Architectural Design Competitions:

A Key Policy Tool to Ensure Quality in the Built Environment


UIA PRESS RELEASE
30 OCTOBER 2019
Signature of the declaration by Georg Pendl, ACE President & Thomas Vonier, UIA President

Full Press Release transcript from the:

Conference on International Design Competitions organised by the International Union of Architects (UIA) and the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), 25 October 2019. UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

DECLARATION

Architectural design competitions (ADCs) are among the most effective ways to achieve excellence in building and community design. They yield optimal concepts and plans for a given building programme, planning or landscape design task. Because they are based solely on the quality of proposed solutions, focused on the specific needs of a carefully defined project, competitions result in high-value solutions of great benefit to end-users, adding to the overall quality of life and design excellence in the built environment. The International Union of Architects (UIA) and the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) urge policymakers and government bodies to include architectural design competitions as a recommended procedure in public procurement laws, in order to promote enduring, excellent and responsible solutions for buildings and communities.

• • •

Architectural design competitions place focus on quality-based, project-oriented procedures. Competitions in architecture, town planning and landscape design offer an excellent way to evaluate multiple design proposals in a formal, professionally driven procedure, in order to find the best project for the defined need. In accordance with evaluation criteria set forth in a competition brief, professional, independent jurors assess designs submitted by competitors. Competitions are quality-based because juries make decisions solely on the basis of the quality of the proposals. They are project-oriented because their objective is to provide optimal solutions, tailored to the needs of the clients and the site.

Architectural design competitions have produced many culturally significant buildings across the globe, including the Sydney Opera House, the Centre Pompidou, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Tokyo International Forum and the Egyptian National Library in Alexandria. We urge government bodies, public authorities and private clients to pursue quality and design excellence through competitions.

Competitions offer multiple benefits to clients, competitors and society

  • Quality: They result in architecture and urban developments of high quality.
  • Innovation: They are a source of innovative, economic and sustainable solutions.
  • Transparency: They are transparent and non-discriminatory, building credibility and public trust while promoting fairness and non-corruption via anonymous entries.
  • Flexibility: They are suitable for small and large entities, and for experienced clients as well as those with little experience.
  • Guaranteed quality: Highly qualified, independent professional jurors, along with client representatives, assess proposals against well-defined criteria.
  • Cost-efficiency and visibility: Costs for competitions are on the level of one percent of the overall construction budget, while compensating competitors adequately.
  • Public participation: They offer the opportunity to involve citizens in shaping the built environment, stimulating public debate on needs and design approaches.
  • Equal opportunity: All competitors have equal chances. Competitions can provide young and relatively unknown designers with the opportunity to complete major works; they are especially helpful in providing young professionals with a very good chance to enter the market.
  • Creativity: They create opportunities to test new ideas, inviting various approaches to formal expression.

The Architects’ Council of Europe and the International Union of Architects have developed detailed guidelines for organising fair and affordable competitions, covering these issues:

  • Principles of anonymity, transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination,
  • Independence and composition of the jury,
  • Nature and scope of the competition brief,
  • Prize monies and remuneration,
  • Copyrights,
  • Dispute resolution.

There are many possible competition forms and procedures. We have experience with all of them. Regardless of the chosen form and procedures, the combination of a good design briefgood procedures and a good jury guarantees a good result.

________________________________________

THOMAS VONIER
President
International Union of Architects
(UIA)
GEORG PENDL
President
Architects’ Council of Europe
(ACE)

TheProject Compass Design Contest Guidance: for selection of Architects and Design Teams for UK Architectural Design Competitions is available on our publications page.

This Project Compass Guidance provides recommended practices and procedures as described and aligned to the above UIA ACE declaration.

To find architectural competition across across Europe go HERE and/or to:

UIA COMPETITIONS WEBSITE

VAT reform would promote CO2 emissions reductions, more sustainable building & cost nothing – so why the delay?

Image: 1t CO2. Olafur Eliasson. Tate Gallery 2019.

A Project Compass response to the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency objectives defined in ARCHITECTS DECLARE.

(revised & updated from a Walter Menteth article 1st published in AJ: Sustainability in Practice. 28th February 2014) [i]


Government for too long has been missing an enormous opportunity to incentivise investment in sustainable construction: VAT reform. This means redressing the long-standing skew in favour of new build over refurbishment. Current VAT rates5% for new construction and 20% for refurbishment – distort the market in favour of new build. VAT is a powerful tool which must now be used here and abroad to help accelerate low-carbon sustainable construction.

The majority of C02 emissions in the built environment emanate from existing buildings. Yet because they exist, they have the lowest embodied energy. Rather than demolishing and rebuilding whenever the most sustainable solution is upgrading an existing building evidentially this should be done. Because there is not a level playing field, the current disparity between VAT rates results in a significant financial penalty for refurbishment.

A policy paper on UK architectural VAT was produced by the RIBA’s Procurement Reform Group in 2013 (LINK AVAILABLE HERE).[ii] This recommended reforming VAT with a new ‘payment by results’ quality-based approach which was evaluated to have minimal impact on HRMC tax revenues. This relies on an incentive structure where specifically sustainable construction is met or exceeded delivering VAT benefits. This creates an incentive for greener construction and better performance.

THE PROPOSAL IS TWOFOLD

1. First, the current 20 per cent VAT rate on repair and improvement work to existing buildings should be reduced to 5%, when the works deliver sustainability benefits that are certifiable above the minimum level of the current Building Regulations. This would encourage investment on improving performance across the existing stock.

As an essential first step reduction of the VAT rates on refurbishment to create a level playing field with new build, as has long been called for, is now urgently required.

But VAT should also be a tool to further accelerate CO2 reductions, improvements and innovation.

2. Second, there should be a standard 5% VAT rate on new-build residential dwellings. This would be applied except where such works would deliver sustainability benefits that are certifiably above the minimum level of the Building Regulations, in which case the current zero per cent VAT rate would be applied.

In both cases, the certifiable sustainability level above the regulatory minimum would in quantum and detail be set by a reasonable margin. The margins could be introduced with suitable transitional arrangements progressively adjusted and modelled for neutral cost to the exchequer. This approach to VAT reform would encourage UK homeowners to undertake sustainable improvements, and incentivise developers and industry to drive CO2 emissions reductions and push qualitative improvements in new building performance. Circular economic principles, local sourcing, recycling, upcycling, and waste reduction along with social values are all standards which could also be applied upon certification. This would further stimulate quality and professionalism, across the sector and particularly on smaller developments, reduce the grey economy that is encouraged by current VAT differentials.

HOW MIGHT VAT REFORM WORK IN PRACTICE?

The following is recommended as a development model.

Prior to the start of construction anticipated performance targets relative to Building Regulations would be set. Certification of building performance at completion is currently available through a Building Regulations completion certificate. But in this case certification extends to cover measurable performance standards upon completion and/or POE (post occupancy evaluation, as opposed to simply the designed standards).

A ‘stick’ or a ‘carrot’ approach is proposed for implementating VAT reform.

In the ‘stick’ approach.

  • A developer client would always have an incentive to achieve the lowest possible VAT rate.
  • Developer clients with design teams and contractors electing to construct projects targeted at achieving the lowest possible VAT level, where the targeted outputs were not achieved on completion, would become liable to tax.
  • For new build if a designed VAT rate of 0% was therefore targeted, and not achieved, a 5% VAT liability would arise. In refurbishment where a 5% VAT rate was targeted and not achieved, a 20% VAT liability would arise.

In the ‘carrot’ approach.

  • For developer clients with design teams and contractors working on projects targeting the higher levels of VAT, where the targeted performance outputs were exceeded sufficiently on completion, a tax could become recoverable.

What has been learnt from the Green Deal is the need to develop robust and simple solutions with the widest possible market penetration. Pragmatically and to reduce complexity therefore, it is probable that the easiest option would be to determine VAT rates at the commencement of construction for all at 5%, and then use the stick approach on refurbishment and the carrot approach for new build.

VAT reform is nothing new. In 1999, the Urban Task Force chaired by Richard Rogers included harmonisation of VAT rates as one of its recommendations. This proposition offers potential to rapidly incentivise change to more sustainable zero carbon construction, and at no cost to the exchequer, as part of the jigsaw needing implementation. It is also an international model transferable to other contexts.

If the government is to achieve significant UK carbon emissions reduction before 2050 construction VAT should be reformed now.

We cannot afford to wait any longer!


[i] Menteth. W., Sustainability in practice: VAT reform would promote sustainable building and cost nothing- so why the delay? 28 Feb 2014, In: Architects’ Journal . 239, 8, p. 62

[ii] Menteth W., Incentivising design quality and sustainability, VAT Policy paper. RIBA February 2013. [RIBA policy paper prepared by the author Feb 2013]


Competition Culture in Europe: Voices

Competition Culture in Europe: Voices is now available from the RIBA bookshop

Competition Culture in Europe: Voices, 2018

This publication comprises a series of essays by distinguished architects, competition organisers, scholars and commentators in 22 chapters on architectural competitions.

The case studies, project data, discussions and interpretive glossary, that together include reflections on historic, contemporary and future competitions and their practices, opportunities and potential, in Europe and beyond, offer a valuable resource and unique insight into competition culture.

‘Competition Culture in Europe: Voices’ arises from an open European invitation issued by Project Compass in December 2017 for articles on competitions. From among ten objectives agreed at the International CCIE 2017 Conference held in Amsterdam, the subject areas identified in the call for this publication focused, although not exclusively upon two:

• Experiences collected from architects who have won Design Contests abroad, to better understand the conditions that apply in other countries, including the benefits and obstacles.

• Critical reflection by architects on substantive competition issues, including their practices and outputs.

In ‘Voices’ the case study essays from various locations, are provided along with project data to enhance knowledge and analysis, enable comparative understanding and provide a research resource.


The four-year Competition Culture in Europe (CCIE) programme is an informal collaboration between three not-for-profit organisations, Project Compass, Architectuur Lokaal and A10 new Architecture cooperative, under the fulcrum umbrella, which commenced in 2017. The aim is to join together with others across Europe who value the culture of architecture, to inform a brighter future for design competition culture across Europe. Specifically this will happen by further expanding cooperation on competitions through the exchange of knowledge and information; increasing access to pan-European competitions by making the national platforms on which competitions are announced more transparent; and by investigating and cooperating together structurally to agree and support advancement.

Peter Aldous MP’s Jan. 2018 Bill to protect retentions

Peter Aldous MP will introduced a Parliamentary Bill on 9 Jan. 2018 to protect cash retentions in a retention deposit scheme (similar to a tenancy deposit scheme). Project Compass invite you to write to your local MP to express your support for this.

This is an important initiative being promoted by the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group (SEC) Group and their full briefing paper is published below.

Retentions withheld unduly in construction contracts are a significant concern for all in the construction industry including design professionals, whether they are withheld for excessive time or because a contractor goes bankrupt. It has an adverse impact on all and particularly SME’s in the supply chain.

This Parliamentary Bill aims to secure much needed reform.  We hope you will help to advocate this change by writing to your MP in support.  A letter template for your use is also provided HERE.

FULL TEXT OF THE BRIEFING PAPER PREPARED BY SEC GROUP.  November 2017
Continue reading “Peter Aldous MP’s Jan. 2018 Bill to protect retentions”