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Enhanced project brief: structured approach to client-designer interface

Farzad Khosrowshahi (Leeds Met University, School of Built Environment and Engineering, Leeds, United Kingdom)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 21 September 2015




The focus of this work is on the client-designer interface where decisions have significant impact over the lifecycle of the project. Therefore, the briefing stage is examined in the context of clients’ needs which is divided into project-based strategy and broader clients’ strategy. The purpose of this paper is to address the pitfalls in the briefing process which has been attributed to the shortcomings in the client-designer communication interfaces. This will be achieved by developing an automated brief generation framework. The research examines the efficiency of standard approaches to modelling and design, and the benefits that these methodologies have offered to the computer industry. The work reviews the similarities between the two industries and argues in support of the potential benefits in adopting a standard methodology in the construction industry. The structure upon which the framework is developed is based on system analysis and design methodology (SSADM) which has proven to be an effective platform used within the software development industry.


SSADM is an established methodology within the software development industry. The paper will demonstrate that due to fundamental similarities between the construction and software development industries, SSADM is likely to offer a viable platform upon which an automated enhanced brief generation model is developed for use in the construction industry. The construction design and construction process will be mapped on SSADM high-level definition before focusing and honing on the design phase. The methodology for the development of the framework will be based on the rationalist approach of generating knowledge through reasoning leading to model-building.


A model that is based on SSADM is proposed for the design development phase of construction projects. In order to shape the project strategy, the model considers the combined role of clients’ requirements with organisation strategy and environmental factors. The paper has shown that it is feasible to increase the automation of the briefing process and enhanced the briefing output. The model here does not diminish the importance of direct communication between the client and the design team. It provides a more structured way of doing so, while taking advantage of vast array of data and technology in order to improve the brief outcome.

Research limitations/implications

From practical perspective, the proposed framework is in its formative stage, thus requiring incremental refinement through several case studies. This is particularly true about the AI components of the system which typically rely on extensive data representing the real-case scenarios. Therefore, the work invites further research into the examination of various parts as well as the overall system.

Practical implications

There are several ways by which construction projects are procured. There may be fluctuation in their rate of usage, but while there is no indication of any procurement option fading, new ones such as PPP and PFI are periodically introduced. The existence of this diversity is indicative of the fact that the industry tends to respond to problems rather than attempting to instigate a measured solution supported by theoretical underpinning. Subsequently, there have been suggestions of a communication and information discourse between actors and within processes involved in project lifecycle. This project is aimed at addressing the gap in the client-designer communication. The automated approach to brief generation will lead to better briefs while reducing ambiguities as well as the overhead associated with brief generation.

Social implications

The quality of project brief has a significant impact on decisions at the design stage. In turn, these decisions will influence all phases of construction project lifecycle. The briefing session and requirement analysis of a construction project can be very difficult for inexperienced clients particularly for complex projects. Therefore, there is potential for the process of client-requirement-analysis to be optimised. The work promises to improve the quality of the briefing process, thus helping clients to realise their intended objectives and minimise resource waste.


The work builds on the commonalities of the construction and software development industries and takes advantage of the advancements in the latter. In doing so, project quality is defined quantitatively which is used to develop project strategy in a three-dimensional space. The development of the model was also contingent upon enhancement of artificial neural network structure.



Khosrowshahi, F. (2015), "Enhanced project brief: structured approach to client-designer interface", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 474-492.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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