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What is an Architecture Design Brief?


An architecture design brief outlines the specifics of the architectural project, such as building typology, design stages, budget requirements, and particular design features. It’s the first building block in the architectural design process.

Consider a design brief as the ultimate guiding source for architects and their teams. It’s essentially a project management proposal–it summarizes the client’s requirements, spells out the desired outcomes and how they’ll be reached. 

With a well-crafted and detailed architectural design brief, you can deliver exactly what your client is after. It gives you a blueprint to strategize all the work and timelines. 

Plus, it’s a vital tool to show your prospects how intricately you’ve planned the project and its various stages–a stage on which to flex your architectural muscles.

As important as an architect’s design brief is, it’s not easy to write. You’ll need to spend hours studying the client's requirements before finally wrapping it up into a project brief. Instead of going through this process for every project that comes your way, use a design brief template, ease the heavy-lifting, and go into more detail into those areas that need it instead.  

Note: Sign up to Bonsai for free and access this template along with hundreds of others for proposals, contracts, invoices, and more. 

What to Include in the Architecture Design Brief?


A clear and concise design brief outlining all the information required is key for kickstarting a new project. It tells your clients how clearly you’ve understood their vision, giving them the confidence to trust you with their project. 

It also helps you establish priorities as the project progresses and lays down the roadmap for meeting all goals. 

While there’s no standard format for an architectural brief, a handful of elements are common across most briefs. Let’s look at these elements in detail. 

Business overview

Before all else, your design brief should start by introducing your business. Talk about your brand—offer insights about your key selling points, crucial differentiators, and core values. Spotlight your experience as an architect and let the client know who they’re talking to. 

While this section of your project brief focuses primarily on your business, you can also give a brief overview of the client and their contact details along with their primary requirement. This helps frame you as the solution to their architectural issues.

tips on writing a business overview of an architecture design brief

Key objectives

After you’ve caught the client’s attention, it’s time to set the tone for your design brief by listing down the key objectives. This section essentially answers the question: what does your client want?  

Write a mission statement for your project that summarizes what your client expects from this development plan. 

The mission statement should answer several questions about the project:

  • What’s the building’s function?
  • What needs will this building fulfill? 
  • What’s the main goal of this building?
  • What will be the aesthetics of this building?
  • Will the project follow norms for energy efficiency?

Discuss these questions with your prospects to fully understand and optimize the design and construction process. That way, the entire process is informed by the client’s wants and needs–making for a successful build.

Building typology and size

Once you have all the answers from the section above, how exactly do you piece it together into design briefs? That’s exactly what this next section is about. 

To understand the building typology, first consider the kind of structure you’re designing. Is it a residential building, commercial, institutional, or something else? 

Determining the type of building is a great place to start the design process. You can take reference and source ideas from similar structures to the one you’re designing.

After you’ve figured out the typology for your new project, shift your focus to size. Review the size of the site you’re working with in terms of:

  • Gross Internal Area (GIA): everything, including wall thickness
  • Net Internal Area (NIA): everything, excluding wall thickness

Finalizing these details will show your client you’ve done all the work before pitching your design. It also helps ensure that you know what you’re talking about, and understand how your architectural skills match up with the design project at hand.

Lifestyle and use

Now, a key consideration for architects–how will the spaces you’re developing be used? Discuss the everyday use of the site with your prospect and think of how your design and development can optimize the experience. 

Before jumping to the actual design, an architect’s job is to get a better understanding of what the building—with its indoor and outdoor spaces—is all about. As an architect, you’re not only considering how the building looks, but also how it feels and fits the user needs.

You have to chat with your client before drafting this section and incorporate background information about the building’s purpose. For example, if building a home, you could consider finding out their likes and dislikes:

  • Describe your daily lifestyle. How does this space align with your lifestyle?
  • Who will be utilizing this space—present or future generations?
  • What are your favorite examples of great architecture? 
  • What significance does this site hold? 
  • What are your preferred room layouts and indoor spaces?

Prepare a handy list of such questions to get a detailed understanding of lifestyle preferences for your projects. This provides a solid foundation on which to build moving forward.

Sustainability and other requisites

The future is green, and as an architect you’re leading the pack when it comes to building with sustainability in mind. It’s best to hammer out the ideas for a green design in the early stages of the project. This will give you time to think of a more accurate project cost without any last-minute additions to the budget. 

Eco-friendly houses come in many forms–present a number of possible approaches. Whether it’s limited to particular rooms and indoor spaces or expanded across outside spaces, explain all your plans for making the build sustainable, healthy, and happy for our planet. 

Construction process and timeline 

Architects need patience and perseverance as much as they require strategic thinking and design skills. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your client's building. 

Clients can get too eager to see their new space and tempted by quick fixes. Give them an accurate estimate as to  how long it should take to complete the project at the very beginning. 

Invest some extra time in thinking realistically about the expected timescale for projects. 

This way, you can offer your prospects two crucial pieces of information:

  1. Project duration: to tell them the length of completing the entire development process
  2. Key milestones: to enable them to see your progress at important stages

Avoid the temptation to provide optimistic timelines to keen clients–this probably isn’t your first rodeo. Architectural projects can run into issues left, right, and center–make sure you leave some wiggle room with timings.

clear list of project deliverables

Pricing of your architectural brief

Architectural projects come in all shapes and sizes–some are highly emotional whereas others are purely for profit. Take this into consideration when drafting your pricing plan.

While budget discussions happen verbally before the project begins, make sure to itemize costs for clarity. 

Don’t forget to factor in:

  • Interior designer: if the client would like your team to design their entire space
  • Emergency situations: if any unexpected issues obstructs the process
  • VAT: to incorporate the taxes necessary for construction activities 

Remember, an Architect is never involved with just design; they’re also in charge of the development process. Create a realistic quote that takes the entire process into account–from the paper on which you draw your designs to the extra people you’ll need along the way.

Bonsai top tip: Prepare better for the future and simplify your payment process with Bonsai’s clear and rapid invoice templates for architects

tips on adding a pricing estimate of an architectural brief

How to Write an Architecture Design Brief


The first step to writing a winning architectural brief is a meaningful discussion with your client to collect relevant information on their projects. Then comes the real job of converting all these insights into a personalized brief that ticks all their boxes. 

Studying their goals and budget will help you narrow down your design focus to a perfect solution for them. Present this solution in as extensive detail as possible—showing the effort you’ve put into creating this brief. 

Highlight the reasoning behind your ideas in every section and give them ample reasons to trust you with their space. Consider including previous work you’ve completed alongside client testimonials to highlight your stellar track record.

Once you’ve created an informed design brief, the final step is to proofread. Mistakes are easily made, and you want to make sure your design brief is perfect when it reaches the client. A final once-over is a must.

Creating an Architecture Design Brief is Simple with Bonsai 


Working as an architect comes with a unique set of challenges; don’t let design briefs be one of them. With Bonsai’s expertly created architect design brief templates, you can offload the tedious task of drafting briefs from scratch. 

Creating a design brief is simple with Bonsai. Just follow these steps:

  1. Sign up to Bonsai for free
  2. Pick the template that best fits your need
  3. Customize it to create a bespoke brief for every project

Win more clients with Bonsai’s beautiful brief templates and save yourself the struggle of starting fresh every time. Find hundreds of templates for invoices, contracts, proposals, and more all under one roof, in just a few clicks. 

Architecture Design Brief FAQs


What should an architectural design brief include?

An architectural design brief typically includes:

  • Business overview
  • Key objectives
  • Building typology and size
  • Lifestyle and use
  • Sustainability and other requisites
  • Timelines
  • Pricing

Consider it the roadmap to creating your clients ideal build. 

What is the purpose of the design brief?

A design brief acts as a reference for both the client and the architect when developing a building. It elaborates on the desired results and describes all the considerations impacting the design, such as lifestyle, use, budget, and more.

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