Call from the RIBA’s director of practice to follow US model to create greater ‘transparency’

Architects should charge extra for producing low-carbon design, the RIBA’s director of practice has claimed.

In comments which have already proved controversial with industry and the green lobby, Adrian Dobson, RIBA’s director of practice, told Building: “I think that architects could sell sustainable design services which go beyond regulatory compliance.”

He said as long as design work to make a building more sustainable also bought long term benefits to the client then it was fair to charge a premium for its inclusion.
Dobson said the US model, where architects’ basic fees only cover design which meets building regulations and everything else is charged as optional extras, should be adopted in the UK because it provided a greater degree of transparency.

He was speaking ahead of this week’s launch of a modification to the RIBA’s outline plan of work for architects: the Green Overlay.

Dobson’s view was immediately criticised as “dangerous” by the UK Green Building Council, which insisted that low carbon design had to be seen as the norm.
John Alker, the organisation’s director of policy said: “Seeing sustainable design as something separate or an optional ‘add on’ would be a dangerous path to go down.”
George Martin, head of sustainable development at contractor Willmott Dixon, agreed. “The right architect should be able to deliver a green design for the same price as a non-green one,” he added.

The editor of the Green Overlay, Bill Gething, also disagreed with Dobson, likening his view to charging extra for a building with insulation, which he called “absurd”.
However, Gething said he was sympathetic to practices which are increasingly being asked to do more and more design work for less money and acknowledged that low carbon design would produce real cost savings for clients.

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