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Creating room data sheets

This article covers the topic of room data sheets. First, it explains the general concept. After that, it goes into the details of creating room data sheets in BriefBuilder.

What are room data sheets?

Room data sheets (RDSs) are structured overviews of the requirements that apply to the specific room types in a building. They are a key part of any project brief for a building project (referred to as architectural programs in the US).

In their classic book Problem seeking: an architectural programming primer (2012), architects William Peña and Steven Parshall define room data sheets as “a means and a method to define the ‘inside’ of a space, addressing architectural, material and engineering requirements, furniture layouts and relevant equipment”.

It is worth noting that the term room data sheet is not entirely correct because it suggests that data sheets only relate to a building’s enclosed spaces (rooms), whereas in reality they can encompass open spaces (e.g. an open-plan office), outdoor spaces (e.g. a playground) and infrastructural spaces (e.g. an access road).

But that makes little difference to the central purpose, which is to systematically record all the relevant requirements per spatial entity.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can use BriefBuilder to create room data sheets for your project.

Good to know: in BriefBuilder, a data sheet is referred to as a detail view (as it shows all the detailed requirements concerning a space). Also good to know: in BriefBuilder, you can create data sheets for other types of objects as well, e.g. for systems, elements, processes and deliverables.

Click here for a more general discussion about the purpose of room data sheets.

Creating room data sheets in BriefBuilder

In BriefBuilder, the required spaces for a project are defined in the Spaces & locations tree.

Example of a ‘tree’ of spaces and locations. For each spatial object, you can define a room data sheet.

In that ‘tree’ (essentially a structured list), you can define both typicals and project spaces. Typicals are the characteristic ‘building blocks’ or room types for your project, e.g. specific lab types for research facilities or different types of patient rooms for hospitals. Project spaces are the actual spaces that you need for specific departments or specific parts of the building.

More info about defining the spaces and rooms for your project can be found here.

For both the typicals and the project spaces you can create room data sheets (aka detail views). Just click on a space in the tree view and you will see the details on the right hand side.

The detail views in BriefBuilder are typically structured as follows:

  • Description: a short description of the space’s functional purpose.
  • Classification/numbering: a room number or other kind of ID.
  • Spatial requirements: requirements concerning size, height, zoning and other spatial properties.
  • Indoor climate: requirements concerning air quality and thermal-, visual- and acoustic comfort.
  • Adjacencies: requirements concerning the space’s position in relation to other spaces.
  • Spatial elements: the required finishes, fixtures, fittings and furniture elements in a space.
  • Use / functionality (optionally): a description of the space’s users and their activities
  • User equipment (optionally): a description of the equipment that will be placed in a space.

Each of these aspects is explained in more detail below.


At the top of a space’s detail view, under General, you will find a description field where you can add a short description of the space’s functional purpose. Usually the description explains the space’s key characteristics (e.g. enclosed or open) and the kinds of activities that it should facilitate. See the example below.

You can also add a diagram or reference image to your description. Right next to the description field, there is an optional field where you can upload one.

TIP: you may have noticed that there is an entry field called Labels. This is an optional field that you can use to add additional tags or categorizations to the a space. Click here for more info about working with labels.

Classification / numbering

In the same block (General), there is also an entry field for a classification or numbering of spaces. This is usually a room number, but you can decide this for yourself. It can even be that a room holds multiple numberings, e.g. both a functional number and a geographic number.

Click here for an explanation about how you can add classifications and numberings to objects.

Spatial requirements

The property block Spatial requirements is intended for standard properties concerning size, height, zoning and other spatial matters. In the default set-up, BriefBuilder provides you with two standard properties:

  • Quantity: the required number of spaces of that type.
  • Usable floor area: the minimum size of the space, expressed in usable square meters (or square feet).

Usually, you will want more specifications than just these two. Frequently used properties are floor-to-ceiling height, capacity and security zone . To add such standard properties, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the settings menu (at the bottom of the navigation menu)
  2. In the settings menu, navigate to Requirements and then Standard properties
  3. Select Space as object type
  4. Click on + Add standard property to create a new standard property in an existing block.

Click here for a more detailed explanation about creating standard properties.

For each standard property you can specify the following attributes:

  • Name: The property’s name. E.g. Floor-to-ceiling height.
  • Description: A short explanation. E.g. The clear height between floor level (including finish) and ceiling level (including finish and sub construction).
  • Comparator: A symbol (>, <, =, etc.) that explains how the property’s value should be understood. E.g. a greater-than-or-equal-to symbol (≥) for a minimum requirement.
  • Input type: the type of input that is allowed in the value field: text, an integer, a decimal number, or a picklist.
  • Unit of measure: The unit in which a value is expressed. E.g. metre of millimetre.
  • Picklist values: If you have chosen picklist as input type, this is where you can define the value options by clicking on Add value in the pop-up.

Indoor climate

Indoor climate requirements can be captured as standard properties as well. Usually, these properties are captured in a dedicated block with separate tables in it for acoustic comfort, thermal comfort, visual comfort and air quality.

Example of a block (‘Indoor climate’) that is subdivided into several tables (‘Acoustic comfort’ and ‘Thermal comfort’)

Steps to follow:

  1. Again, go to Settings > Requirements > Standard properties
  2. Again, select Space as object type
  3. Click on + Add block, and call the block Indoor climate (or something like that)
  4. In the block, click on + Add table to create separate tables for acoustic comfort, thermal comfort, visual comfort and air quality.
  5. In each table, click on +Add standard property to create standard properties (e.g. reverb time, temperature level etc.)
  6. For each property, add a name, comparator (<, >, =, …), a unit of measure, and possibly a list of picklist options

Click here for a more detailed explanation about creating standard properties.

We have standard templates for indoor climate properties. Using these can save you a lot of work! Contact your account manager or our support team to get hold of these.


Adjacency relations explain how spaces should be positioned in relation to one another. For example stating that the tea kitchen should be in proximity to the office area.

Such requirements can be captured in the adjacencies table. If necessary, you can even add a requirement concerning the maximum distance between two spaces. This can be relevant for buildings where logistics or walking distances are important. Think for example of the distance between a nursing station and a patient room.

The default BriefBuilder set-up provides you with the following adjacency relations:

  • In proximity of
  • Spatially connected to
  • Visually connected to
  • Spatially and visually connected to
  • NOT connected to

You can easily extend or change these options via the relation picklist settings menu.

TIP: you can visualize adjacency relations in an adjacency matrix (a cross table) and in an adjacency (‘bubble’) diagram.

Spatial elements

In the table Elements to placed you can define which spatial elements should be placed in a space.

These elements may concern construction elements (e.g. particular floor-, wall- and ceiling finishes), mechanical elements (e.g. gas outlets), electrical elements (e.g. power outlets) and plumbing fixtures (e.g. sinks) and more. Where relevant, you can add a quantity.

Important: this table is different from the earlier mentioned ones in the sense that these requirements aren’t properties, but relations to objects in another tree, in this case the Systems & elements tree.

This means that you first have to create the relevant elements in that tree before you can use them in your room data sheet. Steps to follow:

  1. In the navigation menu, go to Requirements > General > Systems & elements
  2. Click on the + button to create a new object
  3. Select Spatial element as object type
  4. Give the object a name (e.g. floor finish, glazed partition etc.) and click on Add.

Once you have created the relevant elements, you can link them to your spaces from either the element’s detailview (in the table Placement) or the spaces’ detailview (in the table Elements to placed).

Read more about defining a list with technical systems and elements for your project in this article.

Use / functionality (optional)

As an optional module, you can add a block called Use / functionality to your room data sheet. This module allows you to define the intended use and functionality of spaces. This block consists of two tables (that can be added independently from one another):

  • Users: the people or organizational units that will be using the space (e.g. visitors, employees, pupils, specific departments)
  • User activities: the user activities that the space should facilitate (e.g. generic office work, focus work, meetings, teaching).

To activate this block, do the following:

  1. In the navigation menu, go to Settings > Project model > Modules
  2. Find the block called Use
  3. Select the trees that you are interested in.
  4. Go to those trees in the menu, under Requirements
  5. Create the relevant objects (i.e. user activities and users)

Please note: the information in the use / functionality table can overlap with information in the earlier mentioned description. The recommendation is to use either the space’s description or the use / functionality block to describe the space’s functional purpose—not both.

User equipment (optional)

User equipment concerns the equipment that will placed and used in a space by the space’s users in relation to their primary process.

This information can be useful for the design team in so far equipment items come with particular requirements. In a hospital, for example, a room may feature a CT scanner that needs a particular amount of power outlets. Likewise, a museum space may feature heavy art items that require extra load bearing capacities of the space’s floor.

Activating this tree goes in the same way as explained above, via the settings menu (Settings > Project model > Modules).

Cross tables

All the information that you add to a room data sheet in BriefBuilder, can also viewed (and edited) in an Excel-like cross table. You can, for example, easily make cross tables that show all the acoustic requirements of the defined spaces, or all the ceiling heights. See the example below.

The cross table functionality can be found via the navigation menu, under the header Overviews.

Read more about how you can create cross tables in this article.

Area overview

A special kind of cross table is the area overview which shows all the spaces and their sizes and quantities. This is a crucial overview because it also makes a calculation of the total size of the project in terms of square meters (or square feet).

The area overview can be found via the navigation menu, under the header Overviews.

Read more about the area overview in this article.

Word report

Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that you create a Word version of your room data sheets.

Although it is our recommendation to give the entire project team acces to BriefBuilder (because then they can search for data, make their own cross tables etc.), it can be that certain people prefer to have a Word version.

The report functionality can be found via the navigation menu, under the header Reports.

Read more about making Word reports in this article.

IFC integration

Once the design team has developed a design proposal g, it will be interesting to match the spaces in their BIM model with the room data sheets in BriefBuilder.

This can be done in various ways, depending on the software that the design team is using.

Within the BriefBuilder application, it is possible to do this via an IFC integration. In that case, you ask the design team for an IFC export of their design model, which you can then upload in BriefBuilder. Assuming that the design team has used the same names (or IDs) for their spaces, the IFC model will automatically be mapped with the room data sheets.

Read more about BriefBuilder’s IFC integration in this article.

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