RE―SET―GO wins Inspire Future Generations Award

We’re delighted that the RE―SET―GO programme, which is led by We Made That, IF_DO and Gort Scott, and supported by the London Practice Forum, has won the Diversity in Action category at the first ever Inspire Future Generations Award at the Thornton Educational Trust awards.

Backed by funding from Stride, the initiative has provided work placements, mentoring and CV workshops for more than 150 young people from under-represented backgrounds in south London.

According to the Thornton Educational Trust, successful entries must demonstrate how they have made a tangible impact on closing the gap between architecture and education, through activity, collaboration or research.

“As employers, we have the tools to directly address the structural issues of lack of diversity within the industry. Under-represented individuals setting out on a career path in the architecture profession can benefit from the experience and support that this programme can offer. It is this drive for action that has motivated us to develop the RE—SET—GO initiative with the support of Stride.”

Holly Lewis, Co-founding Partner, We Made That

LFA2021 – Change and the Public Good

Hosted by the London Society, on 17 June 2021, and as part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture, Dinah Bornat (ZCD architects) and Nisha Kurian (We Made That) will discuss the ways in which architects are rethinking forms of practice to promote collaboration and to create a more equitable built environment.

Dinah will present the London Practice Forum, a collective of architectural practices in the capital working to share best practice and affect positive change.

Nisha will discuss the RE-SET-GO initiative – a hands-on, paid workplace experience and mentoring programme established with the mission of diversifying architecture practices. 

Tickets are available here: https://www.londonsociety.org.uk/event/webinar-architecture-school-2021-forms-of-practice

Letter to London Borough of Waltham Forest

Members of the London Practice Forum are obliged to abide by our Principles and Ethical Charter. One of the requirements of our charter is that signatories do not to apply for public tenders which prioritise price over quality.

A recent tender opportunity issued through Waltham Forest’s Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) not only scores the cost component at 60% (relegating quality to just 40%) but also requires practices to accept that 40% of their fee will be held back pending resolution to grant planning approval.

This is discriminatory against smaller firms who will be unable to cashflow such a significant proportion of the fee, as well as placing the conclusion of the services entirely outside the architect’s control.

The London Practice Forum has written to LBWF expressing its concerns at the terms of this procedure, requesting that these be amended to create a fairer tender process.

Unfortunately, in its response to our letter the council has roundly rejected this recommendation. In the interests of widening the debate about how public procurement procedures of this nature are conducted – and the hope that the Council will adopt more progressive procedures for future oppportunities – we are publishing a copy of our letter below.


5th May 2021

To whom it may concern

London Borough of Waltham Forest – Dynamic Purchasing System – Joint Architects / Principal Designer and Sustainability Consultants Design Team for Vicarage Road, Leyton and Osborne Grove, Walthamstow

The London Practice Forum (LPF) comprises 21 of London’s leading architectural practices, many of which are involved in public projects, including schemes for Waltham Forest Council. The LPF recognises the importance of good design on the health, wellbeing, social and economic sustainability of London’s communities, and the deleterious effect that poor design can have on them.

We are writing to express our profound concern about Waltham Forest’s Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for architectural services. There are several aspects of this procurement which we consider to be directly opposed to best practice, and in our opinion undermine the progressive principles we believe that the council represents.

The first concern relates to the weighting applied to price and quality scoring. As it stands, the scoring methodology applies 60% of the mark to price, with the remaining 40% to quality. Experience has shown that this is effectively a “lowest price wins” arrangement, as even a high-scoring quality submission is rarely sufficient to overturn a low fee bid. With as many as 80 potential bidders on the DPS, the chances of a quality-led submission securing the commission is minimal.

There is an expectation that architects should assist their public clients to combat the climate crisis, deliver social value, address a lack of diversity within the profession, tackle housing inequality and help improve the design, construction quality and longevity of their building stock. Yet, pursuing a procurement procedure which rewards low fee bids prevents any of these objectives being realised. Waltham Forest has recently declared a climate crisis, yet the steps it is taking in relation to the procurement of its buildings will directly undermine this by perpetuating the status quo. It is simply not possible to reconcile a 60% fee weighting with the need to deliver these wider objectives.

Our second concern is regarding the proposed structure for payment of fees. According to recent tender queries posted via the portal, the Council intends to withhold 40% of the service fee until planning permission is granted. This places an enormous financial burden on practices, requiring them to cashflow a significant proportion of the project, whilst placing the payment deadline entirely outside of their control. Architects have no influence over the decision-making process, and planning approvals – and outcomes – can be significantly delayed for any number of reasons. It is simply not reasonable to ask firms to delay invoicing on this basis when the payment of salaries, sub-contractors and premises costs relies on regular and predictable income. This is not fair on your suppliers and discriminates unfairly against smaller businesses who are unable to accommodate potential delays in payment following timely completion of their services, and is directly opposed to your social value obligations. We would also question whether this is in line with the prompt payment policies set out by the Cabinet Office.

We therefore urge you to reconsider this tender and to restart the process with more favourable terms which will help meet the social, environmental, and economic objectives that we all share. In its current form, members of the London Practice Forum will be unable to participate in this opportunity, and we believe many other practices who share our values will also decline.

Yours faithfully

London Practice Forum

ARB Safety and Sustainability Guidelines for Architects: Consultation Response from London Practice Forum

The London Practice Forum has issued a response to the ARB’s consultation on proposed guidance for education institutions on fire and life safety design and sustainability. You can read the consultation papers here.

The content of our consultation response is shown below.


Dear ARB,

I am writing on behalf of the London Practice Forum. We have collectively reviewed the ARB’s latest safety and sustainability guidelines for architects and offer our feedback below.

Broadly speaking the LPF is supportive of the new emphasis these guidelines give to safety and sustainability, two areas that are crucial to the way we design and have already become a key focus for our internal learning programs and continuous professional development.

The fact that the ARB is looking at how these topics can be integrated into the curriculum for students of architecture is also welcomed, though how and at what stage these topics are taught is yet to be detailed and will have an impact on practices if significant upskilling of architectural assistants is required prior to part three.

Generally, we would like to see further guidance from the ARB and the RIBA on how architects can align their fees to incorporate these additional skills and competencies. With growing expectations on architects to increase their scope, to include embodied carbon calculations and post occupancy evaluations for example, coupled with increasing running costs – particularly relating to PI insurance – there is no up-to-date guidance from either industry body to help architects adequately explain fees to clients. This is an issue we feel should be addressed.

Fire and Life Safety Design

The guidelines themselves seem comprehensive and reasonable, and most competent architects will already have a thorough understanding of these issues and implemented procedures to ensure competency is maintained. That said, the introduction to these guidelines state that “clients and users are entitled to expect that all architects will have the competence to prepare and execute designs that will maintain their safety and wellbeing”. This statement does not adequately reflect the complex processes involved in the design and construction of a building. An architect is just one of the parties involved in the design and operation of a building; structural engineers and fire engineers also have responsibilities for ensuring that the building design ensures life safety. The interconnectivity of these responsibilities and how they are defined and agreed is crucial to ensuring safety of life both during construction and occupation.

Sustainability

The London Practice Forum acknowledges that the climate crisis is one of the fundamental challenges facing our industry and society as a whole. The new competency guidelines on sustainability are a significant step towards ensuring the industry collectively embraces the topic and proactively works towards a more sustainable future. However, there are a number of areas within the new guidelines that require further clarification:

  • SA5. The sharing of building performance data is a worthy aspiration, and we can see how this will benefit both our own practices and the wider industry. However, the most useful performance data is collected post occupancy. Clients are not always willing to pay for these evaluations to take place, nor share the data that is collected with the wider team. Our ability to comply with this standard will rely heavily on our clients buy-in.
  • SC3. This requires architects to calculate predicted operational and embodied energy use and carbon emissions. These calculations require specialist expertise and technical software that many architects do not have access to in-house. Whilst some larger practices have the resources to develop tools themselves, some of which are becoming more readily available, most practices will outsource these calculations to services and structural engineers who are better equipped to carry out this work. Our suggested rewording for SC3 is “Understand the principles of predicted operational and embodied energy use and carbon emissions and provide information to those carrying out calculations as required.”
  • SC4. This states architects should “be able to carry out Post Occupancy Evaluations / Building Performance Evaluations to understand performance gaps and inform future projects.” As previously noted above, we acknowledge the benefit of post occupancy evaluations in learning lessons from our completed projects to improve our future work. However, we would like some clarity on the following:
    • What does the ARB expect the scope of these evaluations to be? Building performance data usually relates to mechanical and electrical installations, the POE therefore sitting more comfortably within the MEP engineer or sustainability consultants’ scope.
    • Will the ARB or RIBA be providing guidance on how architects calculate fees for POE? Currently, our fees rarely stretch beyond RIBA Stage 6, and for us to include POE services, a fee structure would need to be in place that extends to RIBA Stage 7, something our clients are rarely engaging with. An obligation to undertake post-occupancy evaluation will place an unreasonable burden on practices if there is no accompanying fee to pay for it.

Transforming Public Procurement: London Practice Forum & Project Compass respond to Government Green Paper

The London Practice Forum and Project Compass – a community interest company that campaigns for better public procurement – have co-authored a formal response to the Government’s Green Paper on procurement reform, which was published on 15 December 2020.

We broadly welcome the proposals outlined in the green paper, especially the focus on achieving social value and recognising the importance of long-term outcomes in the assessment of tender submissions.

We recognise, however, that many of these recommendations are already possible under the Public Contract Regulations 2015, and that rather than simple legislative reform, a profound shift in culture and understanding is necessary to ensure that these ambitions are realised. Specific guidance must be provided on, for example, more intelligent methods of scoring quality and price, and submission requirements and qualification criteria must be commensurate with the scale of service being commissioned.

You can view the full Project Compass / LPF response below.

RE―SET―GO

The London Practice Forum is delighted to be supporting the RE―SET―GO programme which launches this week.

Initiated by LPF member-practice We Made That, RE—SET—GO has secured support funding from Stride, which campaigns to build networks that inspire imaginations, encourage collaboration and the exchange of knowledge. Backed by the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth, the £85,000 pilot programme launches this week. It will give more than 150 individuals from under-represented backgrounds in these boroughs the experience, skills and connections to prepare for employment in architecture practice.

The architectural profession has been growing faster than any other creative industry in London but structural issues and a poor track record persists and results in a lack of diversity within the industry. Only 7% of all registered architects are people from BAME backgrounds, 37% of all architect jobs in London are held by women and 90% of jobs in the creative economy were done by people in more advantaged socioeconomic groups.

Despite the built environment’s influence on all of our everyday lives, women and Black, Asian and multi-ethnic groups are still under-represented in the professions that shape it. This bias in who gets to shape the cities we live and work in must be corrected. RE—SET—GO will therefore target early career stage individuals (16-24 years old), as well as those seeking to establish independent businesses.

This programme is led by Southwark-based practice We Made That, coordinating with two other female-led architectural practices based in south London; IF-DO and Gort Scott, on programme leadership. The London Practice Forum will provide employment partners from its network of 21 member practices, providing mentoring, work placements and workshops.

RE—SET—GO will make space for excluded voices and pilot ways to build more progressive and representative architectural communities. A number of activities will operate over the coming year, including paid work experience; participative workshops; knowledge exchange events; and 1-to-1 mentoring sessions to support future generations of architects, designers and architecture practices.

Work placements are paid a minimum of the London Living Wage, and all participants are supported by Zone 1-3 travel and subsistence stipend across all activities.

Continue reading “RE―SET―GO”

Call for Colleagues

The London Practice Forum comprises 21 leading architectural practices. Together we have immense influence over the choice of other consultants with which we work. We are often asked to recommend, or sub-contract, services from other disciplines.

This privileged position enables us to take steps to address the lack of diversity in the wider industry. It makes sense to use our influence to improve access to larger projects for minority-led practices who might otherwise not have these opportunities.

On this basis we are keen to hear from related disciplines—particularly, but not exclusively, structural, services engineers and landscape designers—from BAME and female-led firms who are interested in joining an informal framework to which LPF members could refer when asked for recommendations.

Please email hello@practiceforum.london with details of your company, or to make recommendations (or use the comment facility below). Obviously we can’t guarantee that work will come your way, but all LPF member practices are committed to improving representation within the built environment and we think this could make a tangible difference.

We are also acutely aware that the LPF is itself not as diverse as we would like it to be. We are taking steps to address this. We see no reason, however, why both initiatives can’t take place in parallel.

LPF members shortlisted for 2020 Architect of the Year Awards

Nine founding members of the London Practice Forum have been shortlisted for the 2020 Architect of the Year awards, an annual prize run by Building Design magazine.

In the Housing Category, Stitch and Morris + Co are both on the eight-strong shortlist, with Alma-nac appearing for Individual House of the Year alongside seven others. Sally Lewis, principle of Stitch, is also in the frame for Architectural Leader of the Year.

David Kohn architects is one of eight practices for Interior Architect of the Year, whilst Bell Phillips is shortlisted for Public Building Architect of the Year.

We Made That is up for Public Realm Architect of the Year, and in the new Social Impact Award category, RCKa, Turner Works and Stirling Prize-winners Mikhail Riches appear.

Of the seventeen architectural categories, we’re delighted that LPF practices appear on seven. Winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on 23 October.

Today we’re launching the London Practice Forum’s Principles & Ethical Charter

When we first sat down together in late 2018 we had only a vague idea of what our nascent group might achieve. We were painfully aware of many of the challenges faced by small practices working today, but also of the problems facing the wider industry: long hours, low pay, a lack of diversity and declining design and construction quality, among many others. It seemed apparent that a confidential forum where like-minded practices could discuss common concerns would be invaluable, but we soon wondered how we might use our collective influence to campaign for wider reform. A product of this discussion was the “ethical charter” which we are launching today.

The LPF “Principles & Ethical Charter” is the product of a year-long discussion between the twenty-one members of the forum. We know it’s not perfect: it is the product of much discussion and compromise. Many interesting and provocative ideas were put forward and discarded along the way. But collectively we believe that this is the beginning of a journey rather than the conclusion, and this charter presents an idea of how, as we enter a new decade, we might act together to address some of the challenges faced by small practices and wider society.

It is not carved in stone. We expect to revise and update this regularly to ensure that it remains both relevant and aspirational. The environment in which we work is changing constantly―our commitments to each other, and the communities in which we operate, should adapt accordingly.

Particular thanks must go to Hari Phillips and Jay Morton of Bell Phillips Architects who were instrumental in putting the bones of this document together. Thanks too to We Made That for its provocative “What We Won’t Do” which played a key part in the discussion. And most of all, thanks to the members of the LPF who have invested considerable time and energy over the last fourteen months.

We welcome comments and suggestions from others who share our concerns about the state of the profession and want to help work to improve it for the future. Please get in touch by emailing hello@practiceforum.london.