As the repercussions of the Grenfell Tower fire continue to be felt across the UK construction industry, the UK Government is consulting on proposed changes to the Architects Registration Board's ("ARB") functions, designed to "improve the monitoring and maintenance of competence of architects through amendments to the Architects Act 1997".

Most of the proposed changes are contained within the Building Safety Bill (the Bill) which proposes new legislation in response to Dame Judith Hackitt's Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

The proposals also seek to deal with the recognition of international qualifications to allow registration as an architect as Brexit means the EU regime for mutual recognition of professional qualifications no longer applies . While the EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement provides a framework for future sectorial agreements driven by professional bodies or authorities themselves, there is no equivalent general framework.


The Bill proposes wide ranging and extensive reforms aimed at introducing 'a new era of accountability' in the design, construction and occupation of buildings.

One of these is a power to issue building regulations which impose competence requirements on construction professionals and the Government is currently working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) and other relevant industry bodies to develop a competence framework.

Sitting alongside these wider industry reforms are proposed amendments to the Architects Act 1997 which are intended to strengthen the ARB's role in monitoring and maintaining the competence of architects.

Continuing Professional Development

The ARB's role in administering and overseeing CPD is set to change, with proposals in the Bill designed to give the ARB 'a new power to define, enforce and maintain the competence of architects on the register'.

The consultation document observes that there is currently no regulation in place which requires architects to undergo competence checks or CPD, unlike professions like law or medicine, for example.

The Royal Incorporation of British Architects, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) of course have their own CPD requirements for members and Standard 2 of the ARB's Architects Code currently requires architects to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. However, the Architects Act 1997, which is the source of the ARB's powers, currently only gives the ARB the power to prescribe what 'recent practical experience' is required for an architect to be entered onto the register.

Under the proposed amendments, the ARB will be given the power to also prescribe what 'recent training' an architect must have before their name can be entered, retained or re-entered, onto the register. According to the consultation document, this will give the ARB the power to instigate its own continuing CPD regime, determining which professional competences should be assessed and how to conduct that assessment.

The ARB will be obliged to consult with professional bodies, including RIBA and RIAS, and industry stakeholders, before introducing these new requirements.

Disciplinary Transparency and Appeals

Another proposed change to the ARB's operations is for the register of architects to display unspent disciplinary orders against each architect's entry so consumers will no longer have to search the ARB's website separately.

Currently, the options available to an architect or complainant if they wish to dispute an ARB decision are very limited and, while not currently part of the Bill, the Government is also consulting on whether to introduce an appeal process.

International recognition

Brexit is another significant factor in the proposed amendments. The UK's departure from the EU has necessitated a rethink by the Government of its approach to recognition of non-UK architects.

EU Directives previously meant the professional qualifications of EU architects were recognised EU wide. Architects from the rest of the world have required to demonstrate equivalent qualifications to the UK's Part 1 and Part 2 qualifications and thereafter complete a Part 3 course and examination.

The consultation advises that Brexit has been taken as an opportunity to adopt a unified approach to the recognition of foreign architects. The recently entered into Trade and Co-operation Agreement features a framework for the EU and UK to agree arrangements for mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Two distinct options are proposed in the consultation for how this could be implemented regarding EU qualified architects:

1) The ARB will recognise certain international architecture qualifications as equivalent to UK standards. Individuals holding those qualifications may be deemed exempt from sitting the ARB's prescribed examinations; or

2) EU qualified architects instead having to undertake the ARB's examinations via the existing third country recognition route as the trade deal reached late last year does not include mutual recognition of architectural qualifications.

Responses by 22 January

Given the widespread appetite for wholesale reform to the construction industry in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the need to replace EU rules in the wake of Brexit, many of the changes being consulted upon are likely to be enacted in some form.

Legally at least, the changes to the ARB's role in maintaining competence appear to be in line with other regulated professions. The consultation refers to the ARB determining how architects' competences should be assessed, but the proposed legislation is light on what CPD requirements it would require the ARB to instigate beyond its current practice. Experience suggests that newly endowed regulators of professional services do use their new powers to further their policy aims.

Responses to the consultation are welcomed from UK and international architects, those involved peripherally in the business of architecture and the wider construction industry. The consultation is open until 22 January 2021.


James Jerman

Senior Associate