The RIBA Elections: A Missed Opportunity for Sustainable Change

As an architect, I find myself deeply frustrated by the recent RIBA elections. Out of approximately 44,000 registered architects, only 4,462 of us chose to exercise our voting rights. This shockingly low turnout — just over 10% — is not only disappointing but also a significant missed opportunity for our profession. It highlights a worrying level of apathy and disengagement among us when it comes to shaping the future of our industry, particularly regarding sustainable, green, and ethical practices.

The Power of Our Vote

Voting in the RIBA elections isn’t just a procedural task; it is a powerful tool that enables us to influence the direction of our profession. With the climate crisis becoming ever more urgent, it is crucial that we support candidates who prioritize sustainable and ethical policies. Our collective vote can ensure that those who lead us are committed to advancing green architecture, promoting ethical standards, and championing sustainable development.

Yet, with only 4,462 architects casting their votes, this potential for positive change is significantly undermined. It suggests that a staggering 40,000 architects are either indifferent to or disengaged from this critical process. This apathy could lead to the election of candidates who do not prioritize sustainability or ethical considerations, which would be a disservice to our profession and our planet.

The Stakes Are High

The built environment contributes significantly to global carbon emissions, and as architects, we have a pivotal role in mitigating this impact. By voting for candidates who are committed to sustainable and ethical architecture, we can push for policies and practices that reduce our environmental footprint and promote social responsibility. These leaders can advocate for:

  • Stricter regulations on energy efficiency and carbon reduction in buildings.
  • Greater emphasis on the use of sustainable materials.
  • Enhanced support for green building certifications and standards.
  • Policies that ensure fair labour practices and equitable working conditions.

Without a strong, engaged electorate, we risk falling behind in these critical areas. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we all take an active role in pushing for change. By not voting, we are effectively allowing others to make these decisions for us — decisions that will impact the future of our profession and our planet.

Addressing the Apathy

The reasons for low voter turnout can be multifaceted; the RIBA made voting incredibly easy. The process was streamlined, requiring only an email login and passcode. Detailed manifestos and candidate videos were available online, providing all the necessary information to make an informed decision. There was no excuse for not voting.

So, what can we do to address this pervasive apathy?

  • Increasing Awareness: We need to do more to educate our peers about the importance of the RIBA elections and how their votes can drive meaningful change.
  • Engaging Candidates: Encouraging a diverse range of candidates to run, particularly those with strong commitments to sustainability and ethics, can help ensure that all voices are represented.
  • Building Community: Fostering a sense of community and shared purpose among architects can help combat the feeling of disconnection that many might feel.


The low voter turnout in the recent RIBA elections is a wake-up call. It highlights a critical need for greater engagement and participation within our profession. As architects, we have the power to drive change and promote sustainability, but we must first recognize the importance of our collective voice. Let’s not allow 40,000 missed opportunities to dictate the future of our industry. It’s time to step up, vote, and ensure that those who lead us are committed to building a sustainable, ethical future for all.

So, to my fellow architects: the next time you receive that voting ballot, remember the stakes. Remember the power of your vote. And most importantly, remember that the future of our profession, and indeed our planet, depends on our collective action.