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Q&A

Ben Derbyshire: ‘It’s time to challenge poorly managed Design and Build’

RIBA Ben Derbyshire
  • 5 Comments

Ahead of his taking over from Jane Duncan as RIBA president on 1 September, the architect and housing specialist took questions from AJ readers

Lisa Raynes, Pride Road Architects

‘At university, there is a 50/50 split between men and women on architecture courses, yet on the ARB register only 26 per cent are female and at the RIBA female membership counts for 17.5 per cent. There’s an issue and an opportunity here. What can you do as president and how can I help you?’

Any talented individual should be able to have a successful career in architecture, regardless of their gender or any aspect of their identity. We know there are many reasons why women leave the profession. As practitioners, employees and employers we all need to play our part in mentoring and encouraging, and of course stamping out any discrimination if we see it.

We must encourage much more family friendly employment practices, setting standards and exemplars through Chartered Practice and other means. I am very much in favour of innovative forms of practice and Pride Road is a great example that enables parents to continue in practice.

Meredith Bowles, Mole Architects

‘What is the RIBA going to do about the constant demand for unpaid competition work? The acquiescence of the profession to this expectation is de-valuing our work, leading to poor design through lack of consultation or briefing, and cutting into time available for the actual commissioned work. The RIBA Competitions office is complicit in this adverse step.’

All RIBA Competitions are run to clearly defined best practice guidelines with honoraria payments made clear at the outset. The RIBA Competitions Office provides a range of different types of competition for practices at different stages of their development. They offer architects and clients the opportunity to work together on schemes where they may otherwise not have done so.

I’m confident that the RIBA Competitions Office will continue to develop into the go-to option for competitive design procurement in terms of quality and commercial success. I intend to encourage that.

As to speculative work, that is commercial decision for individual practices. RIBA strongly discourages it unless there are clear commitments in place as an appropriate reward.

Simon Allford, AHMM

RIBA. 66 Portland Place, London

RIBA. 66 Portland Place, London

RIBA. 66 Portland Place, London

‘I think we need a leaner RIBA, remodelled for the 21st century and focused on celebrating architecture through the education programme, the amazing drawing collection and the awards programme. Leave the rest to the profession – which is currently detached when it should be harnessed. You can then bring everything back to 66 Portland Place making it the best members club in London – one that is also open to the general public. What say you?’

We have a fabulous collection, gold standard awards schemes and a great learning programme – and I believe we should definitely be making the most of these brilliant assets, as well as making 66 Portland Place more accessible to all our members. I too am keen that the RIBA is lean and focuses its resources to make even greater impact.

And yes, let’s work together to create a unique home we can share and enjoy. I hope my fundraising inauguration party will signal a flavour of things to come. I hope to see you there!

Ian Ritchie, Ian Ritchie Architects

‘What is your strategy to move the RIBA into having an effective political role inside government?’

The RIBA should serve as an independent voice that can act for its membership. This means working with Government to help inform policy, as the RIBA does through various working groups and forums, but also means that we can be clear in standing up for the value of architects and quality in the built environment. Brexit has been a clear example of this, where we have seen a much greater understanding by Government of the importance of UK architects in the international context, as a result of RIBA’s work. I plan to take my overarching theme of quality and performance in the built environment in a collaborative campaign to Parliament with a special focus on housing.

Richard Doone, Doone Silver Kerr

‘Architects from other EU countries living and working in the UK contribute significantly to the success of our practices. Do the RIBA have a strategy in seeking to secure their permanent right to remain and work in the UK post-Brexit?’

Non-UK EU architects bring huge value to our profession. Many practices, and many architects, are concerned about the impact of potentially losing talented colleagues and friends. Jane Duncan and the RIBA have been vocal in calling for the rights of EU architects to be secured, not only publicly but also in meetings with various government ministers since the EU referendum. This is not just an issue for today, however. We need to ensure that we can continue to recruit from across the globe into the future – this is why the RIBA’s post-Brexit report Global By Design calls for the Government to ensure mutual recognition of professional qualifications agreements with the EU, but also explore new agreements with other territories.

Elsie Owusu, Elsie Owusu Architects and first chair of the Society of Black Architects

‘It would be good to hear about the “affirmative action” policy and how it will benefit groups currently disadvantaged in architecture – in particular BAME students with an attrition rate of 55 per cent between Part 1 and Part 2.’

Rogers pic

Rogers pic

Elsie Owusu, Richard Rogers and Donna Hasanaj

Our profession, including our places of study, must reflect the society we are here to serve. I look forward to developing our shared commitment to playing an active role in increasing diversity with a newly diversified Council at RIBA. This is not for me alone and I will support effective ideas, policies and strategies such as the Stephen Lawrence Trust campaign for a more diverse intake of new councillors. We should also focus on improving how we record and better understand the background of our members, and provide the support they need to thrive. I have travelled the country listening to people and hearing what they want me to deliver: one key point is the need for quicker, more affordable routes to qualification that would support talent from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Alex Ely, Mae Architects

‘You have called on industry to agree new Design and Build protocols. Will you lead the charge by embargoing your own practice from bidding for work that it hasn’t taken up to contract? I’ve been trying to put this on the agenda of the RIBA housing group for the last six years but it’s been resisted. Too many practices exploit their contractor relations to usurp the original architects.’

It’s time to challenge the shortcomings of poorly managed Design and Build procurement and I will continue the RIBA’s work in this area.

I intend to work on shared protocols with clients as an alternative to current procurement approaches (currently its common for the Lead Designer not to be responsible for oversight of the design, specification of materials and products from inception to completion of the project and the absence of a role in site inspection).

Peter Barber, Peter Barber Architects

’In 2017 London is one of the richest cities the world has ever seen. Yet 170,000 of our fellow citizens are homeless as a direct consequence of the government’s appalling housing policy. What has the RIBA done to call out the government on this scandal?’

Rising levels of homelessness are a serious concern. The leading cause of homelessness in recent years has become the loss of a tenancy in the private rented sector. This, in turn, is because of the worsening affordability of rented housing across the country, and because fewer families have the stability of social housing. The RIBA has been very clear that mixed and balanced communities, which provide homes for all our fellow citizens, require adequate social housing provision. We robustly promote the value of investing in social housing. Last year RIBA commissioned a report (Closer to Home) by the think tank IPPR, which argued that it should be for local leaders, such as the Mayors of Liverpool, Manchester or London to determine the level and type of housing provision required in their areas.

Homelessness will not be solved without a significant increase in housing supply in this country. RIBA has not been afraid to call out the Government on their failings in this area, and propose constructive solutions to the problem.

James Arkle, ArkleBoyce Architects

‘As a regional practice there is still a perception that the RIBA can be London-centric. How might the RIBA empower and engage the regions and promote the profession?’

I have travelled the UK meeting RIBA members and non-members. You can view some of the feedback at FutuRIBA.co.uk. It is clear there is a real appetite for increased support in our regions and branches and that investment has my full support because increased resources at local level to champion the work of architects in their local markets is a great way to advance the cause of architecture.

Professor Peter Rees, the Bartlett

‘Recent governments have neutered the planning system in favour of market forces. The result has been a boom in building investment properties rather than homes. Will the RIBA lobby for better land use control to achieve the development that communities need?’

Riba north entrance ®hufton crow crop

Riba north entrance ®hufton crow crop

Source: Hufton + Crow

RIBA North’s new office in Liverpool

The RIBA champions the positive role the planning system can play in its policy work and lobbying. The Institute is concerned that Section 106 viability assessments are being used to undermine the uses of land required by communities and has been lobbying hard for transparency in viability assessments so that they can be put under proper scrutiny. This included working with the opposition in parliament to table an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill – I will be continuing to stress that point on behalf of the RIBA.

RIBA is concerned that public land is being poorly used. In the ‘Housing Matters: 20 ways to tackle the housing crisis’ we recommend that local authorities should be required to consider the social as well as financial benefits when they dispose of public land, and that local authorities should consider partnering arrangements where land and ownership is retained by the authority, possibly in the form of Community Land Trusts.

Jack Pringle, Perkins + Will and former RIBA president

‘The CIC was set up to be the pan professional group for the construction industry to represent all professions and present joined up views to government. How do you intend to interface with it and use it?’

The CIC is a great way of engaging across industry on a range of issues, such as Brexit and the future of the construction sector. The RIBA is engaged with the CIC at all levels, and I am keen to ensure this continues as a productive forum. The RIBA also collaborates in a range of arenas, such as construction, the environmental sector and the creative industries in lobbying government for change. I am a great believer that collaboration amplifies the power of our messaging and increases influence. I do however believe that is most effective when delivered around a project-based focus.

The AJ will publish a full interview with Ben Derbyshire in the 7 September issue

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Chris Roche

    It would appear the new President has a multitude of problems to solve, and is hoping a few earnest platitudes will satisfy an increasingly frustrated membership. Having been elected with less than 10% support of RIBA members, the mandate for this President rests with the 90% who want change. The change needs to begin in-house and at a practical level which can be delivered for the benefit of all members, small practice and large, London based or in the so called "regions". I believe Meredith Bowles' point is well made and achievable but the RIBA has to go much further than taking a stance to stop the commercial exploitation of Architects through poorly conceived and managed competitions. RIBA Client Services is no longer fit-for-purpose and needs a radical overhaul, in particular the advice given in the Directories it publishes, and the Web Searches if facilitates for prospective clients. I complained to RIBA that Client Services were encouraging clients to seek free pre-appointment services from architects and advocating Architects would work for free. RIBA failed to address the issue and I resigned my practice and personal memberships, and will not rejoin until something is done to address this critical issue. It is hardly surprising clients fail to value an architects work if RIBA is arguing architects will work for free. If an architect's services are not valued by clients, then it is unlikely Architecture will be valued either for the contribution it makes to the economy and to society. I challenge the new President to a public debate on the future of the RIBA and will ask the President to address the questions of the 90% who feel disenfranchised by current RIBA Governance.

    Chris Roche Founder 11.04 Architects
    XRIBA - Ex RIBA Council

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  • joseph b fitzgerald

    Simon Alford
    I knew your Dad !
    As a regional member I dont think it is a good ides to make the RIBA a club of the select .

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    re. Chris R. comments
    -I agree with almost everything you have said -especially Client Services.
    Client Services should be pushing appropriate fee guidance, and also making sure that all print and broadcast media make sure the Architects of a shiny new project are named in articles.
    I also hope the RIBA Competitions Dept can expand, especially to move away from these stage-managed stellar-invites only non competitions.

    I also agree with your choice to resign, the RIBA has seemed desperate to be irrelevant for the past 40 years. We are barely involved in Grenfell Inquiry it appears.
    I chose to stay inside RIBA in the vain hope of a messiah or at least a very naughty boy might come along and lead us back to somewhere loftier .....

    My gripe with your comment is that the new President was not elected with less than 10%. 15.2% of RIBA Architects could be bothered voting, the rest have chosen to have no voice.

    The RIBA could be changed massively for the good if that 85% demanded it.
    Of those that could manage to stick a stamp on a form, he won the count.
    So well done to Pres. Derbyshire and good luck to him. I'm sure it is a basically thankless task.

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  • Is Simon Alford for real?

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  • I believe the RIBA has become pretty much irrelevant to those of us day to day running practices- I really hope Ben can reconnect with the architectural heartland.

    Grenfell and Brexit are wake up calls - time to push firmly forward, before we become even more marginalised.

    Chris Darling

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