RSUA has responded to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s consultation on the new Architects Act which seeks views on amendments to the Architects Act 1997 following the Building Safety Bill as published in draft on 20 July 2020, together with new measures for the recognition of international architects.
RSUA responded to a series of questions relating to how ARB might monitor competence, how to handle the listing of disciplinary action, the chargeable services of ARB, and the recognition of international architects. RSUA believes that allowing ARB to set and assess competence requirements would have a moderate impact in promoting best practice among architects, as most architects in Northern Ireland are already RSUA members which requires over 20 hours per annum of ongoing continuous professional development. RSUA recognises that this proposal would have greater impact non-chartered architects who are not members of a professional body. In terms of the creation of a new appeals process to consider decisions made by ARB in respect of competence, RSUA supports an independent committee within ARB as opposed to an additional external body.
RSUA supports the proposal to display disciplinary orders against the name of a registered architect as this would help consumers and inexperienced clients make informed decisions as to their choice of architect and therefore better protect the public. However, RSUA does not believe that it would necessarily promote public confidence in the profession as such a display is not tied with protection of function. Inexperienced members of the public could see architects with disciplinary orders and compare those with non architects who have no such controls – and may therefore be at risk of concluding that using a non architect is a better route than a register that appears to have people on it who have had sanctions against them.
With respect to the fees that ARB can charge for its services, RSUA feels that services which are chargeable should be set out in secondary legislation rather than being set by the Board of ARB. RSUA believes it is proportionate that charges could be made to individuals holding international qualifications who wish to register in the UK and for the prescription of qualifications provided by international schools of architecture. Where reciprocal agreements exist – for example between ARB and RIAI – then it may be appropriate to have an exemption from the standard international fee for, in this case, schools of architecture based in the Republic of Ireland. In determining which individuals or institutions are liable for the payment of ARB fees, however, RSUA feels that ARB should consult with the sector.
In order to support the flow of architects internationally into the UK, RSUA strongly supports the government’s preferred policy option, “Option 1” which would afford ARB discretion to recognise international qualifications it deems equivalent to UK standards and also to require compensation measures to address any gaps and ensure all individuals registering under this process are held to equivalent standards. Such a system would allow practices to refer to ARB recognition as demonstration of a minimum standard, thus taking the ‘guess’ work out of assessing qualifications for staff from different overseas locations.
The RSUA response was led by Joan McCoy, Grace Wilson, and Jim Armstrong and it can be viewed in full here. RSUA extends its thanks to members who provided feedback which guided the submission.