'Let's get our house in order'
What are your first thoughts on being voted the RIBA's president elect?
Running the Labour Party is like riding two horses simultaneously - being president will feel like riding five.
There was a very strong field of candidates and any three or four could easily have won, so I'm very flattered and absolutely thrilled.
What is your agenda and what do you perceive as the pressing issues facing the RIBA?
My agenda is outlined in my election manifesto: regaining respect for architects, salaries and profitability, reviewing the Public Finance Initiative (PFI), education and the issue of the ARB.
Some things will have to wait until a year's time when I can get proper work streams going but PFI cannot wait. In its current mould, PFI is bad for both architects and clients. Low salaries are having a major impact on the retention of newly qualified architects within the profession. They face educational debts of up to £57,000 and this is causing a brain drain.
Retention of women, especially after they have had children, must also be addressed. High-salaried new mothers return to architecture because they can afford too but those on low salaries cannot. My objective is to make practices femalefriendly by changing the working culture.As I see it, the key is financial incentives that allow more women to pay for childminders.
Diversity is also a worry and the RIBA is in a fantastic position to address this issue.The CABE report on diversity shows there is not enough representation of blacks and ethnic minorities within architecture.We need to break away from being perceived as a white, male, middle-class-dominated profession.
Let's get our house in order.
So PFI is your pet hate.How do you intend to review the present PFI and address its deficiencies?
I'm not against PFI per se. I understand what the government is attempting to achieve but the reality is that PFI alienates design from clients, it keeps bidding costs too high, and it ties up the public sector in 30-year service contracts.This is poor value for money. I want to hold a multi-disciplinary conference including architects, surveyors and contractors to review the PFI model and how it can better serve government.
Ultimately, the model has to be altered.
You also have the ARB within your sights.What needs to change before the RIBA and the ARB can work in harmony?
The RIBA's relationship with the ARB is not properly structured. In education, for example, architecture schools must leap hurdles set by both the RIBA and the ARB to win course approval. This is creating an unnecessary extra workload for schools.Only the streamlining of the approval system can ease this. Once a course is given the go-ahead by the RIBA, the ARB should take this as a 'deemed to satisfy'.There is still a concern that the ARB is expansionist, so more dialogue is needed to establish our relative positions.
As the RIBA vice-president of education you clearly have strong views on maintaining educational standards.What reforms do you hope to make?
Greater understanding of the issues facing education is needed across the profession. Institutions are receiving less and less money each year, students face mounting debts, and the RIBA has laid down a set of criteria for schools that is too demanding and doesn't leave room for flexibility.
Let's pare back these demands and give students a wellrounded education rather than a flat training programme.New architects need more in-house training - we all know there are some things that can only be taught on the job.Practices must understand they have a responsibility for a recruit's education once they complete a course. A leaf should be taken from the medical and legal professions, which have a much more responsible approach to training.
What do you think you can learn from former presidents of the RIBA?
Frankly, I would not have stood for the presidency if I could not have had the year lead-ing in to the role. In that time I've lots to learn. I will be talking to all recent presidents in order to get as much advice as possible on how to manage the presidency, how to deal with external bodies and how to take advice.
What skills and/or strengths do you bring to the role?
I'm a communicator and that's a skill I intend to use as much as I can in this role.
Every leader has an Achilles'heel.What's yours?
The RIBA's membership structure is its strength and its Achilles' heel.Therefore it will be mine also.