Preparing a project brief

A clear, succinct and coherent project brief is the client’s main tool for managing both the output of the process and the people who are leading and undertaking the work.

Preparing a project brief is part of the masterplanning process.

A well-written project brief expresses the link between the way a client manages a project and the way a wider project team will approach it working through the design process. It brings all the important things about the project together in one place, building on the work you have done in the prepare stage – setting the vision, assembling the team, planning community involvement, preparing the business case – and adding to it some further definition of requirements. This needs to include clarity about place, timescales, quality and quantity, and needs to set in place expectations and standards, and methods of monitoring progress against them.

The tasks you need to work through in order to define requirements in your brief are:

As a management tool, aspects the brief can be flexible, subject to negotiation through the process. However, the brief usually also serves as the basis for a contractual agreement, which means it sets some fixed expectations. Think carefully about the functions of a project brief throughout the life of the project as you prepare it. As it will be the basis for making decisions on spending and procurement, it must be a robust document that helps clients to make the right decisions at the right time.

Before you continue, make sure that you read the following information about preparing your brief:

How do I prepare a project brief?

  1. Determine who will write the brief
    Whoever writes the brief willl need to reconcile different views and possible contradictions and ensure the document expresses requirements as clearly and succinctly as possible.
  2. Draft the project brief
    Preparing a project brief involves coordinating different parts of the project – bringing together the conclusions and outputs of tasks already completed during the ‘prepare’ stage.
  3. Revise the brief when necessary
    In practice, you need a process for revising the brief as new information comes to light and as different perspectives are brought to bear on the project.

Examples of preparing a project brief

Useful links

  • Implications for urban form
  • Achieving mixed-use
  • Density
  • Streets as places

The ATLAS guide considers how environmental sustainability may be considered at the briefing stage under a range of headings including the strategic planning framework, stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities and water and energy use.