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RIBA Housing Group attacks institute's own report

Abode, Great Kneighton by Proctor & Matthews Architects
  • 7 Comments

Architects on RIBA’s housing group have launched a scathing attack on the tone of the institute’s relaunched #HomeWise campaign, which is aimed at highlighting the issue of space standards in new homes

RIBA this week produced a report under the #HomeWise banner claiming the average new three bedroom home was missing 4m² of floor space. The document pointed the finger at a number of major housebuilders, highlighting how many had actually reduced the size of their homes over the last four years.

But the move has gone down badly with its own housing experts, which have penned an open letter saying the institute’s approach risks alienating the housebuilding industry.

The architects said: ’The unintended consequence appears in the press as a reckless attack on the house building industry, resorting to pejorative sound bite language, and with the possible outcome of alienating an important market for architects’ services.’

The letter goes on to claim that RIBA ignored the advice of its own housing experts who ’pointed out the flaws in its research and signalled alternative approaches to working with house builders to continuously improve the quality and value of the housing product’.

The RIBA’s #HomeWise campaign is aimed at persuading the government to embed a Nationally Described Space Standard in building regulations through an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill.

Speaking to AJ, RIBA housing group chair Andy von Bradsky said there were differences of opinion on this merits of a national space standard within the group.

However, he said: ’We are united in believing that this is not the time to be pressing for more regulation about core standards - especially without sufficient data - at a time that the government is so focussed on increasing housing supply. It is wasted energy.

’The way in which the [institute] has addressed it is wrong and the evidence they have used is not robust. I think the communications team have tried to ham it up deliberately to get a media reaction.’

In their letter, the architects say that that RIBA should have enlisted house builders in the campaign.

The letter concludes: ’We once again implore the RIBA communications team to change tack and abandon the #HomeWise campaign which we have specifically advised against.

’We also regret that the president has put her name to the use of such derogatory language aimed at the industry she should be seen to support.

’And we call upon the institute to listen to and take the advice of its expert members on such matters as the policy context for the delivery .of quality housing. It is not true that all publicity is good publicity.’

In response an RIBA spokesperson said: ’We are disappointed that a few members of the RIBA Housing Group are upset with the strong public interest in our HomeWise campaign for better housing.

’Our new, rigorous research has shown that many new-build homes across Britain are still too small, we firmly believe the only way to remedy this failure is to introduce a national space standard in building regulations. Many of the developers surveyed in our latest research have indicated they welcome a national space standard and RIBA President Jane Duncan will be writing to each of them in the coming weeks to propose the next steps.’

The list of architects signing the letter

  • Andy von Bradsky, PRP
  • Ben Derbyshire, HTA Design
  • John Assael, John Assael Architects
  • Andrew Matthews and Stephen Proctor, Proctor Matthews
  • Alex Ely, Mae Architects
  • Kaye Stout, PTE
  • Richard Lavington, MacCreanor Lavington
  • David Levitt, Levitt Bernstein

 

  • 7 Comments

Readers' comments (7)

  • How on earth can this sort of thing happen in a membership organisation? Who agreed to the publication of this report? Surely heads must roll in the Executive.

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  • Do all the architects making this complaint work for the volume housebuilders? If so it may be possible that they are not being entirely objective.

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  • That this report, which merely points out the obvious fact that we have the poorest housing space standards in Europe, which was already amply demonstrated in the earlier RIBA report "Making Space" and which was acknowledged when Boris Johnson introduced higher standards in London, that this should be attacked by the Institute's own housing group members, is a sad reflection on how far the profession has become subordinate to the interests of developers and is loosing all claim to independence.

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  • J Burden

    Are statements that new houses are being built too small now considered 'derogatory language'?
    Making space standards part of the building regulations would be make the rules consistent for everyone in the country, how is that controversial?

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  • Are architects to watch what they say for fear of alienating the house builders? What a sad day that would be.

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  • We use our brains and skills to secure profits for housebuilders, surely we can keep our hearts and consciences and voices. British housebuilders do make a lot of money while providing a lot of substandard homes and virtually no truly affordable housing.

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  • This reminds me of that old Woody Allen gag from Annie Hall - to paraphrase (badly): 'The food was terrible... and the portions were so small!'

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