Climate change and sustainability advocacy group pushes for greater engagement with environmental agenda


Source: RIBA

Funmbi Olumoroti Adeagbo, Duncan Baker-Brown and Chris Williamson

The UK Architects Declare Steering Group has released an open letter addressed to the three candidates running to become the next RIBA president, Funmbi Adeagbo, Duncan Baker-Brown and Chris Williamson, as well as to the current president, Muyiwa Oki.

The letter sets out 12 policies that the group hopes will be discussed by the candidates during the election and subsequently championed by the elected president within the RIBA.

Open Letter to Candidates for election to RIBA President:

Chris Williamson, Funmbi Adeagbo, Duncan Baker-Brown, cc: Muyiwa Oki

UK Architects Declare, 5th June 2024

The election of a new President of the Royal Institute of British Architects comes at a time of heightened awareness of the scale and scope of the planetary emergency and the significant contribution our built environment makes to furthering the crisis. Now is also a time of unprecedented opportunity for architects and those we work with to take real action to solve these deeply rooted problems.

UK Architects Declare supports practices in transitioning to regenerative design and in demonstrating where the systems that govern how our built environment performs can be changed, moving us away from continued degenerative actions to a positive future for all. Our vision for our sector’s part in tackling the emergency is bold: “A built environment planned, constructed and operated within planetary boundaries to deliver environmental justice and to support the flourishing of all life for all time.”

We are proud to have worked closely with the RIBA on important steps on this journey. Our joint Built for the Environment report and summit ahead of the COP26 global conference in Glasgow in 2021 showed the opportunities for the UK to lead. More radical and systemic change is required, with the greatest action needed at the highest leverage points involved in changing any system:

  1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system - its goals, power structure, rules, its culture - arises.
  2. The goals of the system.
  3. The distribution of power over the rules of the system.
  4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints).
  5. Information flows.
  6. Material flows and nodes of material intersection.
  7. Driving positive feedback loops.

It is here that key institutions such as the RIBA must lead. RIBA has a central role in how our profession adapts to our changing reality and leads the urgent transition we need. Putting it simply, what would it look like if RIBA maximised its agency on the planetary emergency?

We call on all candidates for this new term of office to engage clearly and directly with the following policies as the driving force for the RIBA’s actions on the planetary emergency in the short, medium and long terms:

The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, power structure, rules, its culture — arises.

  1. Redefine the RIBA’s definition of the purpose of the profession to include addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency and designing within planetary limits.
  2. Collaborate with other professional institutions to demand of Government the systems changes necessary to safeguard the future and address climate justice. These include the following:
  • Join the Wellbeing Economy Government Partnership (alongside Scotland and Wales) to prioritise wellbeing over GDP and adopt the maximisation of planetary health as the primary purpose driving our economy.
  • Implement a Better Business Act to impose a duty to wider stakeholders including the living world as to require a clearly stated purpose for all companies.
  • Move towards Doughnut Economics, to utilise the built environment to bring all UK citizens above the social foundation while staying within planetary limits.
  • Implement a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act as proposed by Lord Bird and the UN.

The goals of the system

3. Align all RIBA awards with the redefined purpose of the profession, as above.

4. Expand the RIBA Architecture 2030 scheme to align with leading regenerative thinking.

The distribution of power over the rules of the system

5. Appoint an advisor on regenerative design (reporting directly to the President).

6. Create a standing Ethics committee to advise the board on decision-making, and put forward annual debates (similar to RICS Harris Debates).

The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints)

7. Accelerate and widen engagement with a campaign on the regulation of function in the UK where there is a “strong public interest that the professional function of the architect should be regulated and key activities reserved to qualified and competent professionals.”

8. Empower the professional standards team to interface with practices more readily, by both visiting and promoting practices who demonstrate best practice as well as visiting and investigating practices reported for not meeting the code.

9. Revisit the code of conduct and practice, and engage broadly with students and practitioners on the efficacy of the current code as well as perceived and actual accountability under it.

Information flows

10. Organise an extensive programme of lectures, workshops and training featuring leading experts on how to address the planetary emergency through supporting innovation in products or workflows for sustainable or regenerative construction.

Material flows and nodes of material intersection

11. Review sponsorship deals through an ethical/sustainable lens.

Driving positive feedback loops

12. Share open access data on the RIBA 2030 Challenge.

UK Architects Declare stands ready to work with and support the RIBA and its President in enacting change at these levels, including calling on others in the profession, the built environment sector and governments across the UK to identify and bring about complementary systems change. We will also continue to develop the practical initiatives - such as our Regenerative Architecture Index (with Architecture Today), our Regenerative Design Primer and Practice Guide - to support architectural practices as we help to build a better future, and welcome opportunities to work with the RIBA on these.


From the UK Architects Declare Steering Group:

Alasdair Ben Dixon, Anna Lisa McSweeney, Anna Pamphilon, Anna Woodeson, Carrie Behar, Chloe van Grieken, Craig Robertson, Deepthi Ravi, Julia Barfield, Kevin Logan, Laura Baron, Mandy Franz, Michael Pawlyn, Tom Gibson, Tom Greenall, Zoe Watson