Because we’re worth it

Key strategies will show clients how architects add palpable value

A priority of the Institute’s five year ‘Leading Architecture’ scheme is client engagement: we will stimulate demand for architecture that delivers economic, social, and environmental value. It has three objectives: develop a coherent and effective programme of client support and influence; gather and share evidence-based data and examples that demonstrate to clients how working with architects  achieves better outcomes; provide members with researched insights into the changing needs of major categories of clients so members can shape their services accordingly.

We have made a good start with the ­establishment of the RIBA for Clients initiative and the appointment of Linda Stevens as head of client services, and a strategy which Council debated in September. But what does this mean in real terms?

The RIBA’s services for clients include the Find an Architect and Client Adviser ­areas of the website, backed by a Personal Chartered Practice Referrals service and client helpline. We manage the Competitions service and issue various printed directories of RIBA members and chartered practices.

Find an Architect

Since 2007, the RIBA has seen client enquiries to the referrals service drop from over 4,000 to just 762 last year. Of course this reflects the economic downturn and a move towards enquiries via arch­itecture.com, but the promotion and convenience of this service to clients could be improved. It is being completely reconfigured for relaunch in April. Chartered practices are being contacted to review their profiles, which I urge you all to update before the launch. The next piece of work will seek to promote Find an Architect to would-be clients and direct more of them to architecture.com.

Processes can always be improved, and I have asked RIBA councillor and competition award winner Martin Knight to chair an RIBA Competitions Task Group

RIBA competitions

I have been both a competitor and an assessor of RIBA-managed competitions. I understand the concerns of architects over the energy and resource required for many competitions. But I also believe that the RIBA competitions service runs a fair, efficient and competitive service for both the profession and clients. Indeed, this is the feedback I have received from clients who have used it. But processes can always be improved, and I have asked RIBA councillor and competition award winner Martin Knight to chair an RIBA Competitions Task Group.  Its role is to review competitive selection processes in the UK, evaluate European models and develop ideas to improve the promotion and provision of design and team selection competitions in the UK, and develop new guidance for clients and competitors.

Client Liaison Group

I have set up a Client Liaison Group, chaired by Nigel Ostime from Whiteroom Architecture, to find out more about clients’ views and needs. We have identified three growth sectors to start with: housing, contractor-led procurement and retrofit. Roundtable discussions and one-to-one interviews will start in the New Year; to listen, receive external perceptions of our profession, and ultimately identify the tools needed to successfully promote architectural services in these sectors.

These are three of the many deliverable strands of work within RIBA for Clients. 

Over the next two years of my presidency, I am determined to support members and to focus the RIBA on optimising the economic and professional climate in which we are all working. I would like to hear your views. Please email me at president@riba.org.


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