to say: ‘garbage in, garbage out’. Or, more positively: it takes good input to create good output.
This book aims to help clients, and their design teams, with developing effective project briefs. The authors’ viewpoint is that clients should focus on what the building should ‘do’ or ‘deliver’ to them, rather than specifying the design itself, which is the responsibility of the design team. Questions to be addressed are: What are the objectives for the project? What problem does it need to solve? What is the intended use of the building? And what are the client’s needs concerning quality issues such as health and safety, security, flexibility, and sustainability?
The book does not pretend to present a sure-fire recipe for answering these questions, but it does provide all the ingredients for making briefing processes work. It is divided into eight chapters:
- Process: explains the process of briefing as a learning and research process;
- Sequence: discusses different types of briefs (strategic, functional, technical);
- Success factors: presents eleven success factors (e.g. focus on performance);
- Topics: discusses key themes such as flexibility, efficiency and sustainability;
- Techniques: gives an overview of briefing techniques, e.g. surveys and interviews;
- Organization: discusses the task and roles in a briefing process;
- Briefing and BIM: argues that building information modelling should start with the brief;
- What experts say: features Q&As with experts from practice and academia.
- Cases: presents a variety of briefing examples from practice (an office, school, casino, …).
The book’s core message is that briefing is a crucial activity because projects cannot succeed if it isn’t clear what their purpose is. Today, this message is even more important than ever. We live in tumultuous times with multiple challenges such as climate change and rapid technological change. Such challenges come with new needs and expectations concerning the built environment. It means that we must think critically about why we build and what we want to build. This book aims to contribute to that thinking.
Title: Construction briefing: a practical guide
Authors: Juriaan van Meel and Kjersti Bjørkeng Størdal
Design: Studio Sander Boon
Details: 272 p, ills colour & bw, 15 x 23 cm, pb, English