Why you must create a brief before you start your home renovation project

Article by My Architect Advisor- the online resource for people who are about to undertake significant and expensive building projects.


We wanted to share with you the importance of creating your brief before you set out on your building project and why it’s so important that you do this early on.

Why do I need a brief?

We often hear people complaining that their architect hasn’t listened or doesn’t understand what it is they want or maybe that they regret certain decisions they’ve made about their project. Maybe you’ve had this experience yourself?

The first question we would ask is whether they had a written brief? Did they state very clearly on paper what exactly it was that they wanted to achieve? Nine times out of ten the answer is no. One of the most fundamental documents on any building project, big or small, is the brief.

Quite often, people do not spend the necessary time up front really thinking about what it is they want and need. They might spend hours looking at photographs of kitchens and bathrooms and other amazing home renovation projects, which can provide inspiration. However, they don’t dig any deeper to really think hard about their actual requirements, particularly in regard to any longer term aspirations. It’s no surprise that they then either find it difficult to articulate what it is they want to a builder or designer or that they make changes later on in the process, which often comes with a price tag.

No committing your brief to paper can lead to misunderstandings, wasted time and changes later in the process, which can often result in additional stress and higher bills. One must never make assumptions on a building project and it’s best to always be very clear on what you require.

One of the obvious answers to this problem is to write a brief, which is standard practice for most large projects (and in fact most creative endeavors.) If you don’t have a good brief, you are likely to end up with problems further on in the process.

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So what does a good brief allow you to do?


Firstly it gives you and your partner/family time and space to think, discuss and agree what you want.


It allows you to articulate this to your architect, builder and team.


It enables you to look back and check that what you want is being delivered and is in accordance with your brief.


It saves on miscommunication, misunderstanding and therefore reduces time wasted, money spent and time overruns.


A brief effectively sets out what your requirements are without coming up with a solution. It’s the ‘Why?’ and the ‘What?’ but not the ‘How?’ This stops you from becoming focused on the building constraints, which can force you down a certain design route to the detriment of potentially better ideas and solutions.


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Take your time to get it right. Time spent at the early stages will save you time and money later on. I have seen many projects fail that did not start out with a robust brief. It’s no wonder that if people aren’t clear about what they want and are unable to articulate this to their architect or builder, then they will ultimately end up wasting time and money.


As the founder of My Architect Advisor

Sarah Williams, RIBA, has been helping clients for over 25 years, designing and delivering their projects, which range from small extensions/renovations to multi million pound residential, commercial and institutional buildings. You can find Sarah at Grand Designs Live ‘Ask an expert’

You can find Sarah at Grand Designs Live 'Ask an Expert' stand. 

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