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RIBA to launch Register of Conservation Architects


The RIBA has announced plans to establish a Register of Conservation Architects, despite protests from Architects Accredited in Building Conservation

The register will enable those looking to commission work on heritage buildings find architects with the specific skills and experience they require, encompassing all aspects of historic building conservation, repair and maintenance. 

The RIBA announced that its move was to help ‘Recognise the distinct nature of conservation work, and move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach’.

Ruth Reed, President of the RIBA said: ‘The RIBA is fully committed to the conservation of our historic built environment. In setting up this register, the Institute intends to strengthen the profession’s credibility and standing within conservation; establishing an accessible and progressive system to benefit both architects and those commissioning work on heritage buildings is of significant importance.’

The move has drawn criticism from the UK register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation (AABC). Their chairman Elaine Blackett-Ord called it a ‘retrograde step’ and said Reed’s claims were ‘laughable’.

‘There is nothing going on in the RIBA that shows their commitment to conservation architecture. My concern is would they be able to maintain standards? In previous negotiations they showed no commitment to upholding standards [of accreditation]. I’d be sceptical of their long-term commitment’

‘We ran the scheme for five years before it was recognised by English Heritage. That is what the RIBA should be forced to do, rather than poaching our members, which is what they intend to do’.

Other members of the AABC have not been so damning. Adam Bench of Adam Bench Architects said ‘There’s always been criticisms levelled - fair or otherwise - at the AABC that it’s a closed shop. I’ve always thought that it should be run by the RIBA. I welcome it as a move. I think the RIBA are offering very good categories [of accreditation] that would suit a practice like ours’

‘A lot of people feel that the RIBA doesn’t really have much to offer them’, said Robert Dunton of Donald Insall Associates, ‘but there is the feeling that though standards of conservation architecture must be upheld, this could be done by a body other than the AABC’

The Register will operate upon three levels of membership, which also provide an incremental process of accreditation for those who are in the early phases of establishing their careers in building conversation:

  • Conservation Registrant (CR): For those working on the repair, maintenance, alteration and refurbishment of heritage buildings, e.g. unlisted buildings in Conservation Areas, locally important historic buildings and the general pre 1919 building stock.
  • Conservation Architect (CA): Suitable for those working on Grade II listed buildings, regionally important historic buildings and in sensitive historic environments.
  • Specialist Conservation Architect (SCA): For those working on historic buildings of outstanding national importance, such as Grade I and II* listed buildings or scheduled monuments, and with highly specialist skills in one or more aspects of conservation.



Readers' comments (4)

  • I, for one, am resolutely opposed to this kind of fragmentation of the profession. I am opposed to the use of any prefix to the word architect. It seems to me to be a device for those with less ability, drive or enthusiasm to create a cosy niche for themselves. The conservation of our historic buildings should be open to the best of the profession, deploying the full range of their talents, not restricted to a self-regulating clique of box-ticking 'specialists' .

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  • Agreed. The AABC is a totally closed shop benefitting those already on the register and making it very hard with anyone with less than 5 years experience to get on it. You can't get any work unless your on the register and so you can't get the required experience to get on it. Get rid of all the registers. They are probably illegal considering modern laws on competition.

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  • Misinformation abounds, as usual. Specialism is where the professions are headed, like it or not, and the AABC is the most successful; accreditation and registers are not illegal and this has been checked and tested. The AABC is not restrictive to practice; applicants can apply with less than 5 years experience and prove their skills, and methodologies, on unlisted buildings. The existing building sector is huge with more than enough work for all and only grant schemes administered by EH are restricted to accredited architects, surveyors and engineers. Taking a broader view, one only has to look at the specialisms in medical profession, dentists and the Chartered Surveyors, who led in this area almost 20 years ago. The purpose of any conservation accreditation scheme is to admit those who have the necessary proven skills, not keep them out, (less than 10% have been deferred in 10 years); they increase standards, encourage training and mentoring, and work with the public interest to prevent those without the necessary stills from harming our important historic environment. All architects are not the same, as both previous authors must be aware. The 380 architects or so who have willingly proven their abilities over the past ten years, with joy and enthusiasm as I have witnessed, through a rigorous evidence based peer- reviewed system would take exception of your groundless comments and slurs on their standards and abilities. Re-accreditation after 5 years deals with failing architects. I can assure you that none of the 100 or so architects and experience highly qualified lay board members and assessors act out of self interest, but in the wider interests of the buildings we work to preserve. The benefits are all around for us to admire.

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  • John Kellett

    EH and, increasingly, many other clients are now requiring 'accreditation' in conservation architecture; even for unlisted buildings outside Conservation Areas.
    RIAS members can gain accreditation through the RIAS. RIAI members can gain accreditation through the RIAI and RICS members can gain accreditation through the RICS. It is therefore reasonable, as an RIBA member to expect to be able to gain accreditation through he RIBA. Now that, after 3 years of discussion, the AABC has failed to reach an agreement with the RIBA it is only right that the RIBA form a Register for members (and others) who prefer to be accredited through the professional body rather than through a private company. The RIBA is governed by elected members (RIBA Council) and therefore the RIBA register will be accountable to the profession as a whole.
    The concept of accreditation may be regrettable but is a fact of life. I myself find it bizarre that no qualifications at all are required in law to design a hospital (perhaps the most complex building type) yet to work with listed buildings (often very simple in design and construction) one is being required to be a qualified architect with exhaustive experience. It is knowledge, skills and ability that are important, not experience. Experience is only one way of demonstrating that one has the relevant knowledge, skills and ability.

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