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A statement from Karen Holmes (Registrar & Chief Executive)

On Tuesday, myself and Simon Howard, our Head of Professional Standards, met Tom Bennett and members of the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) to listen to statements and then hold a meeting to discuss regulatory expectations and responsibilities in regards to climate change.

We were pleased to be able to reassure Mr Bennett that we were already in the process of developing guidance for architects on the topic of protesting, guidance which is now available on our website.

As the regulator of UK architects, we protect the public and support architects through regulation. We hope the guidance will help architects understand our approach and processes in the area.

In brief, the guidance clarifies that protesting is not prohibited under the Architects Code. Should an architect receive a criminal conviction, for any reason, they are required to report it to us.  As Registrar, I then consider the circumstances of each conviction. The matter will only be referred to our Professional Conduct Committee if it is considered to have material relevance to the architect’s fitness to practise.

Having undertaken this process for Tom Bennett, and with his permission to do so, I can confirm no further action is required in his case. I must however stress that for any architect to be convicted of a criminal offence is a serious matter, and while the unique facts of this case did not warrant disciplinary action, architects should not assume that a failure to comply with the law will leave them free from additional regulatory sanctions.

Environmental sustainability and climate change are important issue for the profession and us. We reached out to ACAN early in the year and so were pleased that Tuesday’s event provided the opportunity for us to share our plans in relation to climate change and discuss opportunities to work in collaboration.

At ARB we recognise the value of diverse perspectives and it was great to get ACAN’s view on the role architects in responding to the climate emergency and the role professional regulation could play in this.

The climate emergency means that architects of the future may need to have enhanced skills and knowledge to play a key role in the design and construction of safe, sustainable buildings and spaces. We were able to take ACAN through our plans for 2020 and explain that at its meeting in July this year our Board agreed to undertake targeted work to explore whether our Criteria – the standards and attributes individuals must meet to become an architect in the UK – should be supported by further guidance on climate change. This activity will run alongside similar work considering fire/life safety design competencies.

We have established two working groups that include experts and representatives, including those from professional bodies and jurisdictions with differing requirements. Of course we hope ACAN and other key stakeholders will be a part of the conversation. The groups will meet for the first time in January 2020 and are expected to work quickly, with proposals prepared for the Board by March. If the proposals are agreed by the Board a public consultation will follow.

We hope an outcome of this work will be reassurance that those undertaking their studies in architecture will develop sufficient knowledge of design principles and building technologies to meet the challenges of architectural practice in the context of global heating as well as fire and life safety design at each stage of their training. More information about this work can be found on our website and will be updated as the project progresses.

—ENDS—

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Notes for Editors

• The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest.

Among other duties, the Act requires ARB to:
– Maintain the Architects Register
– Prescribe the UK qualifications needed to become an architect in the UK
– Issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of architects
– Investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence
– Investigate and where appropriate prosecute unregistered individuals who unlawfully call themselves an architect
– Act as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects

• ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one lay, non-executive Chair and ten non-executive Board members made up of five members of the public and five architects.

• The ARB Board has the statutory duty of determining the qualifications and practical experience required to join the Architects Register and become an architect, under the UK route to registration.

The Criteria for the Prescription of Qualifications (the Criteria) provide information to students, institutions and those looking to sit the Prescribed Examination on the standards, attributes, knowledge, understanding and abilities that individuals must meet for registration. They also reassure those who may use their services that UK architects have the appropriate minimum levels of skills and experience. The Criteria are held in common with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

For further information, please contact Kate Howlett (ARB Communications Manager) on 020 7580 5861 or by email at KateH@arb.org.uk.

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