UK & Europe
Projects & Construction
On 16 August 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published a Call for Evidence relating to the regulation of architects in the UK. The review will seek evidence in respect of accessibility to, and diversity within, the profession, issues relating to building safety and energy efficiency and sustainability in the context of the built environment.
The disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has placed renewed focus on the central role of placemaking to the design process and building the resilient communities of the future. With the added challenges of reaching Net Zero carbon by 2050, in order to implement a building safety regime that prioritises protecting the public and meet its objective of levelling-up across the country, the government is seeking to take action to support an inclusive and progressive future for the architectural profession. The Call for Evidence takes the form of a questionnaire comprising of 46 questions in total, which focus on the following themes:
In the UK, architects must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). This protects the title of architect and makes it an offence for an individual to use that title if they are not so registered. However, there is no regulation on an individual’s ability to hold themselves out as undertaking comparable work to an architect, and it is common to see individuals operating, for example, as an “architectural designer” or “architectural consultant.” The questions are intended to inform further steps that can be taken to safeguard the profession and function of architects.
The questionnaire also explores the role of architectural regulation in improving the building safety regime in the UK. The government plans to impose higher standards of competence by making amendments to the Architects Act 1997, which will apply to all UK-registered architects. Under the Building Safety Bill, the government will be granted a new power to amend the fee provisions in the Architects Act 1997 to allow for fees to be charged by the ARB. For those performing design and building work, the Building Safety Bill creates a broader set of requirements to ensure that they are capable of carrying out these functions in a way that prioritises high-quality and safe results.
The questionnaire allows architects to participate in the process of reforming the regulatory landscape following the UK’s departure from the EU in January 2020. Given that mutual recognition of architectural qualifications was not provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK must formulate an independent process for the recognition of international architects to facilitate the new trade agreements it signs with other states. In May 2021, the Professional Qualifications Bill was brought before Parliament, under which the ARB will have the power to determine the extent to which international qualifications comply with UK standards, and sign up to mutual recognition agreements. The bill envisages that an individual possessing these qualifications would be able to register in the UK, subject to satisfying any compensation measures as required by the ARB. To assist with the legislative process, the questionnaire contains various questions dealing with access to the profession and barriers to entry, as well as those that will help the government to gauge how architects, in addition to the wider design and construction industry, perceive the ARB.
Given the central role of architects, the Call for Evidence is likely to be of considerable interest to the wider construction sector. The review will also see the government conduct thematic workshops and interviews with sector representatives, and an outcome from the review is expected in the summer of 2022. The Call for Evidence will remain open until 8 November 2021 and can be completed by filling out an online survey at the government's official website.