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The broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby gave the first RIBA Annual Lecture in May 2002 with the theme of sustainability.

Dimbleby identified the real challenge as not with high profile iconic buildings designed by the stars of the profession, but with "the creation of the routine" - schools, hospitals, colleges, factories, offices and housing, designed by the majority of architects.

"These are the architects who design our habitual urban and suburban landscape, and I think, do far more to shape the communities in which we live than their more celebrated peers."

However often only lip service is paid to sustainability, and Dimbleby attacked the Code of Conduct because it prefaced the demand for architects to pay due regard to the environment with the phrase, "while the architect's primary responsibility is to their clients."

"But yours is a highly respected profession with values and standards. Surely you too have your bottom line. Surely you also have an overriding responsibility to those principles of sustainability about which you are so persuasively eloquent .......surely it is not good enough to accept that he who pays the piper calls the tune."

The Leader in Building Design (10 May 2002) made the points that

"architects who throw their hands up and say there is little they can do to force their clients into sustainable measures, or who argue that if they don't take on environmentally (or otherwise) unethical work then someone else will, are selling architecture short" and

"a wider notion of the client is crucial. Architects' first duty may be to their clients, but this isn't just about who finances a project - we all end up paying."

Often architects are accused of following their own agenda in their designs, rather than that of the client whose money they are spending. If their agenda is that of sustainability then surely it is ethical to do so? Clearly architects should attempt to persuade their clients of the importance of sustainability and going beyond the legal minimum. And if they can give their clients more sustainability for the same price then that is surely laudable and highly ethical.

You can read the whole of Dimbleby's speech on the Architects Journal website



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