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RIBA Calls for a Better Built Environment: Exploring the Latest Manifesto

Can we stop construction? No. The demand for housing to accommodate our ever-growing population is undeniable. However, what we can and must do is revolutionize the construction industry, making it greener, and more sustainable, and striving for net-zero emissions. In line with this imperative, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has unveiled its latest manifesto, issuing a compelling call to future governments to prioritize the creation of superior built environments.

The manifesto squarely addresses four critical domains: Climate Action, Housing and Planning, Building Safety, and the Cultivation of an Inclusive and Expanding Profession. In recognizing the sheer magnitude of our challenges – from the climate crisis to the housing shortage – RIBA underscores the urgency of making informed and expeditious decisions.

RIBA’s Four Key Points for a Better Built Environment 

1.      Climate Action

We know built environments are massive CO2 emitters. In their manifesto, RIBA states that the next government must establish ambitious building regulations, integrate sustainability into planning systems, reform public procurement, and promote greener infrastructure. Furthermore, they say a sector-wide collaboration, to foster information sharing and eliminate barriers to create a sustainable built environment, is essential to achieve net zero.

Whole-life carbon targets for both operational energy and embodied carbon in new and existing buildings must be established and priority must be given to retrofitting of existing structures. Additionally, improving procurement processes by measuring real-world building performance through Post Occupancy Evaluation of publicly funded buildings is essential for driving quality improvements and value for money.

2.      Housing and Planning

RIBA says there’s a need to make significant changes to housing and how we build things. Everyone should have access to homes affordable, safe, and sustainable. To make this happen:

  • More homes need to be built, especially where they are needed.
  • Homes should be in nice, connected, and in inclusive neighborhoods where people can enjoy their lives.
  • Local authorities must be given enough resources and the power to promote high-quality buildings.
  • Loopholes in the planning system need to close to ensure all homes and buildings meet the same high standards.

RIBA says the next government should focus on making sure there are enough new homes of high quality.

3.      Building Safety

We can’t compromise on building safety. Think about how destructive wildfires can be; they show why we need stronger fire safety rules, which is a point RIBA raises in their manifesto. 

The point revolves around enhancing fire safety and the overall quality of buildings. They say a comprehensive review of Approved Document B, with a special emphasis on bolstering fire safety regulations for tall structures, is needed. Additionally, there is a need to install second staircases in new residential buildings surpassing the 18-meter height threshold, and when renovating existing residential buildings exceeding this height, it is imperative to introduce additional safety measures. They also say that we should rebuild public buildings to make sure they are safe and of good quality for the future.

4.      Creating An Inclusive and Growing Profession

RIBA emphasizes that British architecture is esteemed globally, drawing architects from worldwide. It stresses the importance of strong connections with neighboring countries, prioritizing the EU Mutual Recognition Agreement for UK architects to work in the EU and vice versa.

Additionally, it’s crucial to increase funding for architectural education to align it with other subjects. This ensures a well-trained profession. We also need to create a more inclusive and diverse profession by making it easier and more affordable to become an architect, welcoming a broader range of people.

Muyiwa Oki, RIBA President, also addresses the urgency to take actionable decisions to create better-built environments in the future. He says, “The time to act is now – the climate emergency, housing crisis, and building safety demand urgent attention from the next government and the construction industry. Change is not happening at the scale and pace needed considering the extent and complexity of the challenges we face.”

“With the clock ticking, it is imperative that we are pursuing effective climate action, including delivery of a robust strategy for minimizing the carbon impact related to the built environment. This manifesto shows how the knowledge, expertise, and experience of architects is key to helping the next government deliver a safer, better, and more sustainable built environment. There is no time to waste,” he adds.

RIBA envisions a future for built environments grounded in sustainability, innovation, and inclusivity. This forward-thinking approach addresses pressing construction challenges and emphasizes the need for proactive action before it’s too late.


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