Wednesday23 August 2017

Architects attack RIBA’s space standards campaign

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Concern move will damage relationships with housebuilders

Leading housing architects have launched a scathing attack on the RIBA over its housing space standards campaign, which they fear could damage relationships between practices and housebuilders.

RIBA chief executive Harry Rich launched a campaign last week calling for action on space standards, coining the term ‘”shameful shoeboxes”, which he said were being “churned out all over the country”.

But the move has prompted a backlash from RIBA members who raised concerns that it could alienate housebuilders who work with architects.

HTA director Ben Derbyshire, who has worked with mass housebuilders Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey, called the campaign “extraordinarily irresponsible”. “There is absolutely no doubt that the intention was to create a furore,” he said.

Alex Ely, partner at Mae Architects and co-author of the London Housing Design Guide, echoed this view, adding that architects have been marginalised in the housebuilding industry. “The tide was turning,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is risk that.”

The Home Builders Federation pointed to work done between architects and housebuilders to improve design standards, and warned that “sensationalising of issues cannot be allowed to undermine this”.

Meanwhile, RIBA housing group members have said they raised concerns with Rich about the campaign before its launch, but claim they were ignored. Since then, two members have resigned and others are considering their future with the group.

Design for Homes chief executive David Birkbeck was one of the members to resign. He said: “You have to ask: is an attack on a client group in the interest of RIBA members?”

Stephen Proctor, director at Proctor & Matthews, said he was considering resignation. “We work very closely with housebuilders to improve the quality of housing but it’s a collaborative effort. It’s not my position to alienate the profession.”

The row comes at a time of growing concern over the role that advisory groups play in determining RIBA policy. A report by former BDP chairman Richard Saxon, including a review of this issue, was due to be considered by the institute this week. The RIBA declined to comment.


Readers' comments (29)

  • that's right.. let us continue to be owned by the building community, as we continually produce the drawings they demand. more to the point, let's express the concerns of the public (as professionals) then 'resign' to keep on the good side of the 'clients'.

    we stood up for principles, then very quickly dived for cover like shamefull gollums we are!!

    architects that have attacked the riba over this are the ones shamefully producing planning applications for poor shoebox homes. They work to the minimum standards for the client's requests...... that is not architecture!

    it brings up the question, how far should the government step in to protect the public for this shamefull practice by the house building community.... seeing as we professional members can't seem to hold a good cup of coffee made for the general public walking across a bumpy road.

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  • Poor architects; simply can't agree on anything! One says Good! the other says Bad!

    Is this how architects 'add value' to the built environment by biting the hand that feeds?

    Last week Angela Brady promised a new broom, this week the RIBA shoots itself in the foot!

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  • Whether it is professional or commercial suicide, what has been said by the RIBA is undoubtedly true and has been this way for so long. It was the case when I was studying 25 years ago. The assertion then was that there has been no increase in space standards in the home since 1919. So it is now nearly 100 years of patent inadequacy. The concerns raised reflect our complete moral impotency as a profession and a broader society. If we cannot tackle this simple truth, what hope for more serious environmental issues?

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  • Would any of the architects attacking the need for space standards choose to happily live in a 'shoe box'?

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  • Dear God Paul! Give it a rest on the snide comments against architects front!

    If you want recognition from the ARB and your campaign for Pt IIs to be a success (or in the very least bring up a meaningful debate with RIBA/ARB) then don't mouth off against architects on an architectural newspaper comment section...or LinkedIN for that matter.

    Although you do get an awful lot of flak, every time you bite, you only damage your campaign and put another brick in the wall that is being built against you. You'll get much further if you just ignore negative comments and show a professional diplomatic side that is focused on building bridges rather than burning them...just take a look at how some of your comments on BD or LinkedIn would be perceived by a member of the ARB who was considering your motions.

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  • For too long architects have been the developer's lap dogs it is absolutely right for the riba to step in and try to give some self respect back. Those attacking the riba over this are simply scared for their own practices (which is understandable) however they are not thinking about the larger picture and the consequences of current developer lead housing development.

    It is down to us to offer new stunning! affordable housing that takes into account our client needs as well as the environment... the only way to do this is by going back to the days when we were positive about the future and spent time in RnD... what happened to us and why are we happy being the lackies????

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  • Freddie Ridley-Hampton

    John Morris is right - I wish these fellows would just pipe down. I don't give a damn about what any dirty housebuilder thinks about me or my bloodline. Far more important to stand up for whats right I say! How else is the architect going to get some respect.


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  • casual observer

    In our homes we expect a minimum level for those providing the services to us as consumers. These minimum levels of service delivery are most often dictated to the industry providing them by a regulatory authority or by statute. Why should space be any different from gas, water or electricity?

    In the last 50 years the requirement for space for the objects and appliances we collect in our homes has increased, yet the space provided for them has diminished. Admittedly household size has also reduced, but a proper survey of space requirements and statutory space standards is long overdue.

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  • Not many delegates at Property Week's RESI conference took much notice of the RIBA's pronouncements on space standards - though they did get a mention. Like I said last week, if the RIBA had teamed up with housebuilders instead of caning them in an irritating, patronising, unilateral way, then the government and planners might sit up and take notice. The big issue is not space standards becaus hardly anything is being built. It is supply. Zero increase in supply = zero improvement in space standards. Housebuilders are increasingly up for working with good architects. Don't blow it.

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  • Thomas, well voiced, but you must understand by now that Paul does not engage in bilateral debate or recognise it's value: he is right, everyone else is wrong. (his opinion, not mine)

    The reality is there is desperate need for some small scale housing, studio house, boutique house, call it what you will. Not affordable, but designed and built for affordability; for the young professional or newlywed first time buyers, to create half a rung up in the massive void that exists at the bottom of the market. We have recently designed such, self contained, with external amenity and off road parking at 600 sq ft; our Client aspires to build them for £60k to create a product for the FTB (average age now 37, requiring 95% national average wage as deposit to even consider current stock!) This is where we as Architects need to lead. Those who are worried about upsetting house holders are likely already sold out to them! My own experience of working with the housebuilder is estate planning using their already designed and well used standard house types; they are a rising tide of flood in the country as bad as concrete block paving!

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