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RIBA ready to 'transform' clients advisory service

The RIBA is set to embark on a major new programme of promoting member architects to clients, including a threefold increase in the number of money-spinning conferences it stages and even a possible first venture to the property networking extravaganza, MIPIM.

The institute's new Clients Advisory Service (CAS) chief Paul Newman told the AJ last week that he is aiming to transform the service into becoming a 'more proactive' body with a much higher profile at events both inside the construction profession and at other more mainstream, non-domestic exhibitions.

'The future is looking rosy, ' he said. 'There's a good foundation to grow the service for clients and architects'.

Newman said he is about to employ two new full time members of staff - a business development manager and executive - to aid the formulation of the programme of events and aims to concentrate on the government's funding priority areas of health and education. And although Newman is adamant that the institute is a charity and a non-profit-making body, the extra concentration on the potentially lucrative events will help turn around a significant £70,000 deficit in CAS finances projected for this year.

A fortnight ago the CAS held a successful conference in Liverpool which was attended by 96 delegates, who were predominantly clients, all paying £65. That raised £6,240, of which around £5,240 was clear profit.

Normal ly the CAS runs around four such conferences a year but Newman wants to see a three fold increase to 12 and is also to look at sponsorship opportunities.Areas to be covered relate to the CAS's steering groups in further education; schools; higher education; housing; spectator sports; participating sports; and health.

'We want to increase the number and add more structure to them, ' said Newman. 'They've trundled along in the past.'

Newman is also considering a series of seminars and will 'very probably' take space at the MIPIM conference in Cannes in France next March.That will be a first move for the institute in pushing architecture to a wide range of end-users internationally and will answer criticism of its lack of involvement in recent years.

But Newman offered something of a backtrack on plans to end the printed version of the directory of practices. 'We always envisaged ending it in 2001 but if the demand is there it will continue, ' he said. Currently practices pay a basic £65 to be in - Newman said the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors charges £279 for an equivalent service.But the RIBA had previously approved plans to move over to an Internet-only service. The web version has the advantage over the book that it is cheaper to produce and is searchable by building sector.

Another CAS plan is to find a new name, which it will settle on after a wider rebranding of the institute. Newman said this will be taken forward after new chief executive Richard Hastilow delivers a report after 90 days in office. He has been at Portland Place for just over 60 days.

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