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Government rolls out design standards

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New minimum design standards laid down for all public buildings in the UK

The government yesterday unveiled minimum design standards for every new public building in the UK.

The strategy document, jointly pub­lished by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Comm­unities and Local Government, among others, is the government’s first major urban regen­eration report since Richard Rogers published Towards an Urban Renaissance 10 years ago.

Outlining the reasons for the move, Hazel Blears, secretary of state for communities and local government, said: ‘If we give up on good design now, we will simply create run-down areas that we will all have to live with once we get beyond this recession, and we’ll end up paying for them twice. We can’t let the economic challenges we are facing now provide an excuse for bad planning, careless maintenance and poor-quality buildings.’

The first sector to enforce the new minimum design standards will be education, delivered via the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Speaking at the official launch at Stockwell Park High School in South London today, schools minister Jim Knight said: ‘This is the first time that independently assessed, clear, objective and robust design standards have been laid down for a public sector construction programme. It adds real teeth to the design process.’

CABE chief executive Richard Simmons said he looked forward to seeing the design standards rolled out across the public sector. He said: ‘This will have a long- term impact on the quality of our schools. We now want to see every public sector building programme adopt a minimum design standard.’

Ewan Willars, head of policy at the RIBA, said: ‘It is great to see government acting in a joined up way on design quality and improving our public places.

‘This should go a long way to ensuring all publicly funded buildings are designed and built to the highest standards.’

Features of the new Minimum Design Standard

 • Simpler four-point grading system with designs rated ‘Very Good’, ‘Pass’, ‘Unsatisfactory’, or ‘Poor’;

• Educationalists, sustainability and landscape specialists to join the peer review panel;

• Views of teachers and students will be fed into panel discussions;

• Project architects able to present their school designs to the panel;

• Three separate reviews of designs. Designs graded ‘Unsatisfactory’ or ‘Poor’ at the third review will not proceed through to procurement;

• Random checks to ensure quality of design is consistently high

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