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New RIBA president: Grenfell Tower tragedy can be 'driver for change'

Ben derbyshire anthony coleman
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New RIBA president Ben Derbyshire has said he will use the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a ‘driver for change’ to improve policies, regulation and procurement in the industry

Speaking at his presidential inauguration at the RIBA headquarters, Derbyshire also said he would address the diminishing role of the profession over the last 50 years, as well as pushing for diversity in the industry and better quality architecture. 

He said: ‘If ever there was a time when change was in the air – as Jane [Duncan] has pointed out, following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower – if ever there was a time, this must surely be it. I believe we have a duty to deliver long-lasting change that will improve policies, standards, regulations, procurement, customs and practices in the industry.’

The 67th president said that the RIBA’s group on fire safety would push the institute’s response to that challenge ‘using Grenfell Tower and that terrible tragedy’ as a ‘driver for change’.

He added: ‘I intend to contribute as best as I possibly can to meeting the challenge of what I know many of us believe is the decline in the profession’s influence and fortunes over the past half century.’

Sketch by Sandy Morrison, an architect at HTA, of RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, 14 Se

Sketch by Sandy Morrison, an architect at HTA, of RIBA president Ben Derbyshire

Sketch by Sandy Morrison, an architect at HTA, of RIBA president Ben Derbyshire

Derbyshire, who is also chair at HTA Design, said that his approach to the presidency would be three-fold.

’First of all, driving quality and performance in the built environment,’ he said. ’Secondly, energising, diversifying, rejuvenating and growing the RIBA membership, and thirdly, promoting evolution and the global, new urban agenda.’

He paid tribute to his predecessor Jane Duncan, saying that she had begun ‘the process of change’ which both of them ‘believe is essential’.

The new president also stressed that the profession needs to ensure clients are ‘aware of our commitment to meeting the wider public interest in everything we do – to inclusivity, to human well-being and to climate change’. 

Derbyshire’s presidential term at the RIBA will last for two years.  

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