Over the past few weeks, I have been exploring the areas of land ownership to gain an insight into one of the most expensive portions of a house build and how some people gift land to reduce the cost for those in our society who could benefit the most from it.

This week I wanted to start looking at the framework of how to build a property.  On the surface from a beginner’s perspective there doesn’t appear to be much guidance explaining where to begin with such a large project and that daunting scenario is sometimes enough to dissuade many people from beginning at all.  Even when recruiting professionals to manage and carry out various stages of the build, I still think it is important to have some grasp of what is happening and what is to come so that you can ensure costs don’t spiral or you get taken advantage of.  It is due diligence in its most basic form.

I love a good framework to be able to grasp a process of something.  The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) developed a Plan of Work in 1963 to provide guidance for architects to use on their projects with clients.  It breaks down the build into stages to clearly identify what is required from each stakeholder at each part of the build.

The Plan of Work was overhauled in 2013 to incorporate the more modern practices developed over the 50-years since its introduction.  And there have been further updates to now include digital innovation within project workflows.

Stage 0 of the RIBA Plan of Work is focused on identifying the most effective way to meet the client’s needs, and it is important to approach this stage with an open mind because the best solution may not be what is first imagined.

At this stage it is useful for the client to know what sort of features they would like to end up with as the strategy can vary greatly depending on these factors.

But what features do you want?  What would be in your dream home?

A theme I have seen pan out in a lot of books that talk about goal setting and getting the most out of a career or life begin with an approach of letting your imagination run wild.  If there were no limitations on what or where you could build what would that property look like? 


If you are looking for inspiration, then collating a board on Pinterest can be a great way to get the creative side firing.

Completely forget about the “how”.  This is an opportunity to go crazy and think up ludicrous design features.  Would you build into the side of a cliff face, or a penthouse on stilts, or underground, or under a lake?

Once you have a group of design ideas you can start creating a list of common features.  Is there always a beautiful vista, are the common materials used, is there always a swimming pool, are there often floor to ceiling windows, etc?

The list you end up with becomes the very first version of your requirements (often called Client Requirements).  Talking to an architect or RIBA Client Adviser and determining your budget pulls in the constraints that then evolve your requirements and give them a sense of scope to what can be achieved.

The target of Stage 0 is to obtain better insight into what sort of building and features you will be detailing in the Project Brief it is not about design.  It should be low cost and deliver the best means of achieving the client requirements and is purely strategic.  It may be determined that a new building is not the best solution, for example when buying a brownfield site and demolishing old buildings, there may be a better solution that encompasses the refurbishment or extension of the existing buildings.  In the case of a brownfield site Stage 0 happens at the end of Stage 7 as the lifecycle of the land starts again.

Every single one of us has a unique view on what we would do with a parcel of land or a derelict building.  But our view is very often not the very best use or the perfect solution for your circumstances.  I can almost guarantee that even with an open and creative mind there will be ideas and solutions that you wouldn’t have thought about.  It often takes an outside view to give a new perspective and exploring that happens within Stage 0.

Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring each of the stages of the RIBA Plan of Work in greater detail.

🕵️‍♂️ Property Glossary

I share definitions each week of words and terms that pop up now and then in the property world and can be confusing.


A type of agreement, promise or obligation between two parties, usually written into a contract or a deed.

Apps I Use

Readwise – I’ve been paying for Readwise since 2021 and gained access to Readwise Reader Beta in 2022 and find it extremely useful for knowledge retention and research. I pass all my email newsletters through it and whenever I get a spare few minutes I can pick up where I last left off without any friction.

If you sign up using the link you’ll get an extra month free (two in total) so you can really test out the software without it costing you a penny. They don’t advertise widely so it is down to word of mouth like this that gets the tool new users. I find it invaluable.

Monzo – Carefully budgeting my spending is fundamental to being able to save towards the build. Monzo has helped me track and itemise spending for years. I now pay for the Premium account which gives me access to extra features and things like airport lounge access, phone insurance, worldwide travel insurance so it practically pays for itself. If you join using this link we’ll both get £5 (which I’ll use towards the build!).

Focus@Will – This app has superpowers. It has the ability to allow me to switch off from a noisy home and get some work done and it seems to work for me in about 5 minutes.


I’m now on:

Twitter as @Brendan_Burr

Instagram as @MeasureTwiceBuildOnce

Pinterest as @MeasureTwiceBuildOnce

Snipd for Podcasts @MTBO

Threads as @MeasureTwiceBuildOnce

That’s it for this week, thanks for reading!


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