The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is making a radical change of direction that will amaze the profession by embarking on the design of buildings.
The research organisation has launched a recruitment drive for architects and is actively seeking to take on design work, the AJ can reveal.
It has already won planning permission for a secondary school in Hayes, west London, and hopes to follow this success with a host of other projects.
David Strong, managing director of the BRE Environment division, told the AJ that the establishment's technical expertise will attract many clients and produce a 'significant income stream'.
He said that the establishment hopes to make inroads into the 'environmental sector', producing what it believes will be 'genuine sustainable designs'.
'We are looking to employ more architects because we are being asked to provide designs for clients that are seeking to get high sustainable performance out of buildings and avoid a 'greenwash', ' he said.
'This is something completely new to the BRE and our point of interest is definitely the concept stage. We believe the more detailed design could be done by other practices.'
He emphasised that there would be a lot to differentiate the establishment from other architects.
'We want people to take advantage of our expertise. How many firms can immediately call on the world's leading daylighting experts?
'Our traditional sources of funding have begun to drop off in the last few years and we are trying to find other ways of making money. It seems that we are pushing on an open door on this one, but we are definitely not seeking to turn ourselves into an architectural practice per se, ' Strong added.
However, the RIBA's vice-president for practice, Richard Saxon - who is also a director of the BRE's holding company, the BRE Trust - said he thought the move into architecture could be a mistake.
'They may have made a mistake in positioning themselves in this part of the market, ' he said. 'They have a great deal to offer on the technical side but there must be a question over the concept end.
'It is possible that they have taken on talented architects, but what they must understand is that having someone who can calculate daylighting is not a ticket to this, ' Saxon added.