Architects welcome collapse in talks between NBS and Aecom

Profession concerned credibility of RIBA Enterprises’ NBS was at risk

Architects have welcomed the collapse of a planned alliance between Aecom and the National Building Specification (NBS) service after months of negotiations.

When the joint venture NBS Schumann Smith was announced last year, senior members of the profession raised the alarm, saying it put the credibility of the NBS at risk. They feared it would compromise the service’s neutrality and lead to conflicts with RIBA members.

Richard Waterhouse, chief executive of RIBA Enterprises, said the collaboration would advance the RIBA’s plans to operate in new markets. It was announced as a done-deal in May 2012.

But it has now emerged that nothing was ever signed because the two sides could not find a way of working together. They have finally called a halt to negotiations.

Dav Bansal, a director at Glenn Howells Architects in Birmingham, said it was good news.

“The RIBA is an independent centre for advice while Aecom is a huge business. Taking the NBS down a business route did not seem a wise move,” he said.

Keith Evans, associate director of Design Engine, said it would not have been appropriate for a multi-national corporation to have an influence over the NBS.

But he did concede that the partnership might have had the advantage of raising standards since Schumann Smith’s specifications were more rigorous than the NBS’s.  

“There is an understanding within the industry that NBS specifications are clear and simple and are written by an independent authority,” he said. “But the downside in my experience is that sometimes the NBS does not have a sufficiently detailed structure to cover complicated building elements.”

A spokesman for RIBA Enterprises said it was still possible a deal could be reached in the future.

In a statement Aecom said: “The intended transition of Aecom’s specification and design management team to RIBA Enterprises is no longer happening and the team will remain as a valued part of Aecom’s consultancy business in the UK.”

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