Opportunity to help shape the approach to regulation of architectsAugust 2021
On 16 August 2021 the Government published a Call for Evidence in respect of a review of architect regulations. Architects should take note as this provides an opportunity to comment on the way the profession is regulated and hints that significant change to the regime could be afoot.
Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive towards sustainability and Net Zero Carbon by 2050 and the emphasis on Building Safety and to meet the Government’s goals of levelling-up, the government is keen to ensure that the architectural profession is inclusive and progressive. The Call for Evidence therefore seeks to gather the view of the architectural sector on their experiences of what is working well and what can be improved. It explores regulation, areas for innovation and whether the architectural profession is inclusive.
The call for evidence takes the form of a questionnaire comprising of 46 questions in total. The questions broadly focus on the following areas:
Protection of Function
In the UK the title of architect is protected, meaning that it is an offence for an individual to call themselves an architect unless they are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). However, there are no restrictions on providing architectural services, designing buildings or undertaking the same type of work as architects. It is common for an individual to perform architectural functions under the title of “architectural designer” or “architectural consultant”. The questions explore what can be done further to protect the function.
With the focus very much on building safety at the moment, the questionnaire also asks questions on building safety and the . The government plans to make amendments to the Architects Act 1997 to ensure greater competence amongst UK registered architects which will apply to all architects on the register. The Building Safety Bill will also introduce a power to amend the fee provisions in the Architects Act 1997, for fees to be charged by the ARB. The architect provisions in the Building Safety Bill sit alongside wider requirements for those carrying out design and building work to have the relevant competence to carry out their role in a way that achieves safe and high-quality outcomes. The questions explore what more can be done to ensure building safety.
Given the UK left the EU in January 2020, the questionnaire provides architects with the opportunity to help shape the revision and reform of the regulatory process. As set out in this note, mutual recognition of architectural qualifications was not agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK therefore needs to establish a process for the recognition of international architects independent from EU law and new trade agreements with other states. The government intends to use the Professional Qualifications Bill introduced in Parliament in May 2021, to allow the ARB to enter into mutual recognition agreements and establish whether international qualifications are deemed equivalent to UK standards. A holder of these qualifications would then be able to register in the UK, provided they meet any compensation measures set by the ARB. The questionnaire explores this by posing questions on access to the profession, barriers to entry and questions to help the government to understand how the ARB is perceived by architects, as well as the wider design and construction sector.
The Call for Evidence is an opportunity for architects to help shape the future regulatory process and the direction forward for their profession. It should also be of note to those in the construction sector, as it will also have a wider impact on the industry. The breadth of the Call for Evidence suggests that the government is considering potentially significant changes to the regulation of architects, including imposing significant competency requirements and other responsibilities in relation to building safety. It is therefore very important that those in the architectural profession in particular to contribute and seek to influence the UK government’s thinking.
The Call For Evidence is open until 7 November 2021.