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Buttress Architects audits all standard documents and policies to bolster inclusion

Chithra Marsh and Stephen Anderson

Chithra Marsh and Stephen Anderson of Buttress Architects reveal how a nuts and bolts overhaul is building organisational self-awareness and better expresses its values

Buttress Architects' Manchester studio.
Buttress Architects' Manchester studio. Credit: Buttress Architects

Buttress Architects has always been a purpose-driven business, and equity, diversity and inclusion – EDI – is important to us. We operate within a quality assurance framework which ensures that we amend our practices regularly, but every so often you need to dig a bit deeper.

Now we are revising all our standard documents, policies and procedures – more than 150 in total – which have accrued organically over the years and don’t necessarily reflect who we are. Some apply only to our 70 staff, but many have a wider audience.

A working group of volunteers from both our Manchester and Leeds studios is conducting a systematic audit. With diverse backgrounds they bring multiple perspectives. We are not EDI experts but aim to highlight potential issues, and seek advice from external consultants as required.

We are removing hard-to-understand legalese and rethinking how we talk about things

Some are quick fixes – looking at title blocks on drawings to ensure they are legible, for example. We refer to good standards for things like website accessibility, which cover font size and colour contrast. Rewriting the staff handbook is the biggest task, taking weeks. Language is important, and we are removing hard-to-understand legalese and rethinking how we talk about things like gender. At the same time we are replacing prescriptive policies on, for example, flexible working, with looser behavioural guidelines.

That will all be in place by the autumn but the work will continue to evolve as the world does. Beyond the direct benefits of making the practice more inclusive the exercise is building organisational self-awareness, and helping us to better articulate our personality and values. 

Chithra Marsh is associate director and Stephen Anderson is director at Buttress Architects


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