The ARB (Architects Registration Board) is an independent statutory body established under the ‘Architect’s act 1997’ by parliament to regulate, maintain and protect the architect’s profession in the UK.
Governed by a board of fifteen members, containing seven registered architects, and eight members of the public, one of the board’s principle duties is to protect the ‘Architect’ title.
Anyone who claims to be and/or practices under a title containing the word architect must be part of the ARB Register of Architects which currently holds approximately 34,500 architects on record.
The register ensures that only people who have had the relevant education, training and practical experience can offer the professional services of an architect. This unlike the Royal institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a necessity and not optional.
More on RIBA here
In line with section 20 of the Architect Act, anyone unqualified who offers the services under the title is committing a criminal offence “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”. This ensures that the standards of the profession are maintained in both the public and private domains.
There are however a few exceptions which allow landscape architects, golf course architects and naval architects to use the title. It is also important to note that in the UK any person is legally permitted to design buildings, and often will use the title architectural or architecture designer to describe their occupation.
These terms are not legally protected and so are free for anyone to use, but note that they also have no governing body or regulatory code to maintain and ensure any particular level of service. So whilst often providing much of the same service, a client doesn’t gain the guarantee and protection that comes with an ARB registered architect.
The Register of Architects is freely available and open to the public via the ARB website.
Aside from preventing the misuse of the title, the ARB under the 1997 Architect’s Act is also primarily responsible for:
- Maintaining and updating the official register of architects.
- Prescribing the qualifications required to become an architect (as described here).
- Preserving and setting the standards required for education and professional practice.
- Investigating complaints made against its registered architects regarding conduct and competence.
- Acting as the UK’s competent authority for architects.
This requires the ARB to set and issue a code of expected professional standards, conduct and practice that is expected of any registered architect; “The ARB Code of Conduct”. This code brings together a series of principles that acts as guidance for how architects should run and maintain their professional lives. Protecting and benefiting the members of the public using them which in turn maintains the public confidence in the profession.
Under The Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice, an architect is expected to:
- Be honest and act with integrity
- Be competent
- Promote your services honestly and responsibly
- Manage your business competently
- Consider the wider impact of your work
- Carry out your work faithfully and conscientiously
- Be trustworthy and look after your 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
Standards such as standard 8 “Have appropriate insurance arrangements” and standard 2 “Be competent”, are as simple as they sound and allow members of the public to be confident in hiring an architect and reassured that the services required will be from a genuine professional.
Each architect is sent a copy of these standards when they first enter into the profession and would have studied them during his or her professional examination, and so they should be very familiar with them.
Failure to follow this guidance does not directly constitute as an act of unacceptable professional conduct or incompetence but it may be taken into account if a complaint is made and the ARB are asked to investigate if standards have fallen below what is expected.