According to Joni Tyler, head of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) at the RIBA, the results of the RIBA's firstever round of CPD monitoring were heartening. It should be noted, however, that its CPD monitoring extended only to registered practices. How are those architects outside of that framework going to demonstrate their competence, and who is going to monitor them? What are core competencies anyway and can they apply across the board?
Attempting to define what an architect does, in the traditional sense, is relatively easy.However, in practice, the role of someone using the title 'architect', albeit appropriately qualified, can be far removed from the traditional image.
Often, even within the framework of a traditional practice, partners and associates may be allocated differing duties depending upon their skills and interests.
They may include master planning, conceptualisation, marketing, personnel supervision, accountancy, legal expertise or even CAD 3Dvisualisation.
The Dearing Report, which promoted the idea of life-long learning, argued that the government cannot be expected to increase its expenditure on higher education. Instead, it should be the responsibility of the individual. Perhaps that is why the RIBA takes a similar view.
The RIBA has no budget allocated for CPD regions where branches and members have to pay for their own activities. If the RIBA has little money for CPD, what message does this send to the profession and the world at large?
Many architects have a similar 'no expense spent' approach to CPD, considering it as little more than a bureaucratic mechanism for covering their back. Few architects look at it as a disciplined quest to develop essential skills aimed at maintaining competence, understanding current legislation and responding to design trends. Regular CPD activities seem to comprise little more than reading the AJ and having a free lunch at the expense of a roofing material supplier.
Seldom is it pursued as a course of proactive indispensable actions to ensure risk is minimised, revenue opportunities maximised and profit increased. But who's fault is this?
The RIBA guidelines suggest a range of subject areas for guidance only, including building law, client management, design updates and planning issues. Yet, with such a divergence of professional activities, who is going to define the core curriculum requirements for each job type? Is it prudent to allow every architect to define how their own CPD requirements are met for non-traditional roles while the RIBA and ARB agree on what is the practice of architecture in the traditional sense?
The syllabus of architectural education has always been broad. The architect, according to Vitruvius, must 'be educated, skilful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens'. If that description is even only partially valid today, is it good enough to pitch CPD requirements simply at 'mainstream middle level'?
Architects cannot be monitored irrespective of their place or type of work, but how far must an architect deviate from mainstream activ ities before they are no longer considered an architect? What happens if the non-mainstream architect changes career path and decides to re-establish themself in design practice?
Perhaps there should be a list of core competencies, which should be published regularly and included as part of every architect's studies, (see the generic guidance in the European Architects'Directive 85/184 Article 3). Should CPD only be through approved payment-charged courses, similar to those of the Law Society? Is self-certification acceptable or should peer review be included? If professional indemnity insurance premiums were discounted as a result of demonstrating the successful completion of annual core competence tests, would we all be more motivated?
In the light of the ARB code - which states that 'the fact that an architect has not maintained his professional competence may count against him in the event of that competence having to be investigated' - the future of CPD looks worth investigating and the box (right) may suggest some ways forward.
Peter Trebilcock is principal architect for AMEC, and chairman ofthe RIBA's North West Region. We welcome feedback on this issue. If you have any views on the relevance of CPD, or the best way forward for maintaining architectural expertise, contact the AJ
SUGGESTIONS FOR A WAY FORWARD
SUBMISSION OF EVIDENCE
Architects should complete their last 12 months' CPD activities as an integral part of them renewing their annual membership subscription with both the RIBA and ARB.The Association of Planning Supervisors currently requires this, but in very little detail.
Representatives of the 'types' of architect should peer review the CPD submissions. Serious deficiencies should be reported to professional practice committee/membership for review. If the process is not taken seriously then the key purpose and value of CPD for maintaining professional competence is worthless.
The RIBA can play a role by publishing an annual list of core competencies for as many career types as possible.
Therefore, an architect in traditional practice would expect to be familiar with recent developments including: new statutory legislation; design for the disabled legislation; the Party Wall Act; and CDM regulations.Plus; latest forms of contract and procurement options; prime contracting; PFI; and National Lottery-funded projects.
A POLICY FOR ALL ARCHITECTS
The RIBA/ARBmust agree a clear, concise and consistent policy for all who use the title architect. The policy ought to define minimum standards and incorporate a monitoring and regulatory programme with the authority to take action as necessary.
Determine minimum standards for the administration of the monitoring and allocate appropriate resources.
Funding from sponsorship might be an option but the system must be capable of being operated if no outside monies materialise.
CHANGING PRACTICE TYPES
Refresher courses should be introduced for architects outside of the mainstream who decide to set up in practice after leaving a specific discipline mid career. This will give insurers (and the public) confidence and will keep professional indemnity insurance premiums down.