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Updated: Sep 21, 2023

The scope of possible services and possibly even fragments of these services that can be fulfilled on behalf of the clients can be baffling, intricate and interdepended. Very often the engineers, architects or contractors are guessing the client’s expectations due to imprecise briefing or lack thereof or missing fundamental understanding of the industry, its procedures, scopes of appointments, breadth of detail of the information that may need to be provided, liabilities, responsibilities and on and on.

Constant efforts are being made to unify the approach of the industry to allow a better understanding of the underlying processes, stages of delivery of the projects, the responsibilities and risks and the expectation that can be reasonably required of the professionals involved. Certainly, the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) PLAN OF WORK that has been in development since the early 1960s is driving this unification forward. I will be writing about the RIBA and their plan of work in a separate blog. In the gist of it, the RIBA’s approach attempts to unify the management process of designing and construction, encapsulating the critical path in a one-page document. There is no legal obligation to follow these stages nor to deliver to their expectations (unless contracted) but without such a universal approach and standardisation of it, the members of the teams seem to be speaking different languages and often the moral of the story resembles that of the Tower of Bable. The provision of services is very often bounded by the borders drawn within the appointment documents. Such as standard forms of appointment produced by ACE (Association for Consultancy and Engineering) which are also now aligned with the RIBA stages of work. The matters become even more complex when bespoke forms of contracts are drafted or terms that attempt to skimp on some stages of work.


The Structural Plan of Work 2020 (‘SPW2020’) is a guide prepared by the Institution of Structural Engineers, keeping the engineering services' scopes aligned with the latest revision of the RIBA Plan of Work 2020. Being a client, you can reasonably assume that the members of the ISTRUCTE will be aware of this framework and therefore you can speak a similar language when acquiring their services. As it stands the framework is guidance for good practice and it is not a legal requirement.

The Structural Plan of Work 2020 also draws on the British Standards BS 7000-4:20013 and BS 8536-1:2015 which deal with the design management systems and briefing for design and construction. It is very important for the successful delivery of the design and the subsequent construction of a project to understand the expectations of the stakeholders but maybe even more crucially so to ascertain the language and limitations of the parties involved. These should be ascertained and collated within a project-specific Responsibility Matrix.

To break it down a little bit the SPW2020 is put into 8 stages(columns) from 0 to 7 and 12 rows with an overview of expectations, you can download it for free from the IStructE together with all the supplementary documents.



STAGES 0 and 1 are NO-DESIGN STAGES. These two stages are all about preparation concentrating on WHY, WHAT and HOW. It so may transpire that these stages will not be consecutive but iterative. In the best-case scenario, one will follow the other and then move on to the Design Stages, however, the outcomes of Stage 1 may reveal that a building, bridge, infrastructure, local environment, soil conditions or any other critical aspect of the project will not allow for the commencement and the strategy defined at Stage 0 may need to be re-evaluated.


This stage is the conception of “THE NEED” and is concentrated on the Clients operational demands and requirements by attempting to find the most suitable way of fulfilling these needs. It generally involves clients’ determination of the business case, and this could mean many things, like:

  • Homeowner - more living space, or recently so popular home office.

  • Government – more patient capacity, training capacity, care capacity, housing, links between towns, crossings etc (hospitals, schools, care homes, houses, roads, rail, bridges, tunnels etc.)

  • Commercial – office space, new shops, production facilities, storage.

The wise client will appoint a consultant at this point to help determine which way is the best way forward and that may involve exercising such ideas as extending the existing buildings or facilities, finding new existing sites or choosing the best location for a tunnel or bridge and determining which of these two is the better for the environment, traffic, cost, constructability etc. The list is as varied as there are cases out there and the scope of the consulting services and the terms of the appointment will seek to advise on the business case and the best way forward.

You can expect to appoint a consultant on hourly bases plus costs at this stage.

The outcome of this stage is the definition of the way forward and without careful consideration, at this stage, the client may end up with a costly project with perhaps an ill-informed solution that will be far from optimal.



Following Stage 0, we know what the target of the effort is and what are the underlying client’s requirements of it.

Now it is time to set all ducks in order and check if it can be done, the structural engineer will:

  • Contribute to the feasibility assessment of the scheme and project risk assessment.

  • Contribute to the sustainability assessment of the scheme.

  • Determine what needs to be done to succeed in the project and identify possible constraints and difficulties that may arise, e.g.- Ground conditions, local environs, property rights, legal requirements etc.

  • Define the project information requirements (‘PIR’) :

  • What the structural engineer will do and to what extent, what standards and what timeline.

  • Define what other members of the project team concerning structural aspects will do and to what extent, what standard and what timeline.

  • Define the breadth, scope and specification of surveys that need to be done prior to the progression to the next stage and help with supervision of the efforts to assure the most accurate outcome.

  • Define exchange information requirements (‘EIR’). No member of the team on the project works in a vacuum and often the provision of information by one member will influence the work of the other. These interdependencies should be put in order and in front of the team members to assure a smooth working relationship and to avoid unnecessary reiterations, doubling of services, or clouding and diminution of responsibilities.

For a small project under £1mil, you can expect to appoint a consultant on hourly bases plus costs at this stage. Otherwise, a spend of 7-10% of the total engineering fee for the project may be suitable.

The outcome of this stage is a well-defined process broken down into the areas of specialisation THE BRIEF. Interdependencies are identified and planned for, and the expectations are well laid down for the next stages of delivery. The Responsibility Matrix, PIR and EIR will now give bases to contractual arrangements for further appointments and procurement.

STAGES 2 to 4.5 are DESIGN STAGES. These four stages are all about establishing the appropriate structural solution and taking it to the development stage of such detail as required by THE BRIEF or as established within the appointment documentation and statutory requirements (statutory requirements will vary depending on the local jurisdiction).

Stage 4 is broken into Stages 4 and 4.5 to identify the intricacy between the provision of well-defined design which will need to be further developed in sufficient detail to allow for the manufacturing of individual elements. Stage 4.5 will often require a large amount of time to fulfil the obligations and will likely overlap with the construction of the project. The delivery of production design is often carried out by thy who produce the element.



This stage is all about establishing the most appropriate way forward in terms of the structural form, layout and system. In best practices, this is an iterative process where the architect and the engineer work towards making the most of available materials and techniques to fulfil THE BRIEF and agree on the way forward.

To establish the best way forward the design team will need to take the conceptual input from the architect and test the proposal against such considerations as the output of the surveys commissioned at Stage 1, sustainability, layout, type of material, stability systems, foundations type, constraints and advice on any missing information or requirements for further investigation. Once these parts are agreed upon between the parties a performance specification for the building and for the delivery of the design should be prepared and agreed on as the specification for further inspections and reports, design, codes, and standards too. Outline Health and Safety information and Risks involved in the execution of the project should be identified and communicated.

The outcome of this stage is an outline proposal sufficient to communicate the intent and mass of the structure for cost evaluation and communication to stakeholders. Further definition and amendment of THE BRIEF – Responsibility Matrix, PIR, EIR, BIM Execution Plan (‘BEP’) and definition of requirements and strategies to discharge statutory obligations (CDM, Building Regulations, Planning, Conservation and Heritage Protection, Any Licences with Third Parties, Party Wall Matters etc.)

For a small project under £1mil, you can expect to appoint a consultant on hourly bases plus costs at this stage. Otherwise, a spend of 10-13% of the total engineering fee for the project may be more appropriate. The costs of additional specialist consultants may also need to be taken into consideration.



This stage is all about making the engineering design coordinated with the architectural considerations identified and agreed on in the earlier stage. At this stage, as the project becomes better defined and all surveys and more missing information are prepared and taken into consideration the engineer can define the size, type and specification for all structural elements required to support the building in use. The project’s elements and the whole project’s behaviour and limits will be then communicated to the architect for approval or comment. The process may repeat on the parts of the structure up until the architectural requirements or critical aspects of the project are met.

The outcome of this stage is a further definition of the main elements preliminarily taken into consideration in Stage 2. Elements shall now meet the requirements of the project and be placed in appropriate locations coordinated with the architectural expectations. Sufficient specification and determination of critical and typical details should form part of the deliverables. Underground services coordination with the structure should be taken into consideration whether designed by the Structural Engineer or externally by a suitably appointed Civil Engineer or simply a drainage or SuDS (sustainable urban drainage system) specialist. The information will be sufficiently defined to undergo further refinement by other members of the project team. The elements that will require contractors’ input will also be identified and their performance specifications will form part of the documentation as well as the sustainability report. The risks involved in the execution of the permanent works should be collated together with the identification of major temporary works required for the successful execution of the works and suggestions on how to mitigate the risks and approach the temporary works matters.

Further detailed consideration for the statutory application should be made and recorded.

You can expect to spend 20-25% of the total engineering fee for the project at this stage plus costs including additional specialist appointments, design assurance (checks) or for such services provided within the structural consultant office.



This stage is all about ironing out any remaining aspects of the design such as:

  • clashes of structure with other aspects of the build or incorporating detailed expectations or features that are required by other stakeholders and are critical to the successful operation of the building.

  • incorporation of the designs provided by specialist consultants.

  • incorporation and check of the designs provided by contractors.

The outcome of this stage should have enough detail to allow the discharge of statutory requirements e.g. Building Regulations and CDM and allow the designs and specifications to be used in the tender process. Information containing sufficient detail to consider temporary works, construction, operation and decommissioning of the building as well as its structural sustainability assessment report. Structural drawings and information models should be coordinated and setting out information provided for the structural elements.

You can expect to spend 30-35% of the total engineering fee for the project at this stage plus costs including additional specialists’ appointments, detailed design assurance (calculation checks) where appropriate or for such services provided within the structural consultant office.



This stage is all about the provision of designs and information for production purposes. This is where that 5mm difference in measurement or the construction of the prior element in the wrong place or exceeding the agreed tolerances may result in additional work required for the elements produced in accordance with the information provided in prior stages.

On simple projects or where it is more suitable for the good delivery of the project these designs are often carried out by contractors. Despite the contractor’s obligation to design at this stage it is prudent to have engineers retained for quality assurance and to check the compliance of the contractors’ designs with the project prior to the release of such to the production line.

You can expect to spend 10% to in excess of the total engineering fee otherwise apportioned to the project delivery depending on the complexity of the project and required scope of delivery and information requirements by the contractor or fabricator as well as for the design and/or check of the Temporary Works designs, its supervision or coordination. The hourly fee plus costs including any third-party checks, where appropriate, are the best bases for the provision of such services to assure high quality and safe delivery of the project.



This stage is all about reviewing the contractor’s designs, testing information and assuring the building is being built according to the structural design. Engineers assist the contractor and architect in the building process and to record the build.

Some design work may be undertaken but this will include resolving site issues. If the engineer provides designs at this stage whether it is for Temporary Works or Production Purposes these generally fall within the understanding of stage 4.5.

The outcome of this stage is a ready product, free of defects or with such identified for correction. The documentation forms a large part of this stage and will depend on the contractual arrangement but generally includes such elements concerning Health and Safety File, As Constructed Information, Sustainability Certification, BIM Handover Deliverables etc.

You can expect to spend 10-20% of the total engineering fee at this stage. The hourly fee plus costs are the standard bases for the provision of such services on small projects.



This stage is all about concluding the project. Dealing with any outstanding rectification aspects as identified in stage 5. Conclusion of certification and the design supervision process to update the wealth of knowledge of the engineering office and to inform the sustainability outcomes in contrast to the targets. Evaluation of the behaviour of the building couple of months prior to the end of the defects period.

You can expect to spend around 5% of the total engineering fee at this stage. Slightly more if there are issues to rectify and the engineer’s assistance is required. Aspects concerning the rectification of issues may attract hourly remuneration plus costs.



This stage is all about helping to run the building/structure effectively and to help adjust it to the requirements of the user whose expectations and needs may change and exceed these of the initial brief. It is often part of post-occupation and may last several years or for as long as needed including re-use or demolition.

Performance tests of the building in use may also form part of this service whose main purpose is to inform on the behaviour of the building. Lessons learnt, enhance general understanding of engineering, and broaden the knowledge of the profession. Share of the findings, in an open way, should be encouraged.

This stage will form a separate contract with the building user and will likely include and hourly fee plus costs.


Well done for sticking to the end! I hope this post will give you a good reference point to which you will be able to return whenever needed.

Whether you are new to the industry or embarking on your next project being on the same page with everyone involved is the most important part of the whole endeavour!

Good luck and Godspeed!


For more information regarding the above only use good sources, like:


Legal Disclaimer:

Notwithstanding the above, we want to emphasize that the information we provide in our blog posts is intended to be informative only. While we strive to be as precise and accurate as possible, we cannot guarantee that the information we provide will be applicable to your specific situation. We strongly advise that you contact us directly for bespoke advice tailored to your unique circumstances. Our team of experienced professionals will work with you face to face, analyze your specific needs, and provide you with professional, contractually bound solutions that are customized to your project. At Bytnar, we are committed to providing the highest level of service to our clients, and we believe that personalized attention and customized solutions are key to achieving successful outcomes. So, please don't hesitate to reach out to us for expert guidance and support throughout your AEC journey.

Please be advised that as a reader of these articles, you are not a party to any contract, either directly or inferred, with Bytnar Ltd, its directors, or any person writing the post, hereafter referred to as "We". We would like to clarify that we do not assume any legal liability, either directly or indirectly, for any losses that may arise as a result of the information provided in these articles or the misuse of said information by you or any third party. We would like to reiterate that the information provided in our blog posts is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice or establish any contractual relationship. Therefore, we strongly advise our readers to seek personalised and professional advice from our team of experts before relying on any information provided in these articles. In summary, by reading these articles, you acknowledge that you are not entering into any contractual agreement with Bytnar Ltd or its directors and that you assume full responsibility for any decisions made or actions taken based on the information provided in these articles.

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