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RIBA Stage 3: An architect’s guide to spatial coordination

Learn all there is to know about this exciting stage of design

2 February 2024
3 minutes read
Modern mixed-use building with red brick and white facade, featuring residential units with balconies, retail space on the ground floor, and a green rooftop, situated in an urban street scene with pedestrians and a classic red London bus passing by.

Embark on a journey from concept to concrete realisation with RIBA Stage 3 - also known as the ‘Spatial Coordination’ stage. 

Here, the abstract visions and ideas of your project start taking a definitive shape, in perfect alignment with the RIBA Plan of Work.

In this article, we’ll explore the intricate process of Spatial Coordination, the crucial role of detailed design studies and cost evaluations, and the imperative alignment with planning requirements and building regulations.

Let’s dive into the essence of RIBA Stage 3.

Person holding an open RIBA Plan of Work 2020 booklet, displaying detailed stages from Strategic Definition to Use, highlighting core tasks and outcomes for architectural and construction project management.

What is RIBA Stage 3?

RIBA Stage 3 marks the evolution of your project's design into a detailed, coordinated plan. It’s where the promise of functionality meets the allure of aesthetics.

At this step, your architectural aspirations are meticulously aligned with structural and engineering realities.

Close-up view of a person browsing through the RIBA Plan of Work 2020, focusing on Stage 3: Spatial Coordination, which outlines project strategies for conservation, cost, fire safety, health and safety, inclusive design, planning, plan for use, and sustainability.

Refining architectural design

In this phase, architects and engineers collaborate to refine the design and ensure that all elements are perfectly integrated. This involves detailed design studies, engineering analysis, and adjustments to the architectural concept. 

The objective? To ensure the design not only looks good on paper but also works in reality.

This stage is crucial in aligning the practical execution of the project with the strategic vision, following the comprehensive guidelines of the RIBA Plan of Work.

The crucial role of planning permission

One of the vital aspects of Stage 3 is navigating the complexities of planning permission. This involves a detailed process of aligning the architectural plans with local and national planning policies.

The design must be fine-tuned to meet the specific criteria set out by planning authorities, ensuring that every aspect, from the building's height and massing, to its impact on the surrounding environment, is carefully considered.

Securing planning permission is often an intricate process, involving negotiations and revisions to the design. This stage requires an in-depth understanding of planning laws and a strategic approach to design, ensuring that the planning application is robust and has the highest chance of approval.

If you're looking to delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of this process, our expertly crafted ebook, Planning Permission: 6 Secrets to Success, offers valuable insights.

Adherence to building regulations

Another cornerstone of Stage 3 is ensuring compliance with building regulations. This goes beyond the aesthetic and functional aspects of the design, delving into the technicalities of construction. The design must meet a myriad of standards covering safety, energy efficiency, accessibility, and sustainability.

Building regulations dictate various aspects of construction, including structural integrity, fire safety, insulation levels, and ventilation. Adherence to these regulations is crucial for the project's legal compliance and the safety and comfort of its future occupants. 

This process involves detailed technical analysis and often requires collaboration with specialist consultants to ensure every aspect of the building design is up to standard.

Conservation considerations

If you are dealing with historic buildings or sites, the process also demands a delicate and informed approach toward architectural conservation

This stage focuses on preserving the past in a way that adds value to the present and future. It involves thorough design studies and engineering analysis to understand the unique characteristics of historic constructions. This phase is vital in identifying effective methods for preserving the historical integrity of the building or site, while accommodating modern requirements. 

The involvement of specialist heritage consultants and conservation officers is a crucial aspect of this stage, their expertise ensuring that conservation efforts are carried out with an understanding of the building's historical value and character.

Sustainability focus

Sustainability in RIBA Stage 3 transcends mere compliance with environmental standards and becomes a core part of the design philosophy. This stage involves an extensive assessment of the building’s design, particularly its impact on energy consumption, resource efficiency, and overall environmental footprint. 

Stage 3 tests various sustainability strategies, from energy-efficient systems to water conservation measures, to ensure their viability and effectiveness. The goal is to integrate these sustainable features seamlessly into the spatial coordination of the design, making them an intrinsic part of the overall concept rather than mere add-ons. 

Aligning the design with stakeholder feedback is also critical, especially concerning sustainability. It ensures that the sustainable features not only meet the environmental goals but also align with the needs and expectations of future users and the community.

The journey through RIBA Stage 3

This stage is not merely about bridging the gap between initial concepts and construction plans. It's more than just the creation of planning drawings and layout studies; it embodies the architect's expertise in blending form with functionality. 

The critical questions raised in this stage underscore the architect's capacity to envision and execute a design that is as practical as it is aesthetically pleasing. From integrating sustainable practices to ensuring user comfort, the architect's decisions and insights at this juncture are crucial in shaping environments that are not only compliant with regulatory standards but also innovative and attuned to their context. 

The following questions serve as a compass, guiding architects through the myriad of considerations essential in crafting spaces that resonate with users and their surroundings.

  • How will the design facilitate user interaction and flow?
  • How are environmental sustainability and energy efficiency integrated into the design?
  • How is technology leveraged to enhance building functionality and user experience?
  • What innovative solutions are adopted for material selection and construction methods?
  • How does the design address accessibility and inclusivity?
  • How does the design reflect and respond to the local context and culture?
  • What strategies are in place for the building’s long-term adaptability?
  • How are safety and security integrated into the design?
  • What considerations are given to outdoor spaces and landscaping?
  • How does the internal layout optimise natural light and ventilation?
  • What are the acoustic considerations in the design?
  • How does the design support the wellbeing and comfort of its users?
A group of four professionals engaging in a collaborative discussion over architectural plans in a well-lit office, with a computer screen showcasing a building model in the backdrop, indicating a dynamic planning session.

How Urbanist Architecture can help you achieve your goals

In short, RIBA Stage 3 is a critical juncture in the RIBA work stages where the project's theoretical aspects transition into concrete realities. 

This stage demands a high level of expertise and coordination among the architects, engineers and other specialist consultants, embodying the essence of practical and detailed architectural planning as outlined in the RIBA work stages.

At Urbanist Architecture, we are recognised as specialists in planning permission, serving as both architects and town planners. We excel in developing innovative planning application strategies, especially for residential developments that are subject to sensitive planning conditions and restrictions. Our expertise lies in our ability to creatively navigate these complexities, ensuring successful outcomes for our clients.

If you are looking for a multidisciplinary team of London architects and town planners proficient in navigating the intricate aspects of RIBA Stage 3 — from developing detailed, cohesive designs to ensuring compliance with planning permissions and building regulations — then look no further.

Robin Callister, Creative Director and Senior Architect at Urbanist Architecture
AUTHOR

Robin Callister

Robin is our creative director, guiding our architectural team with the wisdom of more than 20 years of experience. All architectural projects at our practice are overseen by Robin, so you know you’re in the safest of hands.

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