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RIBA proposes penalty to stop developers ditching architects

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The RIBA has unveiled a plan to deter developers from replacing a project’s original architect with a cheaper firm

Under the proposal, which would be part of the Section 106 agreement, developers would have to pay planning authorities if they dropped the original architect.

Prepared by Robert Adam of Adam Architecture and Matthew White of solicitor Herbert Smith, the RIBA document includes a draft model for a Section 106 ‘additional design monitoring contribution’ – effectively penalising developers who ditch architects after winning planning (see attached).

In 2007, David Chipperfield Architects was famously replaced by Hamiltons on a £15 million residential scheme in north London (AJ 12.07.07), even though the practice was included in the Section 106 agreement (pictured above).

Under the proposals drawn up by the RIBA’s Planning Group, planning authorities could use the funds raised through penalties to pay the original design team to monitor detail schemes, in order to prevent value engineering.

Adam said: ‘This is not fool proof and is not a complete guarantee. [But] it’s the only seriously watertight attempt to cure the problem of sacking the named architect after planning consent has been granted.’

RIBA planning spokesperson Peter Stewart said: ‘Local authorities will tell you it’s hard to turn down an offer based on quality of materials. What’s needed is expert scrutiny and this is a method for demanding it.

‘The draft goes as far as is possible within what can be done legally,’ he added.

Andrew Hanson, managing director of Hanson + Confederate Architects, said: ‘This document is interesting and very clever. I have had problems in the past with companies substituting us for a cheaper firm after gaining planning consent, with absolutely disastrous results.’

Other comments:

Councillor Sue Vincent, Cabinet Member for Environment, Camden Council, said: ‘Any proposal which aims to make developers keep architects on board after they have been granted planning permission gets our strong support. This model drafting for a section 106 agreement put together by RIBA will keep well regarded architects involved in planning and we hope the agreement will be fully enforceable.’

Chris Brown of developer Igloo, said: ‘I am a big advocate of preventing developers using a good architect to get permission and then deliberately dumbing down the design but (1)  It is just as important to have a good client as a good architect - and this proposal does not address that (2) The planning system gives many more planning permissions to bad designs than it does to good designs (3) This is an ineffectual proposal because it does not ensure the original architect stays in place nor that there is a good architect monitoring the design implementation.

‘So I think the industry would probably say that this is an ineffectual proposal and an unnecessary cost which just looks to create unnecessary work for architects.’

Greg Lomas, of Foster Lomas, said: ‘It makes total sense to encourage clients to retain the original architect and as a profession this is in all our interests.
‘I think it should result in better quality buildings however clients are bound to view fee proposals from architects in a different manner if they know that they are having to use the same firm for the entire project. I am not sure what the effect on fees will be, all I can say is that it will be interesting to see what happens if this 106 amendment is widely adopted.’

John Robertson, of John Robertson Architects, said: ‘While I support the basic premise of the RIBA’s paper Protecting Design Quality, I feel the real risk to design quality is the use of the design and build procurement selected by developers. On design and build contracts, not all “well known” architects wish to be novated to, or become directly employed by contractors.
‘In these circumstances the RIBA should recognise the important role member firms play in undertaking design development and technical coordination with design and build contractors. Our recent work as contractor’s architect at the  Montevetro and Neo-Bankside residential projects, both designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, are examples of where active collaboration and cooperation between different practices ensures there is no degradation of design quality in the end product.’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am horrified by this proposition. The issue should be clients using a high quality scheme to get planning, and then 'value engineering' it to within an inch of its life once they have it - the architect involved is not the issue, and it is not right to say that cheaper architects are automatically worse designers. If there is genuine concern about the degredation in quality then the conditions should be made that the scheme is not altered, rather than the design team.

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