RIBA president in dialogue with major contractors

21 January 2014

RIBA president Stephen Hodder, who took up his two-year post last September, has begun a New Year campaign to reconnect with contractors and boost architects’ traction in industry policy making.

Last week, the Manchester-based Stirling award winner held a briefing with representatives of contractors including Laing O’Rourke, Carillion, Skanska and Bouygues at 66 Portland Place, the RIBA’s HQ.

Mike Green, director of the Education Funding Agency, was also at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Hodder told Building Design, the architecture weekly: “I’m not sure to what extent the RIBA has engaged contractors in the past. But they are a very important client and given so much work is contractor-led, it’s right that we should engage them.”

Hodder also told the paper that architecture is too marginalised in the wider construction industry. He pointed out that former RIBA president Jack Pringle, in his role as chairman of the Construction Industry Council, is the only architect on the government’s Construction Leadership Council, which is currently working to implement the government’s industrial strategy, Construction 2025.

He said: “Were it not for Jack, architects are not at that table. We have to think about who we’re engaging with and we have to be seen as part of the wider team.”

"I'm not sure to what extent the RIBA has engaged contractors in the past. But they are a very important client and given so much work is contractor-led, it's right that we should engage them."

Stephen Hodder

Meanwhile Pringle, who is due to step down from the CIC this summer, leaving no architect on the 2025 panel, told Building Design: “The government is trying to lead the construction industry to rationalise itself and Stephen is seeing what the agenda is and getting with it.”

“Architects speaking for themselves isn’t going to cut any ice with government so we have to speak as one.”

Hodder said he was planning to hold more events with contractors over the year, as well as lining up meetings with ministers and politicians. “The RIBA has always had good communications with politicians but the question is whether those have had impact,” Hodder added. 

On Building Design’s website, commenter James Francis supported Hodder’s recognition that the role of contractor’s architect is increasingly important to design outcomes overall. He wrote: “Procurement is at the heart of this but where the architectural profession can do a lot better is making sure that what we produce is able to be justified and the design is rigorous and viable once it reaches construction.

“From CDM to simple compliance with the Building Regulations there must be a viability of design that recognises the fact buildings have to work within such constraints. I have heard dismissive or uncertain responses to questions about how a building is to be constructed too many times and when acting as a contractor’s architect found large numbers of issues when carrying out compliance reviews during tender processes.”

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