Alan Jones is finding Council meetings intense and exciting, tackling real issues, as a renewed sense of urgency takes hold
The half day December 2020 online RIBA Council meeting was intense, with real progress on the key issues of the day, rather than the ‘day to day’ that bogged down previous all day council meetings, a change enabled by the new governance of March 2020. There is a gathering pace, a realisation that time is of the essence, across practice and future practice, architects and future architects. There was a sense of urgency and togetherness, consensus and consistency of direction. Council members spoke freely and passionately, debated and voted on issues that revealed themselves as increasingly interconnected and discussed risks to and opportunities for our profession.
The details of The Way Ahead, the much heralded, once in a generation, reform of August 2020, are being fleshed out; together we reviewed and agreed knowledge schedules for climate literacy and ethical practice. They contain what architects need to know and understand to be competent, to structure the education of future architects, professional development and mandatory regular testing of competency. Together with the previously approved knowledge schedule for health and life safety and the forthcoming one on research literacy, these schedules set out the core of what architects need to know in key areas – and with the RIBA working closely with the ARB there is co-ordination and a chance for clarity, for schools of architecture and architects to be clear about the knowledge base of the profession, to allow us to do what we have to and want to. They go along with developments like the RIBA CPD recording platform of late 2019. Drawing on these robust schedules and recording we are highlighting this change of culture to government and society, demonstrating how chartered architects are stepping up to deliver more effectively, more professionally – and how government must make use of architects and reciprocate. Signing up to the 2030 Climate Challenge is a choice, but the structural change to what is taught and must be known is a fundamental shift in position, requiring all architects to engage. Knowing what to know will also keep ever helpful architects within their remit and appointment, increasing clarity and reducing risks, which our insurers will no doubt be delighted with.
A council paper on maximising the integration and co-ordination of the RIBA’s efforts on the climate emergency was warmly approved. It emphasised how we must be able to look back from 2030 and agree that we had done all we could to explain and promote the architects’ role in reducing the impact of climate change and averting biodiversity disaster. A debate on changes to the UK Architects Act connected to another on Regulation of Function, a potential step change in the legislation and operation of architects – which was met with a widespread vote of approval and agreement to progress the next steps.
It is now for RIBA Board to finally consider all these matters, of how they dovetail with existing resources, strategy and financial plans. There is an urgency, but only certain bandwidth within the RIBA to shift and move, to balance and meet existing and future priorities and policies.
There is always room for improvement; work is starting on the format of the March council meeting, to make the most of the new RIBA governance structure, pulling debate and decision on fundamental issues even more to the forefront with education of future architects on the agenda.
The proceedings of RIBA Council are a reflection of our profession. The message of December’s council meeting is clear; it is a great time to join the profession and to be in it. Present day pandemic and insurance worries cannot be forgotten but for that afternoon there was brightness; we are all continuing on the journey, forwards and upwards.