Initiating a project

How do I initiate a capital project?

In the first instance, please email the Capital Projects Administrator, with information about location, required timescale and budget if known. This will enable the Options Appraisals team (including Capital Projects personnel) to assess whether a Statement of Need is required, as part of the Options Appraisals process, before the enquiry is progressed to the next stage.

If a Statement of Need is not required, the initiation stage will include formation of a Project Sponsor Group and the appointment of a Project Manager. The Project Manager compiles a series of Project Initiation Documents (PIDs) and prepares a Feasibility Proposal for submission to the Capital Steering Group and PRAC (Planning & Resource Allocation Committee).

Options Appraisals – finding the best space solution

The Options Appraisals process enables Estates Services to consider all the current and future space needs identified by divisions, so that we can review potential scenarios to fulfil the University’s requirements. The process also takes into account other projects on the critical path of the University’s Capital Masterplan, in terms of phasing and the dependencies between them.

We work closely with divisions and departments to identify the space solution that delivers the maximum satisfaction, in line with the issues, priorities and constraints that we have agreed with them.  Finally, our recommendations are considered by the Head of Division for approval.

Options Appraisals contribute clear project briefs in the form of Statements of Need before significant costs are incurred.  

There are two key levels to the process:

  • Operational – comprises the Statement of Need, which involves a review of the use of/activities taking place in the current space. This is followed by an assessment of how this may change over time.
  • Strategic – considers the critical path of projects in the context of the wider master plan and the needs of the University estate.

The process is managed by a team within Estates Services comprising the Head and Deputy Head of Capital Projects, the Director of Asset & Space Management, the Space Manager, and the Options Appraisals and Asset Surveyor.

For further information and guidance, contact Iain Critchlow, Options Appraisals and Asset Surveyor.

Pure projects

One of the goals of the Options Appraisals process is to explore the inter-play between projects and to bring forward prioritised projects within the Capital Masterplan that have the best chance of success.  We refer to these as pure projects.

In addition to being aligned with academic strategies and prioritised/supported by divisions, a pure project is defined as having known requirements including an unconstrained site, a clear affordable budget and agreed programme.  It is expected that the University will deliver pure projects within known parameters for time, cost and quality and that deviations from these will be either extremely rare or exceptional.


The feasibility stage investigates how the need set out in the project proposal document might be satisfied, identifies one or more options and estimates the respective implementation costs.

The Project Manager arranges for the feasibility team (including architects, mechanical and electrical engineers and other consultants) to be appointed. The feasibility team is appointed by either BESC or the Director of Estates. Where relevant, this is done within framework agreements. The Project Manager informs all relevant parties within the University that the feasibility study is being undertaken and collates their comments.

The feasibility team carries out the feasibility study in consultation with the Project Sponsor Group and others as appropriate and prepares the feasibility report. The report sets out options and may sketch preliminary designs and initial cost estimates.

It is important for sustainability measures to be considered in detail from the inception of a capital project to ensure that the greatest benefit can be captured and in the most cost effective manner. When not factored into early design decisions, the sustainability profile of a building is likely to be less optimal and at a higher capital and design cost.

The feasibility report must be approved by the PSG and Estates Services.

Project proposal

If not already formed, the Project Sponsor Group (PSG) is established and the departmental member compiles the project proposal with assistance from the other members of the PSG, the Project Manager, Estates Services, the Finance Division, and PRAS.

The proposal covers:

  • outline information
  • project governance
  • design brief, business case and objectives
  • risk assessment
  • funding and budgetary implications including Project Expenditure Approval (PEA) and Project VAT Review (PVR)

The project proposal explains how the project will contribute to achieving departmental, divisional, and University strategic goals, how the project relates to the University’s estates strategy, what the capital cost of the project is expected to be and how it is proposed that it will be funded, and how any revenue costs arising as a result of the project will be funded. In the case of a new building, the proposal contains an estimate of the additional maintenance costs that will arise from the project, based on an approximate area rate for a similar existing University building.

The project proposal must be approved by the PSG.

Approval process

The approval process varies according to its value and source of funding and is set out in the University's Financial Regulations. Recommendations and decisions are made by divisional boards, the Capital Steering Group (CSG), PRAC and the Buildings and Estates Subcommittee (BESC), with Council as the ultimate approving body. The University departments that are usually involved in the process are Estates Services, the Finance Division and the Planning and Resource Allocation Section (PRAS).

Project Approval Thresholds

The approval process for a capital building project varies according to its value and source of funding:

  Requiring University Capital Fund  Not Requiring University Capital Fund  
Below £100k CSG recommends to PRAC
PRAC approves
Formal Business Case not needed
Sponsoring Department may approve
£100k-£1m CSG recommends to PRAC
PRAC approves
Formal Business Case is required
Sponsoring Department may approve up to
Sponsoring Division may approve up to £1m
£1m-£4m CSG recommends to PRAC
PRAC approves and reports to Council 
Over £4m CSG recommends to PRAC
PRAC recommends to Council
Council approves  

Following the consideration of a project proposal, approval can have a number of possible outcomes, typically:

  • conducting a feasibility study
  • permitting work to be carried out to a specified design or planning stage
  • pursuing fund-raising activity to bring the project to fruition
  • carrying out the entire project

Project set up

Following approval, PRAS notifies all interested parties and the project is included as an approved item within the Capital Plan. A design team, project manager, cost consultant (quantity surveyor), architect and main contractor are appointed by either BESC or the Director of Estates.

The Finance Division sets up the project within the Oracle Financials Construction Projects Module using a unique reference number. The project funding source(s), cost budget and VAT treatment will be identified within the system for ongoing monitoring and financial control purposes. Routine reporting is undertaken by way of cost updates to the Capital Plan and via regular monthly financial review meetings with the project manager.