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Architects hit out at updated Plan of Work for ‘sending the wrong message on sustainability’

In a move to incorporate the Green Overlay to the Plan of Work into the new plan, the RIBA may have missed the boat on sustainability

The Green Overlay to the RIBA Outline Plan of Work, as it was known previously, has been incorporated into the new Plan of Work through sustainability checkpoints. But in the new plan, these are optional and architects can opt to ‘turn them off’.

Architects have slammed this approach for ‘sending the wrong message on sustainability.’

Director of Sturgis Associates, Simon Sturgis said: ‘In my view the sustainability checkpoints should not be turned off, which definitely sends the wrong message. It is not a bolt on but fundamental.’

Tom Hart, director at RG+P added: ‘Our role as architects is to embrace and promote sustainability yet this allows us to bypass it - how will the world as we know it survive in 50 years if we do not change the way we construct our environments.’ 

Even sustainability stalwart, Bill Bordass, has criticised the move saying: ‘Sustainability is an essential feature, not an optional extra’.

Robert Prewett, of small practice Prewett Bizley said he was ‘horrified’ by the RIBA’s approach. He added: ‘On the week where we have gone over the 400 ppm CO2 level and seemed headed towards the catastrophe, I am horrified that sustainability points might be turned off.

‘The message this sends out to designers and clients alike, is that they are not important.

‘The RIBA is duty bound to lead on this matter and any backsliding would not only be of regret for climate change but also a huge own goal for the RIBA’.

This view was shared by Architype’s Elrond Burrell, who added: ‘To see it [sustainability] as an optional add-on, or in any way separate from the main thrust of project design and delivery, is an outdated view and completely out of alignment with where the profession should be positioning itself today. Architects have a crucial role to play in helping the UK meet required CO2 emission reductions, in eliminating the performance gap, in ensuring an equitable use of scarce resources and in creating a healthy vibrant built environment: the Plan of Work really should reflect this.’

Despite this criticism, the new Plan of Work does seem to better incorporate and encourage post-occupancy evaluation. Stage 7 – In Use, encourages architects to consider the building after handover, and incorporate this in their scope of works as a stage which can be charged for.

Dyer Associates’ Dale Sinclair, who has been instrumental in developing the new plan, said: ‘We can learn a lot from measuring building at completion and this needs to be fed back into the design process from the beginning. The new Plan of Work’s logo was born out of this cyclical design route.

‘We are trying to encourage post-occupancy evaluation through the new Plan of Work and the inclusion of the in use stage.

‘Architects generally have reluctance about post-occupancy evaluation. They are reluctant about the implications of liability. But we need to demonstrate the value of its outcomes. We hope that by explicitly adding it into the new Plan of Work through the in use stage that it will encourage practices to see its value and see it as a service which they can sell.’

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