Understanding the Briefing Process

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In a recent Alchemy Insight on Risk Assessment, we noted that “Understanding the Owner’s objectives and needs is critical to all future design decisions. These strong and well-considered decisions form the basis for a strong and excellent design.

Check out the full version of the Risk Assessment blog.

As referred above, Briefing is absolutely critical to the success of the project and is the exchange of information where a client will advise the Architect about their project. The briefing can be done, in part, before the Architect submits their quotation for services so that the Architect knows enough about the project to accurately predict the amount of time that they require to provide quality services.

The Brief for a project will vary depending on the complexity of the project, however, in all cases, it requires a clear vision from the client that identifies the following:

  1. Objectives and drivers, which could be aesthetic, cultural or financial
  2. Needs, which may stem from family desires to business

The Australian Institute of Architects provides some information for clients, that reinforces the key status of a clear brief; “The importance of the brief cannot be overstated. It is the basis from which the design will evolve and against which design alternatives or options will be tested. It is not uncommon to find that, as the design develops, that conflicts in the brief emerge and trade-offs become necessary.”

Information from the client is required on their vision, which can take many forms. Briefing documents from clients are as varied as the clients are and can be presented in the following ways;

  1. Written documents that describe in words what the client wants
  2. Pictures in physical form, where clients may ‘cut out’ images in a ‘scrapbook’ of ideas
  3. Pinterest or other electronic media/repositories to store their images or examples that are relevant to their project
  4. Conversations between the client and Architect. This is the most important and valuable method of providing/obtaining information and will include many, many questions from the Architect as they seek answers to “why?” (rather than “how?”)

A clear path of communication between client and Architect is essential; there needs to be a level of trust, even in the early stages of this relationship. A good foundation of trust will allow the client to be honest and truthful about the objectives. The Architect will interrogate your information and look for the critical issues. They will also question the information and help clarify your vision.

So what do you need to do if you are a client looking to start development with Alchemy Consulting? What should you consider when preparing information to Brief your Architect?

  1. Start with the key principles
  2. What are the most important parts of the project? Cost? Cultural factors? Business drivers? Spatial requirements? Aesthetics or character?
  3. Don’t start with a plan. If you have a plan, keep it tucked away for now.
  4. Enjoy the process. Allow your Architect to stretch you, and test yourself.
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