McBains Cooper has likened the RIBA’s contentious Case for Space report to a catastrophic gaff made by jewellery tycoon Gerald Ratner in the early 90s
It came shortly after key members of the institute’s housing group resigned in the wake of the report which accused housebuilders of creating ‘shameful shoebox homes’.
McBains Cooper director Mark Leeson said: ‘Somebody’s been reading their management books and come up with the light bulb moment that if you want to make something happen, then make somebody uncomfortable – but they’ve lost sight of the fact that the housing construction sector is facing unprecedented challenges right now, and just about everybody involved is doing everything in their power to meet those challenges.’
Calling for a ‘much more supportive approach’, he added: ‘This could go down as RIBA’s “Gerald Ratner moment”.’
The Ratner Group chief executive slated his own jewellery store’s products in a 1991 Institute of Directors speech which resulted in significant losses for the company. He famously remarked the shop sold earrings that were cheaper than a prawn sandwich.
Leeson said the RIBA’s time ‘could be better spent re-establishing architects’ reputation in the industry rather than alienating powerful industry people’.
He added: ‘They should be spending their time working with the housebuilders to establish a position for architects to add value, and influence the process with the housebuilders rather than confronting them. The fact is the desperate need for new housing stock in this country can only be delivered by a collaborative approach and by housebuilders.
‘The real issue is that homes are not sold on a square footage basis, they are sold according to numbers of bedrooms. A larger three-bed house will sell for no more than a smaller one, so there is no real incentive for developers to build bigger. The bigger one may sell faster, but value and revenue are based on sale price, not necessarily speed of sale.
‘The right way to add value and improve our stock in the industry is not to moan about the housebuilders, but to point to and look at ways in which good design can make the best use of space, rather than focus on how much space is created.’
Design for Homes chief executive David Birkbeck and Homes and Communities Agency head of design and sustainability Jane Briginshaw both resigned from the RIBA’s housing advisory group following the Case for Space report.
The document claimed the average new three bedroom home was 8 per cent smaller than the recommended minimum size.