The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published its response to the review of Architecture and the Built Environment led by Sir Terry Farrell for the Government.
Speaking today RIBA President Angela Brady said:
“Government needs to do better. Ministers emphasise the importance of good design in creating better places for us all to live, work and play, yet inconsistent policies across government mean that this leaves us with empty rhetoric.
“Good design enables us to meet our social, economic and environmental objectives and Government must embrace good design as a core component of their thinking. In order to make that change across Government we need an ambitious and forward-looking vision with a Built Environment policy and a Minister in the Cabinet Office overseeing the work. There should be a professional expert answerable to this Minister as a Government Chief Built Environment Adviser.
“And most importantly Government needs to intervene. Where the market fails to provide choice, innovation or basic levels of quality, the Government should take steps to help the industry overcome the barriers to design quality and where necessary, regulate to insist upon it.
“The Farrell Review is a great opportunity to chart a new course for the built environment and we’d encourage Sir Terry and the Government to think big and be bold in order to secure a better future for all of our communities.”
The RIBA, through consultation with its members has identified four vital actions the Farrell Review should call for the Government to consider if it is serious about the important role design plays in everyone’s life.
1. Set out a clear vision for creating great places through a Built Environment Design Policy and strengthen mechanisms for delivery across Government.
Currently Government does not have a strategic vision for its approach to the built environment and the creation of great places. A stronger, more coordinated approach needs to be embedded at the heart of Government which drives decision-making in favour of better design outcomes. To achieve this the Government should produce a Built Environment Design Policy, which should be led by a new Chief Government Built Environment Design Adviser and overseen by a Minister within the Cabinet Office with a cross-cutting role to embed good practice across government. Overall responsibility for architecture policy should be removed from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
2. Demonstrate leadership as a client
Government has significant influence through the buildings it procures and in the land at its disposal. It should show leadership as a client by favouring long-term value ahead of short-term cost considerations. Steps should be taken to reform public procurement to ensure it has a greater emphasis on delivering good design outcomes, make greater use of Building Performance Evaluations and reform its approach to the use and disposal of public land assets as a lever to encourage better quality development.
3. Conduct a Design Quality Audit to identify and take action to resolve market failure
The current market conditions do not favour quality in the built environment. Whilst some private developers have the forethought to invest in good design, this is not common place. Public building procurement often fails to recognise the social value and economic efficiency of design quality and there appears to be a clear market failure in sectors such as private housing. The Government should conduct a Design Quality Audit to better understand how the different sectors of the industry are performing and identify areas of market failure. Where the market fails to provide choice, innovation or basic levels of quality, the Government should take steps to help the industry overcome the barriers to design quality and where necessary, regulate to insist upon it.
4. Establish a Design Quality Task Force to review Government policies to ensure short-term costs are not being prioritised to the detriment of long-term social well-being
In pursuing its growth agenda, the Government risks putting long-term social benefit second to immediate cost cutting. Government should establish a Design Quality Task Force to review its policies and programmes (e.g. the National Planning Policy Framework, the Priority School Building Programme, New Homes Bonus, Build Now Pay Later) to review its policies and programmes on the built environment to ensure design quality is sufficiently recognised and recommend amendments where necessary in order to ensure compliance with the Built Environment Design Policy