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Five times stronger

Ben Derbyshire

Five presidents, five targets, five principles – a plan to strengthen the profession

I have written before about the need for our profession to market itself better to clients and to society at large. This means increasing awareness of our value and becoming more competitive with a more distinct selling proposition.

The five presidents of the UK and Eire’s architectural institutions have launched a joint statement signalling our commitment to strengthen the position of architects in the market place.


Credit: Photo: Jonathan Baker, © RIBA

So how is the RIBA going about pursuing these themes?

Public interest. The RIBA has established a Commission on Ethics and Sustainable Development tackling critical questions for the future of the profession, including how best to reassure the public that we give sufficient priority to their wellbeing in our work.

The gold standard. In a previous column you may have read that ARB and RIBA agree on the need for radical educational reform, blocked for the time being by Brexit negotiations. With chair of the education committee, president elect Alan Jones, we are working towards a shorter, more affordable course and a more rigorous approach to life-long learning.

Inclusion. RIBA has a variety of initiatives to champion and improve diversity within our profession so that we better reflect the society that we serve – from the RIBA National Schools Programme, to requirements for chartered practice, role modelling, mentoring and the new apprenticeship scheme. We are also reinforcing our collaborations with the Stephen Laurence Trust in this, the 25th year since Stephen’s murder.

There is a huge appetite to work with us, especially on educational standards for architects in developing countries

Research. The President’s Medals for Research at the RIBA go from strength to strength, this year attracting 43 entries. We have appointed a vice president for research, Flora Samuel, and have embarked on safeguarding knowledge, mainstreaming post-occupancy evaluation and supporting access to funding for practice. Over 40 practices now contribute to our research network and we hope to develop this further.

Saving the planet. The RIBA is signed up to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is a founder member of the UK Built Environment Action Group with representatives of over 150 countries. Only recently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office attended a gathering of 19 from the Global Future Cities Programme. The Institute is committed to an international strategy, increasing membership and collaborating with sister institutes overseas. There is a huge appetite to work with us, especially on educational standards for architects in developing countries.

I found ready agreement with my counterparts that the route to advancing the cause of architecture lies in supporting our members to offer a unique package. We have agreed collectively to work through our respective institutes to support practitioners to stand out from the competition – from less skilled technical expertise, from AI, and from constructors. 

Five principles for the future

1.    Place the public interest and value to society at the heart of all you do – by promoting the highest ethical standards and ensuring codes of conduct are continually strengthened.

2.    Be accountable and work to the Gold Standard – by protecting the public and maintaining the highest standards of architectural education.

3.    Reflect the diversity of the population in your workforce – by adopting reforms and policies that promote diversity and inclusion within business practices.

4.    Research, build and share essential knowledge – by developing and disseminating the body of knowledge embedded within the profession.

5.    Lead the profession in the fight for a more sustainable built environment – by placing the U nited Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a key guiding principle in all you do.