Last edited 27 Mar 2017



[edit] Introduction

The term 'architect' has been in existence for many centuries, however the architect as its own 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.

[edit] 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.

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.

See The History of the architect as a profession for more information.

[edit] Training

The most common route into the architectural profession is through university study which is broken down into:

  • Part 1 – Honours degree in architecture.
  • 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 individual school) taught in university for 2 to 3 years.
  • 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 RIBA 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).

NB There is concern that architectural training has become relatively expensive now that 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 were 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.

For the types of modules that students study as part of architecture degree courses, see Architecture course essentials.

[edit] Statutory responsibilities

The purpose of the ARB statutory responsibilities is to maintain a high level of competence and professionalism from architects that are registered to work in the UK. The ARB's Architect's code: Standards of Conduct and Practice includes 12 areas to abide by.

As an architect you are expected to:

  1. Be honest and act with integrity
  2. Be competent
  3. Promote your services honestly and responsibly
  4. Manage your business competently
  5. Consider the wider impact of your work
  6. Carry out your work faithfully and conscientiously
  7. Be trustworthy and look after your clients’ money properly
  8. Have appropriate insurance arrangements
  9. Maintain the reputation of architects
  10. Deal with disputes or complaints appropriately
  11. Co-operate with regulatory requirements and investigations
  12. Have respect for others

The following are two examples

Standard 8: Insurance Arrangements

  • You are expected to have adequate and insurance cover for you your practice and employees.
  • Insurance must be adequate to meet a claim whenever it is made.
  • Maintain a minimum level of cover including run-off cover, in accordance with the boards guidance.
  • Extends to professional work undertaken outside your main practice of employment.
  • Ensure that appropriate indemnity arrangements are provided by your employer.
  • Provide evidence that you have met the standards of this standard in such a form as the board may require.

Standard 10 Deal with disputes or complaints appropriately

  • Have a written procedure for prompt courteous handling of complaints which will be in accordance with the code and provide this to the clients.
  • Complaints should be handled courteously and promptly at every stage.
  • Acknowledgement within 10 working days
  • Response addressing the issues raised, within 30 working days from its receipt
  • If appropriate you should encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation or conciliation.
  • This standard is a key factor in the concept of consumer protection which underpinned the creation of the ARB.

[edit] Practice

The roles within a working practice have also become far more defined. Positions in a typical UK based practice would include:

For more information, see Practice management.

[edit] Continuing professional development

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 service 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.

[edit] ARB CPD

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 & 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.

Self-directed and informal learning

  • Keeping abreast of government policies and new technical reports.
  • Research for writing articles.
  • Open and distance learning.

[edit] RIBA CPD

The RIBA introduced mandatory CPD on the 1st of April 1999. Unlike the ARB, the RIBA approach requires chartered members to participate in a system that focuses on time, points and core curriculum.

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

[edit] Professional Indemnity Insurance

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.

[edit] Appointing an architect

There are approximately 33,500 registered architects in the UK. 20% of architects in the UK are female.

There are a number of sources of information to help clients find an appropriate architect for their project:

A survey by the RIBA in 2014 (Ref RIBA Journal February 2014) revealed that the most common methods of appointing architects were:

Direct appointment 50%
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%
Other 4%

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:

For a description of how to select and appoint a consultant, such as an architect, see: Appointment.

[edit] 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:

However, 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:

For detailed descriptions of the sequence of activities necessary to appoint architects, see the work plan stages:

[edit] Find out more

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