The status of the profession of Architecture isunique in the UK. Nowhere else in the world dothey recognize “title” as distinct from function….inother words, what we are called as distinct fromwhat we do, writes Alfred Munkenbeck.The education of an architect takes approximatelyseven years and is very thorough. Most architecturaleducation is paid for with public tax money as withmost tertiary education in the UK. If the architect isnot being prepared for a unique and societally important use, why spend all that time and money educating them? And yet the only outcome of that processis that the architect gets to use a title that people whohave not passed all the exams, may not. It does not,however, give the architect access to any function thata non architect could just as well carry out, so ofcourse, it gives no protection to society at all frompeople functioning as architects as long as they do notuse the title. Obvious parallels come to mind. A non doctorcannot go carry out operations or prescribe drugs. Anon lawyer cannot appear in court. A non Corgi registered central heating engineer cannot install your boiler. Yet, a non architect can design and construct a skyscraper with no regulation in sight as long as hedoesn’t use that specific title.
In the civilised world outside the UK, they back upthe necessary training of an architect by reserving thework of an architect for certain pieces of construction….usually buildings over a certain size or height. Theselarger structures are considered to carry risks thatrequire a person of defined training to design andoversee for the protection of society as a whole. TheUK, in its wisdom, has dispensed with regulating whodesigns buildings in favour of what people trained todesign buildings use as a title (like Mrs. or Sir)….supposedly assuming that the people who commissionbuildings will somehow tend to select their buildingdesigner by the title rather than what they do. Theyhave abandoned any direct connection between training and function in favour of a fatuous connectionwith what they call themselves.
The RIBA and the ARB are discussing if this disconnect can be remedied. A remedy would require legislation to put the UK in line with the rest of the world.Non architects should not be allowed to submit planning applications for projects large enough for societalconcern, non architects should not be allowed to submit building regulation applications for such projectsand most importantly, someone with full architectstraining should have to verify that such buildings aredesigned and constructed in a safe and appropriatemanner.
For some reason, discussions following the Hackittreport seem to favour creating a new specialism to dowith ensuring building safety and people who aretrained in this specialism will be entitled to design andconstruct multi unit residential buildings over a certain height. This is absurd for two reasons. First any buildingbuilt with the wrong materials will be dangerous so why limitthe size and type? Secondly, there is already a profession that istrained to make sure buildings are built properly….Architects. Thegovernment simply has to tweak the process of this educationand legislate to ensure that the design and control of construction is carried out by Architects, rather than inventing anotherparallel narrow new specialism.
ACA past president Richard Harrisoncomments
I agree with much of what Alfred Munkenbeck says and I am asupporter of regulation of the Architect’s function. Sadly, Ithink we ‘missed the previous boat’ in 1997 when theArchitects Act was introduced, because it failed to regulatefunction.
The industry which we are members of has changed,mainly through procurement practices encouraged by thegovernment, specifically the drive to procure value throughDesign and Build. In the process, the traditional role of architects from start to finish has been ‘deconstructed’ particularlyat planning, technical design and on site operation stages,resulting in a loss of continuity.
The D&B approach was verbally lambasted by DameJudith Hackitt but she has unfortunately not fully addressedprocurement procedures in the forthcoming Building SafetyAct. For whatever reasons in favour or enhanced regulation offunction through competence and revisions to the BuildingRegulations.
Interestingly, the ‘long title’ of the Building Safety Actnotably makes specific mention of the Architects Act; “A Bill tomake provision about the safety of people in or about buildings and the standard of buildings, to amend the ArchitectsAct 1997, and to amend provision about complaints made toa housing ombudsman.”
The new legislation is focused on Safety in an aroundbuildings and will be headed up by a new ‘body’, the BuildingSafety Regulator. Many changes will take place over the next2-3 years whilst the multiple strands of related regulation arewoven together under the Regulator’s oversight.
I personally never understood the rationale behind resistance to regulating function in the UK for Architects when asAlfred says, it now applies to electricians, gas boiler installers,cavity wall pumpers and replacement window installers. I canonly put it down to misplaced belief in a laissez-faire liberaldemocracy that anyone can do anything if they put theirmind to it. And yet architects after a lengthy education startwork only with a title and very little practical experience but alarge body of knowledge and unique skills in design.
However the downside is that as humans, we can all failand sadly the ARB’s drive to take the lead is self-defeating.Their desire to enhance exposure of their occasional members’ failings publicly under the Building Safety Act is a misguided attempt by a registration body to secure power without the ability to fully deliver the role, for example in ongoingmisuse of title, international registrants but most importantlyin the oversight of education which is led by the RIBA.
There is a strong resistance to regulation of function solely for architects and with the exclusion other design professions, one of which is the CIAT. Realistically regulation offunction will in time come to all professions engaged in theconstruction industry through the Building Safety Bill.
We will all be required to register with the Building SafetyRegulator if we wish to work on in-scope buildings and allprofessions’ will need to up their game and provide enhancedtraining. In the opinion of many in the design professions, thiswill in time, filter down to all projects because they all carryrisks in some form.
The question is, how will regulation of function be established and structured and how will it work in reality? I believethat Architects need to remain at the forefront of changes inconstruction procurement towards collaborative workingwhich is at the heart of Building Safety legislation. Thisincludes new regulated functions such as the PrincipalDesigner and the creating, co-ordination and delivering theGolden Thread of Information through BIM, roles which we asarchitects have held traditionally and are natural inheritors.