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Transforming the RIBA – next steps

An update from RIBA Board Chair, Jack Pringle, RIBA President, Simon Allford and RIBA Chief Executive, Alan Vallance.

03 March 2022

The RIBA is transforming. From an overhaul of our constitution and governance, to a review of our staff structure and investment in new technologies, we are modernising to make us more effective, impactful and fit for the future – so we can better support you.

We, therefore, wanted to provide an update on recent developments, including our internal staff restructure and our search to find a team to lead the sustainable refurbishment of our long term home at 66 Portland Place.

Staff restructure

By way of a reminder, last September we announced a new streamlined corporate structure that would provide an overarching framework for our new organisation. The structure has been designed to enable us to deliver more efficient support and services for members, have greater influence, and to move to developing our services through a more sustainable business model, with reduced operating costs – a fundamental part of reducing our deficit. We are now working our way through the detail of the teams and roles underpinning this, and this involves a collective consultation process with employees.

We know that we need to work even harder to ensure a consistently excellent experience for all members, regardless of their location. We, therefore, want to bring our UK and international member-facing teams closer together, enabling even more collaboration and shared support.

Under the proposals, our Nations & Regions network would remain the essential core of our operation, but teams would benefit from some administrative changes behind the scenes. In England, staff teams would be linked to work together in ‘groups’: North (North East, North West and Yorkshire), Central (West Midlands, East and East Midlands), South (South East, South and South West) and London. But this wouldn’t change the external identity or branding of any regions. If you joined as a RIBA West Midlands member, you would remain a West Midlands member; Regional Councils and electoral boundaries would remain the same; and all key activities such as Regional Awards would continue. It simply means that backstage, we would be operating differently, giving locally-based colleagues more support from shared specialist teams.

We appreciate that members are keen to understand even more about our new proposed staff structures and what they can do to support or influence the changes. No action is required at this stage. Elected representatives have been helping to shape the proposals, working with our expert executive team and the RIBA Board, and we are now in a collective consultation phase with colleagues, which is expected to last six weeks. During this time, all impacted individuals will have their opportunities to comment on and input into proposed arrangements.

We will be able to share details once the consultation process is complete and final decisions have been made. But, as we hope you can appreciate, at this time our key priority is to support colleagues, whilst continuing to deliver and develop the service our members, clients and partners expect.

66 Portland Place / Developing our House of Architecture programme

In addition to our staffing restructure, we also wanted to update you on the next stage in our programme to modernise our HQ building at 66 Portland Place in London. As impressive as it is, the building requires essential work. It is decaying and inaccessible – and we need to ensure it is fit for the future and fully reflects our commitment to climate action.

It’s all part of our House of Architecture initiative – a developing programme to inspire members, professionals, students and the public through physical and virtual debate, discussion, learning and exhibitions. Earlier this week, following an open call to Chartered Practices, we announced seven teams who have been shortlisted to help us to refine a brief and budget that meets our objectives on access, amenity and carbon. We look forward to sharing more with you, as this project progresses.

There have been some questions about this project: particularly the budget and the rationale for investing in a London building. We have of course considered the merits of moving more parts of the business outside of 66 Portland Place and outside of London, but there is no financial case to do so, and the terms of our lease - over 900 years (virtual freehold) for RIBA use only - make it our long term home. It’s therefore vital that we get it into better shape.

It’s important to note the difference between operational expenditure (the ongoing day-to-day expenses required to run the business) and capital expenditure (one-off investment on assets that deliver long term benefits). Both are essential, but separate parts of our overall financial picture. The costs of refurbishing 66 Portland Place will be capital expenditure – long term investment in our property asset and our future.

Member Hub

Finally in this update, we want to encourage you all to spend a moment exploring our new online Member Hub – a digital platform by members, for members. From discussing big picture matters such as the regulation of the profession, to sharing personal experiences of obtaining PI Insurance – the Member Hub provides an accessible and dynamic space to exchange knowledge and connect our global network. We’re welcoming members to the platform gradually via email, but please feel free to explore now by either downloading the RIBA Member Hub app on Google Play or Apple, or by logging into your account on architecture.com.

The House of Architecture and Member Hub developments signal our direction of travel – to create a vibrant, inspirational, relevant, and sustainable institute that supports our members and all those who want to engage in architecture. We have a very exciting and busy few months ahead: from commencing the search for newly elected representatives including the next President-Elect, to opening our immersive exhibition on the power of architectural plans, to celebrating our exceptional Regional Award winners up and down the country. The RIBA’s future is bright and exciting – and you are a key part of it.

As ever, we welcome member feedback via Council representatives.

Member support queries should be directed to support@riba.org.

Jack Pringle, RIBA Board Chair

Simon Allford, RIBA President

Alan Vallance, RIBA Chief Executive

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