Architects call for better quality, safety and sustainability

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Architects call for better quality, safety and sustainability

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called on policymakers to place more urgent focus on quality, safety and sustainability in the design and construction of UK buildings.

Published during the 2023 party conference season, RIBA’s Manifesto for a Better Built Environment says that while policy makers must act to boost housing supply to address the severe shortage, concerted action is also needed to ensure that quality and standards are not compromised.

The architects are calling for greater investment in the capacity of local planning departments, enabling them to recruit and retain the highly qualified design expertise needed to deliver well-designed and well-connected new homes.

Noting that the built environment is responsible for 37 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions, RIBA’s manifesto highlights the need for improved regulation around measuring the sustainability of new and existing buildings.

RIBA is calling for the introduction of targets that take full account of buildings’ “whole life carbon” including the “embodied carbon” associated with creating new building materials and “operational carbon” that buildings will produce over the decades they are in use.

RIBA has also reiterated its long-standing call for a national retrofit strategy to upgrade the UK’s housing stock, which is among the oldest and least energy efficient in Europe.

The built environment did feature at the party conferences.

In Liverpool, Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would build 1.5 million new homes over a five-year period and would overhaul the UK’s “antiquated” planning system.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled a £1.1 billion pot of funding for 55 towns.

RIBA president, Muyiwa Oki, said: “Well-designed buildings and places enrich our lives, positively impact the environment, and strengthen our communities.

“Our manifesto highlights the need for conscious and concerted policy action to deliver a built environment that meets peoples’ needs, both now and in the future.

“Everyone in the UK has the right to an affordable, safe and sustainable home.

“While the housing crisis demands that we build at scale, it is vitally important that this does not come at the expense of quality.

“To ensure this, policy-makers must focus on empowering local planning authorities, equipping them with the skills and capacity they need to design and build high-quality, accessible and future-proof buildings.

“And, with the clock ticking, it is imperative that we are pursuing effective climate action, including delivery of a robust strategy for minimising the carbon impact related to the built environment.

“The next government must lead the way and set ambitious building regulations to address sustainability, reform public procurement and enable greener infrastructure.”