The Social Value Act has thrown architects a lifeline – and we must grasp it

Ben Derbyshire

Ben Derbyshire explains how the profession can haul its way back up the foodchain

Cut-throat fee competition among architects is both a perennial complaint and a self-inflicted wound.

But to wait in hope for a return to mandatory fee scales or protection of function is to wait in vain while the realpolitik leaves you far behind. You cannot, and nor should you, try to buck the competition. Instead, we must work together to do something effective to improve the outcomes of the procurement process – halting and reversing the race to the bottom.

I have long argued that our task as professionals is to restore value to our relationship with society, and our clients, by demonstrably adding value through our work, to the outcomes that they seek. To a very great extent this is a task for us – ensuring our offer is relevant, researching and disseminating knowledge, learning to use the new technologies and skilling up to better manage risk. Risk management is fundamentally at the heart of any professional relationship.

Meanwhile we have been thrown a lifeline, which we should reach out and grasp for its ability to haul us back from the murky depths. Architects assert that our holistic design-based education sets us apart in a world where everyone now calls themselves “professional”. The Social Value Act of 2012 gives us the opportunity to prove it.

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