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New report urges collaboration from industry bodies for them to remain relevant

  • 5 Comments

Paul Morrell, the former government chief construction adviser, has warned that professional bodies in the sector are in danger of becoming ‘irrelevant within five to 10 years’

He said organisations like the RIBA needed to collaborate to provide a better offer to clients and companies.

In a new report, Morrell urged the professions to come together to provide ‘a body of knowledge for the built environment akin to the Kings Fund for health, instigate a trip advisor style public feedback system and improve the guarantee of a particular quality of individual - for example by benchmarking the expertise of members’.

The report, Collaborating for Change, also recommended bodies worked together on strategies to tackle climate change, improve the performance of buildings and to draw up a code of ethics to ensure they act in the public interest.

Morrell added: ‘The authority of the institutions would increase exponentially if they presented a shared view on major matters of public interest.’

The report urged collaboration on:

  • Industry reform - developing a shared vision of how to improve efficiency and the offer to clients and society
  • Climate change - developing the policies, industry capabilities and skills necessary to respond to the impact of the built environment on climate change 
  • Building performance - tackling the divide between what is promised by the industry and what is delivered, developing common metrics, committing to measurement and evaluation, and the dissemination of findings
  • Ethics and the public interest - developing and standardising a national code of conduct/ethics across the built environment professions, building on shared experience in the UK and internationally
  • Education and competence – urging built environment institutions to commit to a cross disciplinary review of the silo nature of the education system and establish a joint think tank that could pool the resources of the Institutions to conduct research and develop policy for the industry

The report called for this union to be led by a ‘rebooted’ Construction Industry Council (CIC) which should be developed and empowered as a shared vehicle for joint initiatives.

Speaking to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, Morrell said: ‘There has had been a clear shift of power between consultants and contractors, with architects now getting half their work from contractors.

‘It is increasingly difficult to set professions apart from other people and companies offering similar services. If they’re not careful then within 10 years they’ll just become servants of a construction delivery process which they’re no longer able to control.’

The report followed a commission of inquiry set up by the Edge group, made up of figures from across the professions.

The commission heard evidence from chief executives, presidents and other senior representatives from some of the key professional institutions in the construction industry including; RIBA, CIBSE, CIOB, ICE, IStructE, LI, RAEng, RICS, RTPI and SocEnv, as well as, in a collective capacity, the CIC and a range of other informed parties.

Sean Tompkins chief executive of the RICS said: ‘If professions are to remain relevant in an ever more interconnected and technologically advanced world, they will need to work together more closely.

‘We look forward to working with fellow professionals as we develop international technical and ethics standards, and as we seek to build global professional capacity for the public good.’

Tim Chapman, Arup director and lead of its London infrastructure design group responded: “This report is a valuable reminder for our whole industry of the need to adapt in rapidly changing times, and that our institutions especially need to keep up. In particular the call for institutional collaboration to address the threat of climate change resonates most strongly with me.”

  • Paul Morrell, chief construction adviser

    Paul Morrell warns RIBA could become 'irrelevant'

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Chris Roche

    More depressing news for young architects and students, suggesting architects will be pushed further down the food-chain as Contractors rise higher, but remain one ladder rung below clients. One solution which I have begun lecturing on is the increasing need for architects to become developers. Another would be too look at Germany where Architects assume Contracting roles. The future can be bright for architects but we need our universities and institution to promote evolution of the profession.
    Chris Roche / Founder 11.04 Architects

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  • This is an excellent report from The Edge and well worth a read. Let's hope it can be a catalyst for collaboration and modernisation.

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  • Ben Derbyshire

    I believe the RIBA must begin a process of redefining the covenant between the profession and society. At a time when society is re-evaluating the role of professionals we must redefine what the profession offers, raising standards and improving value. For someone, as I am, wrestling with these issues on RIBA Council, the Edge Commission report on the Future of Professionalism is manna from heaven. Paul Morrell and his colleagues have reviewed the landscape comprehensively, communicated their findings elegantly and nailed it with conclusions around which we can rally support. We must engage with this work and collaborate for change.

    Almost fifty years ago, my father was saying much the same thing. He's in his nineties now, but this is what he had to say about The Edge report:

    "Here is what I said on the decline of the profession almost half a century ago: “We architects have got to reform our concept of professionalism. If we don’t make certain changes….. we shall progressively forfeit the limited powers which we’re allowed at present to help shape the physical environment… I’m not saying architects are responsible for the mess we’re in, and even less that we have all the answers and only have to be asked to rescue the world. But I think we’ve got to accept a large measure of responsibility for the environmental crisis, and I believe that, given the freedom to do it, we are uniquely equipped to a play a leading part in the solution.”(1) Paul Morrell's excellent analysis for the Edge Commission reminds us that too little has changed. But maybe its still not too late, and collaboration always was, and remains the answer."

    Sir Andrew Derbyshire.

    Andrew Derbyshire at the RIBA Conference ‘Preparing for the eighties’ 3 July 1969 The Architectural Review , ManPlan 1, September 1969, Volume CXLVI, Number 871

    Ben Derbyshire
    Managing Partner HTA Design LLP
    Chair, The Housing Forum.

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  • Another option would be to unionize.

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  • The likely impact of Paul Morrell’s review of the professions, Collaboration for Change can be debated, however it has to take account of the potential influence exerted by the BIM Community. BIM is proving to be significant catalyst for change. Whilst the BIM Task Group has been financed to promote BIM and has supported the development of a BIM community, when you scratch beneath the surface you find a collection of volunteers that have been brought together with a common purpose. That common purpose is the desire to work together, share good/best practice and encourage others to engage in an exciting and hopefully better way of working. Is this not what spawned the creation of our current institutions?
    The BIM community includes the BIM 4 groups and the #UKBIMcrew. The BIM4SME group is focused on supporting SME organisations, from across the industry, to adopt and implement BIM. The BIM4SME group consists of individuals from the broad spectrum of the construction industry including the traditional professional institutions, contracting organisations within the supply chain as well as academia. It is truly pan-industry. Utilising the current technology, the members of the group are able to effectively and economically communicate with each other. Things happen and change is taking place, both within the individuals involved, but also the individuals that engage with the various initiatives.
    Taking a step back and reflecting on what the BIM4SME is doing and achieving, it is clear that is aligns with the original aspirations of our current professional organisations. The BIM4SME group is flexible and willing to adopt whatever approach is appropriate to engage any SME organisation willing to engage with BIM. It has developed various materials to share knowledge and has embarked on a collaboration with the RICS to promote BIM for SME’s via the BIM4SMe awards. It is a not for profit, low cost operation that relies on the dedication of the collection of volunteers. It cannot be underestimated the power and value of willing volunteers.
    Morrell’s timely review of the professions recognises the pressures for change and it’s appropriate that the institutions realise the dangers of not adapting. Change will be difficult without supporting from the governing institutions, however, it won’t stop it will just be by-passed. The institutions need to collaborate and support the progression of the industry.
    What is evident from my involvement within the BIM community and specifically with the BIM4SME group is that it does not recognise the traditional siloed boundaries of the professions. Individuals from the broach spectrum of the built environment have similar aims and want to work together for the better; I would suggest we are seeing change happen and the desired change perceived by the institutions. Paul’s analogy of the Hanseatic League is relevant, “the more efficient competitors less pre-occupied with their own internal struggles” already exist and are forging ahead.

    Rob Garvey for BIM4SMEs

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