Smart building design has matured beyond the experimental stage and is being increasingly and more widely practiced. Like every major technology disruption, the challenge at industry level is more than just integrating the technology and embedding it in the end product - in this case a building.

The harder, more enduring challenge is managing the disruption to well established methods and practices, knowledge bases and techniques, skills, roles and culture.

At present, consideration of digital capability takes place relatively late in the building design process. This means that smart building technology is regularly confined to traditionally technology-intensive areas such as HVAC, M&E, lighting, elevators, energy management and access & safety systems. Smart building technology is capable of far more than that. It can change the physical space design and the user experience – significantly.

To deliver on this potential, early consideration of key digital capabilities is needed. So, the question is, “How do we define ‘early’ with enough precision in a recognisably standard form?” Cisco has been working with a number of specialist smart building consulting firms and a couple of architects firms to answer this question. The consensus is that the RIBA Plan of Work is the best structured & most commonly used process framework that unites the building design, construction and operation industries.

The RIBA PoW already facilitates the design and use of ‘overlays’ - several already exist such as Passivhaus and DfMA (Design for Manufacturing & Assembly) and is used as a reference point for other disciplines with their own frameworks such as structural engineering (The Structural Plan of Work). Developing an overlay for smart buildings was an obvious decision.

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So obvious in fact, that when Cisco engaged with the RIBA, it turns out that they are already working on one – which Cisco think this is great news for the smart building movement. In the meantime Cisco is continuing to use the ‘straw man’ overlay that it developed recently with the aim of converging with RIBA’s more comprehensive material as it develops.

As part of a broader consultation that Cisco is now engaged with, the company would like to ask for feedback on the straw man so we can test, adjust, refine and feed in to the formal RIBA process.

For more information and feedback contact Ceri Williams at