Architects have welcomed plans by the RIBA to strengthen the criteria for chartered practices to help root out inequality and promote diversity in the profession
The new conditions, which will come into force in January, mean firms wanting to keep their chartered status must operate an appropriate equality, diversity and inclusion policy.
The tougher accreditation requirements also include a commitment to paying all students at least the UK Living Wage, or the London Living Wage where applicable.
The proposals have been welcomed by former RIBA presidents Angela Brady and Jack Pringle as pushing the profession to act responsibly.
Pringle said: ‘From the very beginning, the idea for chartered practices was to have steadily increasing criteria for membership, which in the end would produce a reliably excellent profession. A rising tide lifts all boats.
‘So this latest development is a welcome part of the plan.’
Another former RIBA president Brady commented: ‘This updates an important policy which we all need to sign up to and practice.
This now needs to be enforced
‘Diversity and inclusion are part of who we are as architects it is not a tick box- the value of diversity of people and gender adds value and interest to the workplace we are no longer a profession of male, middle-class dickiebow wearers! Architecture is open to all.
‘Any RIBA practice who exploits students unfairly cannot remain as a RIBA chartered practices so this now needs to be enforced and policy is the correct way to start this.’
Speaking about the new proposals Jane Duncan, RIBA President Elect said: ‘Every employee deserves to be treated fairly for the contribution they make. I am delighted that our practices will be enshrining their commitment to equality and fairness by signing up to the new accreditation criteria.
‘These important changes are a vital step to driving positive change and encouraging talent to join and stay in the profession. Working as a collective and galvanised profession we can make a real difference by stamping out inequality.’
These changes are a vital step to driving positive change
The changes come as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also launched a new ‘quality mark’ to encourage diversity and best practice in the construction industry profession. Launching next month the new quality mark asks employers to pledge a commitment to staff development, staff retention, engagement with employees, leadership and vision, and continuous improvement.
Associate at Waugh Thistleton Architects Dave Lomax said that the RIBA measures would be welcome, but that more could be done to provide an equal playing field for small firms to compete in RIBA-sponsored competitions.
Lomax said: ‘Everyone in the industry would welcome any measures that promote diversity, equality and a liveable wage, particularly in an age where finance is a serious barrier to entering a profession through the gateway of a seven year training programme.
‘Similarly we welcome policies that allow all practices to compete for work on an equal playing field.
‘Those able to staff bids for exciting work with armies of unpaid interns attracted by reputations and the promise of ‘getting it on my CV’ not only see a significant advantage in winning exciting work but also foster a misplaced belief in our aspiring architects that their work has little or no value.’
Lomax added that RIBA needed to re-evaluate routes into the profession to alleviate barriers to progressing in the profession. Lomax said: ‘Both diversity and value require a serious re-evaluation of routes into the profession allowing much more opportunity for part time study and apprenticeship style approaches that allow for childcare and finance to no longer be barriers to becoming an architect.
‘There is much more to do, but this is a start.’