The government has asked the ARB to take the first step towards protection of architectural function.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has asked the regulator to conduct research into designers that mislead the public into believing they are fully qualified architects.
The resulting report is expected to recommend an increase in the jurisdiction of the ARB's Professional Conduct Committee to encompass 'architectural designers, architecture firms or architectural consultants'. Currently it only has authority over those who call themselves 'architect'.
The move is a fresh response to a meeting - held at the beginning of the year - in which the ARB warned ministers it was unable to respond to many of the complaints received since they did not concern registered architects.
If the government decides to adopt protection of function, it would mean only ARB-registered practitioners would be able to design buildings in the UK.
'The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister asked us to provide evidence and case studies of people that have duped the public into thinking they are registered architects, ' said ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan.
'And we asked them to amend the Architects Act to include words like fiarchitecturalfl, so we can close the loophole and look after the conduct of everyone that works in architecture, ' he added.
Board member Yasmin Shariff, a long-term supporter of function protection, said the news was 'very exciting', describing it as 'tantamount to the government accepting that protection of function is almost essential. The government now seems to understand that simply having the board set professional standards for those that call themselves architects is almost worthless, ' she said.
'The government is very interested in the protection of the consumer at the moment and therefore it has become interested in protection of function, ' Shariff added. 'This could be a real opportunity but it is up to the profession to make it happen.'
Vaughan agreed that the investigation is 'great news for architects', but warned that it will be a 'very big step from here to protection of function'.
However, another board member, Ian Salisbury, disagreed, insisting that 'nothing would happen'.
'What we need is for the ARB to be disbanded and for a new construction-wide watchdog to be formed to cover all firms that deal with the public, ' he added.
lAt an ARB meeting last week the board voted to increase subs by £5 to £70 per year - an 8 per cent increase.