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Over two thirds of architects want exclusive right to design buildings

More than two thirds of the profession want the government to bring in protection of function, allowing only registered architects to design buildings

New research by the AJ found that 68 per cent of architects would back a move to legally oblige clients to use ARB-registered professionals for certain work – with an overwhelming 90 per cent demanding the continued protection of title.

The survey, completed by more than 800 readers, also revealed that 59 per cent of architects want the ARB’s role to be incorporated into the RIBA.

The findings come as the government carries out its three-yearly review of the ARB and its role in protecting the architect’s title – an evaluation which could see the registration board disbanded or reformed.

Carl Turner, who won the 2013 Manser Medal, is among those supporting the introduction of protection of function, similar to regulations in force in the United States and Russia.

He said: ‘All planning applications should be submitted either by a planning professional or a registered architect. This seemingly simple requirement would put architects at the heart of the planning process and, at the same time, surely raise the bar in terms of design quality for all projects.’

However, former RIBA president Sunand Prasad was unconvinced by the demands. He said: ‘It is a little like the tax system. It is something so entrenched that introducing protection of function goes beyond the realms of possibility.

‘It is a non-starter with government, regardless of whether it is a good idea or not. I feel it will also disappear from other parts of the world.’

Respondents to the online survey were widely critical of the ARB’s current performance, with 67 per cent of architects saying the ARB didn’t do enough to protect the architect’s title and 58 per cent saying that the board’s annual retention fee did not offer  value for money.

There was also bad news for the RIBA: three quarters of architects responding to the survey said the institute did not deliver good value for its members.

Former RIBA president Owen Luder said: ‘Those in charge of the RIBA at present should take notice that 75 per cent of members do not consider the RIBA subscription value for money. If the ordinary members were aware of some of the present RIBA policies, the percentage would go up to 90 per cent.’

Key findings

· 90 per cent of architects think the title ‘architect’ should be protected
· 68 per cent of architects think protection of function would be better for the profession
· A third of architects said having the title allowed them to charge higher fees, a third said it didn’t and a third said it makes no difference
· 67 per cent of architects said the ARB doesn’t do enough to protect the title
· 59 per cent of architects said the role of the ARB should be incorporated into the RIBA

Other comments:

Karl Grace, president of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT):
‘I was interested to see the majority support the protection of title. CIAT’s view is that, although this is a positive practice which protects the general public, we would like to see the inclusion of Chartered Architectural Technologist to further ensure their interests. 
‘Consideration should be given to protecting other titles used by professionals within the built environment.  However, regarding the protection of function for architects, this would be unworkable in today’s multi-disciplinary and collaborative working environment, how would any particular service be ring fenced that other professionals may be qualified to offer and provide? This would be inconsistent with fair and open trade.‘

Peter Buchan, senior partner, Ryder Architecture:
‘How would we police the protection of function and what gives us the unique right to make buildings? The title architect means something to most people but key to the profession is communicating the benefits of registered architects over anyone else, rather than to rely just on protection.
‘If ARB stays it should be a stripped back, registration body with clear demarcation of role with RIBA (particularly around education) so that RIBA can be free to act on behalf of the profession without encumbrance.’

Yasmin Shariff of of Dennis Sharp Architects:
‘The reason for ARB and protecting title was in the interest of the consumer. But if there is no statutory requirement to engage an architect then how is the consumer to be protected? The only protection there is, is against the small number of lone practitioners vulnerable to ARB’s sanctions. This is a ridiculous scenario - the figures from the 2012 annual report say it all: 33,266 registrants, £3million income, £853,648 legal fees and six successful prosecutions. The ARB will soon be registering a body of computer graphic image generators where frogs, bats and snots will not conjure up fine brickwork detailing and we will all be dancing to the tune of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • For the quality of the built environment to be protected, either design quality has to be a real, central and overriding statutory concern or architect's function should be protected. The problem is that only lip-service has been paid to the former option, and so now architect's (me included) don't trust the government to put design quality at the forefront. The problem with the latter option is that the architectural profession isn't seen as being worthy of it and it smacks of protectionism and cartel-ism to non-architects; particularly those who remember the 'quality' of much that was produced at the height of architect's power and influence in the 60's and 70's. A third problem is that the notion f the specialised professional architect is historically incongruous anyway, as Ruskin said:-
    "I saw that the idea of an independent architectural profession was a mere modern fallacy, the thought of which had never so much as entered the heads of the great nations of earlier times; but that it had always, till lately, been understood, that in order to have a Parthenon, one had to get a preliminary Phidias; and to have a Cathedral of Florence, a preliminary Giotto; and to have even a Saint Peter's at Rome, a preliminary Michael Angelo...."

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  • tony martin

    Surely it is not just about design but also delivery - as qualified architects we are equiped and insured to lead and administer complex, mulit-million pound projects. Out in the sticks (were I now currently practise having eloped from the City) there is a pre-dominance of 'architectural designers' who consistently get out of their depth trying to run complex commercial projects, using domestic contracts, domestic experience and producing (with occasional exceptions) poor designs. Clients, funding agencies and insurers need to be made more aware of the pitfalls and risks of not using architects.

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  • There is NO question that the function of the Architect should be protected! In the US the state government administers the Architects Exam & collects the yearly fees but the state legislators only protect the title & allow several Professions to PRACTICE Architecture.

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  • I recommend everyone read http://www.aaruk.info/AARU.htm
    and its links before voting on the Government Proposals regarding ARB before the end of the month. I doubt they would support regulation after that, and we would all be better off without it, whatever you may think now.

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  • Protection of function would only ever be regulated on the basis of a public protection argument, not an 'architects don't earn enough' one. A poll saying we would like it is irrelevant. If clients are daft enough to employ unqualified designers to spend their money, that is primarily a commercial concern unless and where it impacts the public interest. The public interest is supposed to be protected through the Planning system, so why not allow Planning Authorities to incentivise the application process for architect led submissions?

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  • Does protection of title in Russia and the USA result in a better built environment, compared with that of the UK?

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  • I recommend everyone read http://www.aaruk.info/AARU.htm for the most muddle headed discourse on this theme.

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