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ARB looks to test architects’ competence throughout their careers

ARB graphic logo2

The ARB is investigating how it can monitor the competence of architects throughout their career as part of a review aimed at improving regulation

There is no test of the knowledge and skills for architects currently on the register, even though, the ARB claims, the profession is ‘in the unique position of being the only statutorily regulated profession’ in a construction industry ‘which is currently subject to rapid change’.

Now the registration board has launched a ‘fundamental’ review into how it can shake up its operations to ‘develop a proportionate and effective regulatory model’ to ensure only competent architects can join and, more importantly, remain on the register.

The regulator will carry out its own review of national and international practice and has issued a call for evidence on architects’ regulations. It has also put out a tender for £100,000 worth of research into the area.

The selected research team will carry out surveys and interviews with a range of industry stakeholders, as well as with other regulators such as the General Medical Council, which ensures that doctors remain competent.

The team will also analyse evidence of deficiencies in the skills and behaviour of architects, including a look at the ARB’s record of complaints and insurer and council data on building failure.

In tender documents for the research job, the ARB noted: ‘While people remain in the labour market longer and until they are older, there are no specified requirements for continuous professional development as a condition of being on the register.’

There are no specified requirements for continuous professional development as a condition of being on the register

It added: ‘An architect needs to re-register annually, but retention on the register does not come with any requirements to demonstrate that competence has been maintained.’

The work will also look at how the architectural syllabus might change. The ARB has already identified climate change and fire safety as areas that may need greater coverage during an architect’s education.

The outsourced research work will end in December, after which the ARB will agree what individuals need to be able to demonstrate to be allowed to register as an architect and to remain on the register in subsequent years.

The ARB’s review comes as the government cracks down on professional standards across the construction industry as part of changes prompted by Judith Hackitt’s post-Grenfell review of building regulation.

In its response to the Building a Safer Future consultation, published last week (2 April), the government said it was ‘working with the ARB to assess how architects maintain and enhance their competence throughout their career’.

However, a government-led review of the ARB published in March 2017 had suggested reducing the frequency of renewing a prescription to the register and introducing monitoring.

Separately to the main review of its operations, the ARB is also working on how it can create ‘enhanced competencies’ for architects working on high-rise residential buildings, which will be subject to greater regulation.

A spokesperson for the ARB emphasised that there were no ‘predetermined outcomes’ from the review, but said the board was looking at ‘what it means to be an architect and how we can respond to these findings to best protect the public and support the profession’.


Readers' comments (12)

  • This is a really good way to retain competent Architects on the Register and improve the regulatory process.

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  • I’m all for this as long is it is accompanied by a major media initiative to educate the public on what the real value of an ARB Architect is. For a start most people have never heard of ARB and think that the RIBA is our professional regulator. As a sole practitioner I’m working as a regulated professional in a deregulated market where the customers do not understand the difference between someone registered and every other consultant/technologist/table topper. This extends to commercial clients and other professionals that I’ve dealt with. The profession needs a huge amount of support at the grass roots.

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  • Any notion that annual monitoring will increase competency is nonsense perhaps the ARB might reference the numerous gross incompetency cases within the medical profession in recent times

    The ARB might be better to spend some if it’s budget in promoting the use of registered architects at all levels rather than pursuing a few bad apples

    Where we are based there are currently numerous amounts of questionable residential development works taking place none of which were prepared by registered architects

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  • Clare Richards

    The ARB "will also look at how the architectural syllabus might change"?
    Yes. Now the is the time for the social purpose of the profession to become a fundamental part of an architect's education. Social sustainability must no longer be the poor relation to environmental sustainability. We are learning that lesson right now!

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    Justifiable in principle but hopeless if it becomes just a box-ticking exercise. Should be based on feedback from clients.
    Another erosion of the role of the RIBA. If made a practice responsibility then ACA are in a good place to contribute. Brian Waters

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  • "There are no specified requirements for continuous professional development as a condition of being on the register"

    Should, hopefully, bring ARB Registered Architects into line with most, if not all, the built environment professional bodies' (Charter) requirements for 'monitored' Continuing Professional Development.

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  • John Kellett

    There is currently a requirement for all chartered architects to undergo CPD in a profession that it takes a lot of training to join. Yet it is perfectly legal for someone without any training whatsoever to design buildings. There is a mismatch there as it would be far more effective to ban those without the training, knowledge, qualifications or skills from designing buildings not making it more difficult for those with the training. Stupidity at the highest possible level to require any chartered professional to be more qualified when no qualifications, or independently assessed competence, are required under U.K. law.

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  • For John Kellett: very well said indeed, and the current situation presents something of a conundrum to anyone with the prescribed training, qualifications, and experience who objects to the concept of paying annual 'protection money' simply for the right to continue being an architect - despite having committed no misdemeanours, let alone having brought the profession into disrepute.

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  • John Kellett stop speaking so much sense, it might catch on

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  • Well said John Kellett. I would suspect that this measure will be self defeating given that it is still possible to carry out the role of an architect without actually calling yourself one. Presumably there would be mass resignations which would reduce the funding to police the scheme or a massive hike in fees which would lead to yet more resignations from the register. Unless the role is protected this will not work. If the role is protected it seems to be a sensible requirement.

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