The term 'architect' has been used for many centuries, but the architect as a recognised profession is a relatively modern concept dating back to the mid 16th century, from the French architecte and Italian architetto (originating from the Greek arkhitekton, where arkhi means 'chief' and tekton 'builder'). The term and what it represents has evolved through history to its current form in which architects are seen as highly-qualified and educated professionals.
See The History of the architect as a profession for more information.
 Regulation of architects
Although buildings in the UK are commonly designed by people who are not architects, the term ‘architect’ itself is protected by the Architects Act 1997 which established the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Only qualified individuals that are registered with the ARB can offer their services as architects. 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'.
The ARB has responsibility for:
- Recognising qualifications.
- Maintaining a list of registered architects and ensuring that people not on the list do not offer their services as an architect.
- Monitoring standards and investigating complaints.
ARB issues a code of conduct for architects and can take action against those falling short of the code’s standards.
See The History of the architect as a profession for more information.
The most common route into the profession is through university study, broken down into 3 parts:
- Part 1 – Honours degree in architecture, followed by 1 year out in practice under the guidance of an architect and monitored and recorded in line with RIBA requirements.
- Part 2 - Masters, Diploma or BArch (depending on the individual school) taught in university for 2 to 3 years, followed by a further monitored and recorded year in practice.
- Part 3 - the RIBA final exam.
The RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates is an alternative route to qualification for Part 1 and Part 2 for people working full-time under the supervision of an architect. Applicants must have a minimum of three years’ experience in architectural practice to join the examination at Part 1; or 3 years post-Part 1 experience to join the Part 2 stage (as well as holding Part 1).
Recently, there is concern that architectural training has become relatively expensive as universities can charge fees of up to £9,000 a year. Training to become an architect takes at least seven years, with four or five of these at university. Adding in necessary living expenses on top of university fees, it is thought that the total cost of training to become an architect could be as much as £100,000.
This may result in architecture becoming the preserve of students whose parents are able to support them through their training. Whilst the number of applications for places at schools of architecture remains high, increasingly this is from students outside the EU, with applications from UK and EU students decreasing.
See architectural training for more information.
 Statutory responsibilities
According to the ARB's Architect's code: Standards of Conduct and Practice, an architect is expected to:
- Be honest and act with integrity.
- Be competent.
- Promote their services honestly and responsibly.
- Manage their business competently.
- Consider the wider impact of their work.
- Carry out their work faithfully and conscientiously.
- Be trustworthy and look after their clients’ money properly.
- Have appropriate insurance arrangements.
- Maintain the reputation of architects.
- Deal with disputes or complaints appropriately.
- Co-operate with regulatory requirements and investigations.
- Have respect for others.
The roles within working practice have become fairly standardised. Positions in a typical UK practice include:
- Architectural Assistants – These are generally training architects before part 3 completion. They are often broken down into Part 1 assistants and Part 2 assistants.
- Architectural technicians specialising in the application of technology in architecture. Architectural technicians can become professionally qualified Architectural Technicians, (TCIAT) accredited by the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists and Technicians (CIAT).
- Architectural technologists, leading the technological design of buildings. Architectural technologist can study to degree level and become chartered architectural technologists, (MCIAT) accredited by the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists and Technicians (CIAT).
- A newly qualified Part 3 architect – often working under the guidance of a project architect.
- Project architect – Given most of the responsibilities involved with running a job with occasional guidance from a director.
- Associate Directors – Often viewed as junior directors with responsibility for overseeing several project architects.
- Directors and Senior Directors – Oversee associate directors and may not be particularly involved in any single project. Their time may be spent with new clients or overseeing the management of the practice.
- Principle – Head of the office.
- Partner – An owner of the practice. Often in smaller companies the directors or principle make up the Partners.
For more information, see Practice management.
The ARB code states that architects ‘are expected to keep (their) knowledge and skills relevant to (their) professional work up to date and be aware of the content of guidelines issued by the Board (ARB)...’ The RIBA has developed a curriculum for continuing professional development (CPD), and it is considered that anyone satisfying the RIBA’s requirements is likely to satisfy the ARB that they have maintained their competence.
It is widely accepted that any person offering a professional services must maintain the standards of that service through continuing professional development. Both the ARB codes and the RIBA Code of professional conduct requires this of registered members.
The Architects' Registration Board requires that architects keep relevant knowledge and skills up-to-date, and are aware of the content of any guidelines issued by the board. The ARB advises that architects think laterally and encourages CPD to be undertaken in a number of ways:
- Internal discussions and meetings.
- Training another member of staff.
- Supervising a student's professional practice experience.
- In house training events.
- Undertaking short courses.
- Attending conferences, seminars and workshops to enhance a skill or knowledge.
- Participating in competitions.
- Keeping abreast of government policies and new technical reports.
- Research for writing articles.
- Open and distance learning.
To maintain competence requires:
- 35 hours of CPD; along with
- 100 points which you give to activities where you are using self-reflection
- at least half of your CPD activity, where possible, structured
- at least 20 hours of CPD on core curriculum topics (at least two hours on each topic each year)
- a record of your CPD online using our CPD recording manager
The ARB code required that architects maintain 'adequate and appropriate' professional indemnity insurance (PIII). The level of PII required will vary considerably depending on the role of the individual and the size and nature of the projects they undertake, however, ARB state that ‘in any event an architect is expected to hold a limit of indemnity of no less than £250,000’.
See Professional Indemnity Insurance for more information.
There are a number of sources of information to help clients find an appropriate architect for their project:
- Searchable Directory of RIBA chartered UK practices.
- International directory of RIBA chartered practices.
- RIBA chartered members directory.
- RIBA client design advisers directory.
- Local Architects Direct.
- Architects' Index.
|Competitive fee bid or financial tender only||21%|
|Framework agreement with or without further competition for specific projects||10%|
|Invited competitive interview (no pre-qualification questionnaire PQQ)||4%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ only (no design work)||3%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ followed by competitive interview (no design work)||3%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ followed by design competition||2%|
|Invited design competition (no PQQ)||1%|
|Open design competition||1%|
Smaller practices tended to be appointed mostly by direct appointment (61%), whereas this was less common for larger practices (25%).
It is important that an architect's appointment is set out in writing as soon as is practically possible, defining the scope of services that are likely to be required and the fee that will be charged for those services. If the architect is to perform lead designer or lead consultant roles, this must be clearly agreed.
A number of standard forms exist for the appointment of an architect:
- RIBA Standard Agreement for the Appointment of an Architect 2010.
- ACA SFA 2012: ACA Standard Form of Agreement for the Appointment of an Architect.
- The CIC Consultant's Contract.
For a description of how to select and appoint a consultant, such as an architect, see: Appointment.
 Role of an architect
Detailed descriptions of the tasks performed by an architect for different procurement routes can be found in the free work plans available on the Designing Buildings Wiki home page, however, very broadly, the role performed by an architect might include:
- Assisting the client to prepare a strategic brief.
- Carrying out feasibility studies and options appraisals.
- Advising on the need to appoint other professionals to the consultant team, independent client advisers, specialist designers and specialist contractors.
- Advising on the procurement route.
- Contributing to the preparation of a project brief.
- Preparing the concept design.
- Preparing the detailed design.
- Preparing planning applications.
- Preparing applications for statutory approvals.
- Preparing production information.
- Preparing tender documentation.
- Contributing to the assessment of tenders.
- Reviewing designs prepared by others.
- Acting as contract administrator.
- Inspecting the works.
- Advising on the rectification of defects.
It is important to note that some of these services will only be undertaken by the architect if they are specifically identified in their appointment documents, and will not be included within the architect's fee on all projects. These are described as 'other services' on some forms of appointment. 'Other services' might include:
- Compiling or editing briefing documents (for example preparing the strategic brief may be the responsibility of the client or an Independent client advisor, not the architect; the architect might only be required to contribute to the preparation of the brief unless additional services are identified in their appointment).
- Environmental studies.
- Applying for outline planning permission.
- Undertaking negotiations with the statutory authorities or the main contractor.
- Undertaking surveys.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to party wall matters.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to two-stage tendering (such as two-stage design and build contracts).
- Revisions to documents that are required for reasons that are not the architect's responsibility (for example as a result of changes in legislation).
- Assessment of designs prepared by others.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to disputes or work not in accordance with the contract.
- Preparing a site waste management plan.
- Preparing marketing materials.
- Assisting raising funds for the project.
- Preparing as-built drawings (or record drawings from the contractor's as-built drawings).
- Providing site inspectors.
For detailed descriptions of the sequence of activities necessary to appoint architects, see the work plan stages:
- Traditional contract: appointment.
- Design and build: appointment.
- Public project: appointment.
- Construction management: appointment.
- Management contract: appointment.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appointing an architect.
- Appointing consultants for building design and construction.
- Architect's Registration Board.
- Architectural styles.
- Architectural technologist.
- Architectural technician.
- Architect's fees.
- Architectural training.
- Building Information Modelling.
- Collaborative practices.
- Commercial manager.
- Concept architectural design.
- Consultant team.
- Design coordination.
- Design liability.
- Design methodology.
- Hiring an architect as a domestic client.
- How to become an architect.
- Lead consultant.
- Lead designer.
- Practice management.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Scope of services.
- The Architects Act.
- The architectural profession.
- The role of architects.
- Types of building.
 External references
Featured articles and news
With PFI currently under the spotlight due to Carillion, this introductory article explains what they are.
Estimates suggest that up to 30,000 small firms could be at risk of non-payment as a result of Carillion's collapse.
Sir Oliver Letwin to lead an independent review into the delays in the delivery of housing.
As Carillion collapses, read our article explaining insolvency in the construction industry.
43,000 jobs at risk as Carillion goes into administration.
1961 saw the publication of three important books about urban design that remain relevant today.
Next week the planning fee increases by 20% and new fees are introduced.
How the transformative power of BIM and other digital technologies can be used to gain a competitive edge.
Relevant events and relevant matters are terms used in some contracts, but knowing the differences is important.
Government release statistics showing how many people are now on the property ladder due to Help to Buy schemes.
A summary of the Town and Country Planning Association's new Practical Guide on health in garden cities.