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Making a decomposition of systems & elements

In the Systems / Elements tree, you can define requirements concerning the technical parts of your project. Think of requirements concerning things like walls, ceilings, ventilation systems, power distribution and so on.

It concerns the kind of content that you will usually find in a technical brief. Sometimes this tree is also referred to as a technical decomposition or the system breakdown structure (SBS) of a project.

Don’t forget to check out our video on this topic.

The difference between systems and elements

The first important thing to understand when making a technical decomposition of your project is that there two kinds of technical objects in BriefBuilder: systems and spatial elements. Furthermore, you can use folders to order the tree. Each is explained below.


Systems should be understood as the overall technical services or functions that have to be realized in a project. They are typically assemblies of multiple elements or products that serve a common purpose or function.

Good examples are HVAC systems, power distribution systems, water systems and so on. These are all quite obvious examples because they feature the word ‘system’ in their name, but also a building’s facade or foundation can be seen as a system as they are made up of many different parts that, together, serve a common purpose (resp. enclosing and supporting the building).

Because systems are not just “one thing”, they cannot be linked to a specific space. They can, however, be linked to the building as a whole.

Spatial elements

As the name implies, spatial elements are the tangible parts of a building that can be linked to, or placed in, a particular space. Good examples are furniture items, lighting fixtures, water taps, partitions, floor finishes, and so on.

Spatial elements are often part of a system. The element ‘water tap’ can for example be seen as a part of the ‘water system’, but spatial elements can also be independent items, such as furniture.

In contrast to Systems, spatial elements can have quantities (a class room may for require to have one hot water tap) and exact locations.


To structure the Systems / Elements tree, you can use folders. A folder does not contain any requirements itself, but it is a practical means to group elements and systems of the same kind.

The naming and numbering of folders is usually based on some kind of classification system that has to ensure that all the requirements concerning a particular topic (say, water or data infrastructure) are neatly grouped together. In addition, such systems may be used to facilitate the linking between requirements and BIM models.

Classification systems tend to differ per country or even per project. There is, for example, Uniclass 2015 (UK), CCI/CCS (Denmark/Scandinavia), NL-SfB (the Netherlands), NS-3451 (Norway), and more. For BriefBuilder it does not really matter what kind of classification system you want to use. Most important is that use a structure that is recognisable for the people that have work with your model (i.e. the design/engineering team and the contractor).

Please note that many classification systems can be quite detailed. Their scope is typically way too big for when writing a project brief. For the purpose of briefing is usually sufficient to stick to the first two levels of the classification system. See the (SfB) example below.

Example of a SfB structure. Note that it is a very simple structure with only one level of numbered folders. How ‘deep’ you go with your folders and your numbering depends on how detailed your requirements are.

If you want to use a particular classification system that is not yet available for BriefBuilder, let us know. If you have it in Excel or XML, we can import it for you.

Creating the tree

Go to the Systems & elements tree and click on the at the top of the page. This will allow you to create your first object. A window will pop up offering you four options to choose from (as discussed above). Once you click on one of the options and a name for the object.

When hoovering over the , you will get a short explanation about the object type

When creating and organizing the systems and elements for your project, it is good to know that you can easily move objects around, search for objects, rename them, delete them if necessary, and you can easily clone (copy/paste) them if you want to use the same type of object elsewhere in your break-down.

This can all be done by using the presented buttons in your screen. For a general explanation about these buttons, click here.

Updated on 29 June 2020

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