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How to write a realistic design brief when planning to build.

Sample Design Brief

How to write a realistic design brief.


The design process usually begins with an idea. When that idea is conceptualized and turned into a sentence or paragraph or sketch, we can then begin to see the first realization of what a Client wishes to build.

Some great Architects are able to convert the most unusual of imaginations into concrete realities. In our experience, the following is a partial list to reduce a "dream" or "imagination" into a Design Brief:


Based on our experience as Design and Build Contractors, here is a quick 10 point Checklist you can use to craft your own design brief. It is the design brief that guides the Conceptualization of The Project and makes the Prospective Home Owner part of the Design Team:

1. Location Data: You can drop a pin on Google Maps and get exact location. Important when Architect is orienting the building and studying site conditions like wind direction, sun path etc.

2. Size of land and actual shape. (Can usually be seen on the Deed Plan or Ownership Documentation)

3. Spaces required: Let these be closely guided by your needs. You don't need a Guest Wing if you don't like visitors. You can let them make use of AirBnB and Uber. Take care of your most important needs. Leave superfluous out of the design brief if you cannot afford them.

4. Approximate desired sizes of house or house units e.g. What sizer of bedrooms would you like? Kitchen Size? etc

5. User requirements. It is important to consider needs, functions and roles of all potential users. If you are designing a home for retirement, remember there will be a time you will be old enough not to use the staircase. Will you convert the Guest Bedroom to be your "Master Bedroom?"

6. Support functions e.g. Car parking, Laundry area and recreation spaces like playgrounds

7. Photos of inspiration: Don't build a house with a roof like that of your neighbour, but surely be inspired! Do better!

8. Design Deliverables e.g. Floor Plans, Elevations and Sections of the drawings. What outputs do you require?

9. Sometimes, the potential home owner can go ahead and request for a physical model that reflects their design brief. This can provide valuable feedback to both the Potential Home Owner, The Design Team and the Contractor.

10. Constraints : Mostly dictated by the budget, material preference and time. You can design the house to a cost and this can save you considerable time and money re-designing to fit your budget. This is important to prevent projects that stall by design for lack of sufficient funding.


David Nahinga
David Nahinga
Quantity Surveyor | Owner and Director: Ujenzibora Investment Limited | Tel: +254 720578632 |

1 Comment

  1. “Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received — hatred. The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.”
    ― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

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