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’.