Major built environment institutes renew joint pledge to tackle global instability as cities boom 

major built environment professional institutes, including architects, planners, structural engineers and landscape practitioners, have renewed their joint pledge to collaborate to tackle urgent global challengesWith almost 70 percent of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, major built environment professional institutes, including architects, planners, structural engineers and landscape practitioners, have renewed their joint pledge to collaborate to tackle urgent global challenges. Members of the UK Built Environment Advisory Group (UKBEAG), a group first launched in 2016 comprising the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) and the Landscape Institute (LI), have committed to work together for at least another 5 years. 

In a Memorandum of Understanding, the group say they have agreed to continue to make their joint expertise accessible to the governments, humanitarian agencies and development partners at the sharp end of delivering sustainable urbanisation. Many of the countries that are urbanising most rapidly lack the critical built environment capacity and expertise to ensure that this huge growth is sustainable. In Uganda in 2018, a survey recorded that there were just five architects and 50 engineers per every one million people living in the country (compared to more than 600 of each for every one million in the UK) while urbanising at a rate of 6 percent per year – more than six times the rate of the UK.

The UKBEAG members aim to address this imbalance through advocacy and capacity development, enabling the sharing of global expertise to support those grappling with rapid urbanisation, the climate emergency, displacement after crises and post conflict recovery.

The group has already been working to mitigate global instability caused by these compounding factors. As Strategic Development Partner for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) Global Future Cities Programme, the UKBEAG worked in close partnership with UN-Habitat to support 30 transport, urban planning and resilience projects in 19 cities in low- to middle-income countries in South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia. Through a programme of strategic capacity development, their work increased the impact and long-term sustainability of these projects and created mutually beneficial relationships.

RIBA Chief Executive Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick MBE said: “The built environment is a huge carbon emitter, so if we are to protect the long-term future of our planet, urbanisation must be sustainable. Architects and other built environment professionals must work together to play an essential role in achieving this. As we face a global environmental crisis, RIBA must do what it can to support sustainable urbanisation by sharing knowledge, technical expertise and influence wherever it is needed, just as we too learn from others across the world. This renewed pledge demonstrates great ambition, and I look forward to working with our partner institutes to lead by example, combining our strengths to make a real difference.”

RTPI Chief Executive Victoria Hills said: “Collaboration and partnerships are essential if we’re going to build meaningful sustainable and inclusive solutions that work for everyone. Together, planners and other built environment professionals wield significant influence in tackling climate change, biodiversity decline, social and economic inequalities, and at the same time, creating sustainable and beautiful places around the world.

By bringing with us our members’ expertise, we hope that this strengthened alliance with our UKBEAG partners will have a significant impact on the transition to a zero-carbon society, engaging communities and enabling environmentally friendly choices.”

IStructE Head of Climate Action Will Arnold said: “With most of the world still requiring more housing, buildings and infrastructure, the opportunities to head towards a regenerative built environment is huge. But to do so requires huge collaboration, systems thinking, and the ambition to create urban centres that are wholly positive for all living things. The renewed UKBEAG partnership will enable critical links to be formed between UK engineers, architects, planners with built environment professionals across the world, for mutual benefit of all parties.”

Landscape Institute CEO Robert Hughes said: “Collaboration is fundamental to our global response to emergencies in climate, biodiversity, and health. Sustainable urban development is at the nexus of these combined challenges, requiring a diverse range of skills and expertise to deliver, in changing social and environmental contexts. Landscape professionals provide integrated, nature-based solutions to planning and development, and we are delighted to continue working with colleagues in UKBEAG, and around the world, to help realise a greener, healthier global built environment.”

Image: Kampala