ENTRY #497

The Institute for Resourceful Building Activities by James Woodcock, Caroline Moore


The built environment accounted for around 90 per cent of the UK’s consumption of mined resources in 2013. Some 49 per cent of the construction this went in to was carried out by just 25 companies, on land whose ownership is increasingly concentrated in a small number of private hands.

The ability to carry out ‘sustainable’ development (or indeed any development at all) is thus predicated by a need to possess financial capital. In turn the terms of this sustainability are ultimately decided by the real estate market, favouring solutions which reduce costs.

The Institute for Resourceful Building Activities (IRBA) is a proposal for a network-based commons, empowering citizens to create low-impact urban interventions by connecting existing resources of material and knowledge within local populations.

Operating as a Time Bank, members of the IRBA trade materials, skills and labour via an alternative currency of ‘hours’. Design here is a catalyst, fostering the creation of social capital and thus granting agency to people who wouldn’t normally identify as either makers or patrons of architecture. The network will exist primarily as an online platform, at once hyper-local and citywide.

The IRBA can also exist on undeveloped brownfield sites, as provisional spaces of engagement, learning and exchange. It is not an offence under UK law to occupy private land if no damage or disruption is caused and no person remains overnight. In this way, pieces of urban land could be reactivated and valuable civic amenity regained. Whilst a likely side effect of this activation will be to fuel land speculation and stimulate development, the network will remain intact and new nodes will emerge elsewhere in the city.


James Woodcock was a Structural Engineer and is currently completing a Professional Diploma in Architecture. He devised the organisational form of the Institute and designed the exemplar building shown here.

Caroline Moore is a community artist with a specific interest in using art and design as processes to educate and empower. Her ideas around participation were a strong influence in the development of the Institute. She and James are collaboratively developing a series of public workshops which form the first steps of the IRBA as an independent entity.

Both were born, live and work in London and are passionately frustrated by the city.