Working as Design Council Cabe’s Design Review Lead Advisor for the last eight years, I have had the privilege of working with, coaching and facilitating hundreds of Built Environment Experts as part of the Design Review process and Design Support services.

We are now embarking on the appointment of a cohort of BEEs to focus on new Design Review panels and programmes. I therefore thought the time was right to ask some of our experienced BEEs what they feel are the top traits needed for the role. These are the top three skills that emerged as the most important:

1. The ability to give objective and constructive critique

Keith Williams, Founder and Director of Design at Keith Williams Architects, is quick to emphasise the fact that: “The BEE role is always one of courteous constructive critique, offering advice from an objective standpoint on how to extract the very best from any scheme, given its constraints and its opportunities.”

[BEEs need to] help the architects, design team and the client to find the best way forward.

Keith Williams, Founder and Director of Design, Keith Williams Architects

Of course, strong interpersonal skills are a must when giving critique. BEEs must learn to summarise information and frame it in such a way to really draw out the opportunities and, as Keith Williams puts it, “help the architects, design team and the client to find the best way forward.”

2. A broad, wide-ranging skillset

BEEs work on a very varied range of projects, from neighbourhood plans that are at their early stages through to fully fledged community-led development projects, so having a broad skillset is key to the process. Liane Hartley, Director of Mend and Founder of Urbanistas UK argues that, although it can be challenging:I would recommend it [being a BEE] to anyone, especially if you’d like to use your skills in a broader context and to the benefit of different stakeholders.”

Colin Haylock, Principal of Haylock Planning and Design, reiterates this point in recollecting his own experience of being a BEE: “The projects have been richly varied, ranging across policy and detail and from neighbourhood planning to complex regeneration in highly sensitive environments.”

It's a role where quick thinking, sagacity and experience really counts.

Wendy Shillam, Consultant Architect and Planner

Linked closely to this need to have a wide range of experience is the ability to think on your feet as a BEE – Wendy Shillam rightly highlights that: “It's a role where quick thinking, sagacity and experience really counts.”

3. The openness to develop your knowledge base

Although the BEEs we recruit are recognised for having strong expertise in their areas and a solid knowledge base, the best BEEs should be willing to learn from others as well as impart their own insights. As Dave Chetwyn, Managing Director of Urban Vision Enterprise CIC explains, as a BEE: “I was able to contribute my knowledge and expertise … but also to learn from the other participants.”

Nicole Collomb, a chartered landscape architect, also draws attention to this fact, arguing that: “as most BEE work is carried out in small groups, it's also really valuable for networking and sharing knowledge with other experts - a real win-win situation.” 

BEE work is...really valuable for networking and sharing knowledge with other experts.

Nicole Collomb, chartered landscape architect

The BEE application process closed at 2pm on Friday 31 July.

For more information, please contact BEE@designcouncil.org.uk.

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