Last edited 02 May 2016

Architects Registration Board ARB

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) was established in 1834, but architects subsequently campaigned for the protection of the title ‘architect’ and in 1931, the Architects (Registration) Act created the Architects Registration Council of the United Kingdom (ARCUK).

In 1993, the Warne Report recommended that both ARCUK and protection of the title should be abolished, or failing this, that ARCUK’s functions should be transferred to the RIBA. However, under pressure from architects, in 1996, Part III of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act reconstituted ARCUK as a slimmed-down Architects Registration Board (ARB) and in 1997, the 1931 act and subsequent 1938 act were consolidated into the Architects Act of 1997 and the new regulatory body and its Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) were created.

ARB is an independent statutory regulator that regulates the architects’ profession in the UK to ensures standards are maintained. It is governed by a Board of 15 members, seven of which are architects selected by the profession, and eight of which are members of the public appointed by the Privy Council. Its sponsoring government department is the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Although buildings in the UK are commonly designed by people who are not architects, the term ‘architect’ itself is protected. Only qualified individuals that are registered with the ARB can offer their services as architects and companies must obtain the ARB's permission to use the title 'architect' in their name. It is a criminal offence for anyone to offer services as an architect if they are not on the register, Section 20 of the Architects Act states that 'A person shall not practise or carry on business under any name style or title containing the word “architect” unless he is a person registered under this Act'. There are approximately 34,500 architects on the ARB Register.

The ARB code of conduct lays down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of persons registered as architects under the Act, although failure to comply with the provisions of the code is not of its self-taken as constituting unacceptable professional conduct or serious personal incompetence.

Architects are expected to be guided in their professional conduct and work by the spirit of the code as well as its express terms.

ARB describes its main duties as:

  • Prescribing the qualifications needed to become an architect. NB The standard route for qualifying as an architect is a combination of five years at a validated school of architecture and a minimum of two years experience, followed by a final qualification exam and professional interview.
  • Maintaining a register of UK architects.
  • Ensuring architects meet the standards for conduct and practice.
  • Investigating complaints about conduct or competence (but not disputes).
  • Protecting the title ‘architect’ by ensuring only people on the register offer services as an architect.
  • Acting as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects.

Standard 6 of the ARB Code of conduct states that ‘Architects should maintain their professional service and competence in areas relevant to their professional work, and discharge the requirements of any engagement with commensurate knowledge and attention. The fact that an Architect has not maintained their professional competence may count against them in the event of that competence having to be investigated.’ The ARB state that ‘if you are a member of the RIBA, and you comply with their CPD requirements (or those of another appropriate professional body) you are likely to satisfy the Board.' The RIBA require that members undertake at least 35 hours of continuing professional development every year.

In addition, architects are required to maintain adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance.

The ARB's Professional Conduct Committee considers allegations of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence. It is empowered to:

  • Issue a reprimand.
  • Impose a penalty order of up to £5,000.
  • Suspend an architect from the Register for up to two years.
  • Erase an architect’s name from the Register.
  • Make a disciplinary order following a criminal conviction for an offence of material relevance to an architect's fitness to practise.
  • Clear the architect.

Professional Conduct Committee hearings are held in public, and its decisions are published.

In 2015 ARB introduced a system in which Professional Conduct Committee cases could be dealt with by consent, without the need for a public hearing, where the architect admits to allegations and accepts the sanction proposed.

Architects can also become chartered members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), but this is voluntary and not necessary to practice as an architect. This is a confusing situation, and many members of the public assume that the profession is regulated by the RIBA. The RIBA does validate programmes at UK schools of architecture, but the validation criteria are jointly held by the RIBA and the ARB, and Section 4 of the Architects Act gives the ARB the statutory responsibility to prescribe the qualifications that are needed to become an architect. The RIBA maintains its own Code of conduct for its members, in addition to the ARB Code of conduct.

On Monday 31 March 2014, Stephen Williams, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced a Periodic Review of the Architects Registration Board (ref DCLG Periodic Review of the Architects Registration Board). The Review will consider whether there is a continuing need for the ARB or for its function.

NB The Architects Act was amended in 2011 to recognise European qualifications.

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