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RIBA at party conferences 2023: The future of the built environment

RIBA President, Muyiwa Oki, spoke at panels, roundtables, and events during the 2023 party conferences, discussing politically hot topics affecting the built environment such as building safety, housing and sustainability.

19 October 2023

It’s been a busy few weeks for the policy and public affairs team, having spent the last two weeks in Manchester for the Conservative Party Conference, and then in Liverpool for the Labour Party Conference. RIBA’s new president, Muyiwa Oki, joined us for panels, roundtables, and events discussing various politically hot topics affecting the built environment, including building safety, housing, and sustainability.

He also took part in a separate panel led by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) discussing Labour planning reforms and opened a RIBA exhibition for private viewing. 

Conservative Party Conference

Housing and Planning Minister, Rachel Maclean, joined Muyiwa Oki and representatives of the Chartered Institute of Buildings (CIOB), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and the RTPI to discuss the extent to which the housing crisis will determine the next election. Chaired by ConservativeHome, the discussion emphasised the need to focus on the quality – rather than the quantity – of homes across the country.

The importance of design expertise in both new and existing homes was discussed, including improving energy efficiency, plus the challenges of a politicised and underfunded planning system with reduced budgets and a shortage of qualified planners.

Finally, the panel emphasised the need for collaboration across the built environment sector to create high-quality, sustainable housing that meets the needs of communities. 

Catch up on the full panel session.

ConservativeHome panel event discussing housing and the next election, at the Conservative Party Conference 2023.

The president also joined Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System at the Department for Education; Paul Whiteman, General Secretary at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), and Al Murray, CEO of Capita, to discuss the education estate. This included how the government can reduce risks and ensure that children are educated in buildings that are fit for purpose, whilst helping to deliver net zero. 

Muyiwa stressed the need to ensure that all schools and public buildings are well-designed and energy-efficient. He also emphasised the importance of providing safe, conducive educational spaces and a secure working environment for both students and teachers to thrive.  

Labour Party Conference 

Hosted by Onward, this panel brought together representatives of RIBA, CIOB, RICS, the RTPI, and the Mayor of South Yorkshire, Oliver Coppard, to discuss how the Labour Party can use better regulation to improve the built environment.

As the built environment is the second-highest carbon-emitting sector, we highlighted the role that architects must play in tackling the climate emergency. The need for regulation to reduce operational energy and embodied carbon in new buildings, the sector's efforts in developing the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard, and the importance of a comprehensive and well-funded National Retrofit Strategy to retrofit our existing housing stock were discussed.  

Watch the full panel discussion.

Muyiwa Oki at the RTPI Roundtable at Labour Party Conference 2023

We also made the most of our upcoming exhibition, 'Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a Circular Economy,' by hosting an invite-only private viewing at RIBA North.  

The exhibition shows how we can address the environmental impact of buildings and construction and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. Practical applications of circular economy concepts for achieving sustainable, net zero architecture and a built environment are also on display.  

The private viewing brought together architects and built environment experts to discuss the culture of demolition, showcase best practice retrofit and reuse examples, and explore the concept of a circular economy in architecture.

The exhibition will be open to the public from 27 October.  

The RIBA North exhibition, 'Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a Circular Economy', at the Labour Party Conference 2023

Housing, planning, and sustainability will all be key issues in next year's general election. The policy and public affairs team continues to work across political parties to ensure that we create a safer, sustainable, and more inclusive built environment.

Find out more about our key priorities for the next government in our 2024 RIBA Manifesto.

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