About the Better Public Building initiative

Good design has a role to play in transforming public services.

In 2000 the Prime Minister asked ministers and departments across government to work towards achieving high-quality design in all new public buildings. Good design in the public sector enhances the environment and the community, revitalises cities and neighbourhoods, results in buildings that work well and retain a human dimension, and makes the delivery of services easier and more efficient. Design also reflects the ambitions and spirit of the people behind it.

Since the Better Public Building initiative was launched, there have been some outstanding new schools, libraries, museums, hospitals, public spaces and transport infrastructure. The government had its own design champion - who took on responsibility for raising standards across every government department - and by 2006 design champions had been appointed in 70 per cent of public bodies to provide leadership and motivation and ensure a strategy for delivering good design. Good design is achievable and affordable and is worth investing in. It is the key to maximum value for money during the whole life of a building.

Although good design is now embedded in the planning process, some new public building still fails to ensure efficient delivery of public services. In 2006 the government published a set of Common Minimum Standards for construction procurement. These are comprehensive, practical and achievable, as well as cost effective, and should be universally applied in all public building. In addition, CABE set out 10 principles that clients should follow if they are to achieve the best in public building projects.

The speed and severity of climate change present a critical challenge. Every new public building should contribute towards mitigating climate change – both in its construction and its use. This need not, however, add to costs if environmental sustainability is fully integrated into the design process from the beginning.

Better public building, published in December 2006, provides the arguments and evidence that good design makes places work better. It offers practical advice for creating new public building that is value for money, sustainable and a source of civic pride. And it sets out the steps that public bodies need to follow if they are to ensure that all those who use public services benefit from good design.

In this section: