Today, I launched the Government’s new National Policy on Architecture, following its recent approval by cabinet. The new policy, ‘Places for People’ will boost public engagement with architecture, empower the architectural profession, especially within the public service, raise design quality, and improve data and research on our built environment, for better outcomes in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
‘Places for People’ also asserts the need to support architects and built environment professionals to work together to achieve a high quality living environment for everyone, bringing economic, social and environmental benefits to cities, towns, and rural communities across Ireland through the delivery of sustainable, high-quality buildings and public spaces.
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Design Quality Criteria
The publication of national design quality criteria is a priority action of the policy. These will be a set of objective tests for assessing the quality of all phases of built-environment projects: design, procurement, construction, management, use, conservation, re-purposing, and disassembly. The assessment values will be based on the European high quality design criteria and circular economy principles. By setting out a consistent, objective approach to the assessment of design quality, these criteria will strengthen public procurement procedures and enhance our capacity to deliver buildings that work for all.
Public engagement with architectural design
The policy seeks to generate greater public engagement with architectural design, using tools that encourage all stakeholders to work together to deliver homes, workplaces, and public spaces that create and sustain resilient, vibrant and inclusive communities.
A public sector information exchange network is a priority action proposed in the policy, aiming to share knowledge and best practice amongst architects and built environment professionals employed in Government Departments, Local Authorities, and State Agencies.
A new national architecture and built environment research service
The policy commits to scoping out the establishment of a national research service to create, maintain and enhance architectural and built environment research capacity. This policy action seeks to advance multi-disciplinary research to drive innovation, high-quality design and sustainable construction responses, and enables us to measure progress towards ‘net zero’ buildings and places.
These priority actions are building blocks towards a multi-annual programme of work, led by the State Architect, Ciaran O’Connor and a Delivery Board responsible for the plan’s implementation.
The policy recognises particularly the vital contribution that architecture can make to the implementation of government priorities including Project Ireland 2040, the Climate Action Plan 2021, Housing for All, Heritage Ireland 2030, and Town Centre First.
The policy will also act as a bridge to new European Green Deal initiatives and the mobilisation of the New European Bauhaus, linking Ireland to this new creative and interdisciplinary initiative. The New European Bauhaus is a meeting space to design future ways of living, situated at the crossroads between art, culture, social inclusion, science and technology. It calls for a collective effort to imagine and build a future that is sustainable, inclusive and beautiful.
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This policy recognises the vital role that architects and built environment professionals can play in addressing many of the urgent sustainability and social challenges which we face. It puts in place a framework of practical actions to ensure that we draw full value from the art and craft of architecture, and deliver buildings and public spaces that work for all.
I particularly welcome the focus on maintaining and rehabilitating our built heritage, so that our communities can benefit long into the future from the skill, energy, and care embedded in these buildings.
The success of this policy will come from public, private and non-profit sectors engaging creatively, innovatively and respectfully, recognising all aspects of quality in design and construction, which are vital to long-term sustainability and wellbeing.