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Last edited 22 Sep 2020
The role of architects
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 only to the mid 16th century. 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.
The term ‘architect’ is now protected by the Architects Act 1997. Only qualified individuals that are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) can offer their services as architects. However, the same services can be provided by people that are not architects as long as they do not claim to be architects.
Very broadly, the roles 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.
However, 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 and might include:
- Compiling or editing briefing documents.
- 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.
- Maintain their professional service and competence in areas relevant to their professional work.
- Maintain adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance.
- Obtain a written agreement before undertaking work which adequately cover:
- the contracting parties;
- the scope of the work:
- the fee or method of calculating it;
- who will be responsible for what;
- any constraints or limitations on the responsibilities of the parties;
- the provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement, including any legal rights of cancellation;
- confirmation of adequate and appropriate insurance cover;
- the existence of any Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes that the contract is subject to and how they might be accessed;
- details of the architect’s complaints-handling procedure;
- confirmation that the architect is registered with the Architects Registration Board and that they are subject to the code.
The ability of an architect to provide services will depend on their level of qualification, experience and specialisation. As well as qualified architects, architectural practices will commonly employ:
- Unqualified staff.
- Staff qualified in a related discipline such as landscape design, interior design, project management or quantity surveying.
- Architectural technicians.
- Architectural technologists.
- Part I and Part II qualified architectural students. See Architectural training for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appointing an architect.
- ARB code of conduct.
- Architect's fees.
- Architectural assistant.
- Architectural design.
- Architectural training.
- Consultant team.
- Design methodology.
- Hiring an architect as a commercial client.
- Hiring an architect as a domestic client.
- History of the architect as a profession.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- RIBA Code of Professional Conduct.
- Scope of services.
- The Architects Act.
- Year-out student.
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