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New HCA head seeks architects for existing homes improvements

Newly appointed Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) boss Andy Rose is looking to architects to help bring tens of thousands of dilapidated UK houses up to green standards

In an interview to be published in full in next week’s AJ, the new chief executive of the housing and regeneration agency said architects had a ‘key role’ to play in making its existing housing stock sustainable.

The former European debt adviser and asset manager pointed to a range of opportunities for architects to engage with the public housing regulator and landowner. He said: ‘The challenge of the existing stock is becoming even more complex with the need to improve environmental sustainability: energy efficiency, adaptation to climate change and contribution to the renewables target. Architects have a key role to play in meeting this challenge.’

Rose’s rallying call comes after progress on the HCA-managed programme to bring the UK’s four million social housing units up to Decent Home Standard slowed to a halt. According to figures for  2011-2012, about 13 per cent of local authority-owned housing – equivalent to 214,000 homes – had yet to meet the standard.

It also came as the deadline for entries to this year’s AJ-supported Retrofit Awards was extended to 24 May.

Patrick Michell, a partner at Platform 5 Architects, which was shortlisted for last year’s Retrofit Awards, said: ‘Architects take a holistic approach. Better solutions can be found working on a neighbourhood scale, rather than house-by-house.

He added: ‘Having being consulted by a Green Deal adviser on my doorstep, it is clear to me that a few days’ training doesn’t lead to good advice.’

Glyn Emrys, of Emrys Architects, also welcomed the support, but said: ‘We are always looking for this sort of thing but quite often [the initiatives] are contractor-led. There has to be procurement reform.’

Rose went on to describe the ‘long-term value’ he expected architects to bring to the table as the HCA moved forward with the on-going disposal of its significant land holdings.

He said: ‘We need to draw on a whole range of skills to help us understand the demand and market for our land and that of other public bodies, and how best specific sites can be used.

‘In areas where demand may be low, we will work to reduce risk and encourage confidence in a local market by illustrating the potential of a land asset through a masterplan or by achieving outline planning in advance. Through such approaches, architects working collaboratively with other professions can help achieve better long-term value for sites.

He added: ‘Architectural services are among those necessary to achieve a local vision; and in particular architects with good community consultation, master planning, sustainability or urban design skills may be particularly useful.’

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