The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announces competence tests for architects as part of architectural education and professional development in the UK. The new law has been aroused in response to the growing concern about the climate challenges the world is facing. The institute has published a 12-page document, The Way Ahead, which outlines the proposed changes which will affect all architects, not just RIBA members. The document introduces four mandatory competences architects will have to be tested on for every five years to retain their right for RIBA accreditation. The testing will be commenced online on the institute’s RIBA Academy platform for members who look to continue being charted in 2022. 

RIBA set to introduce mandatory competency tests for architects as part of "once in a generation" reform - Sheet1
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RIBA certified architectural education is regarded as a highly successful model creating generations of globally-renowned architects and architecture practitioners and professionals. However, the Grenfell tragedy and the collapse of other high-profile buildings, and now emerge of the post-pandemic environment, have put the regulatory framework of the construction industry and architecture profession firmly under the spotlight. Therefore, RIBA has prepared new guidelines setting out the knowledge, skills, and experience expected of architects specifically in fire and life-safety design matters. 

From RIBA president Alan Jones, the testing is being introduced to create public confidence in the architecture profession following the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, which killed 72 people. According to him, the future chartered architects and those who have already achieved chartered status must step forward showing leadership, accepting responsibility, and demonstrating competence to respond to the immediate challenges our world, society, and industry is facing, and, to rebuild public confidence in the capability of chartered architects to deliver building and structures that perform to the standard that building users, clients, and society entrust. 

The RIBA Education and Professional Development framework emphasizes the areas that impact on the quality and performance of the built environment, on health and life safety, as well as technical and business skills and ethical practice as key components of architectural education. The new framework sets a standard of education and practice that will shape the future professional role of the architect. 

The first mandatory competence which is the health and safety knowledge, including fire safety, will be introduced to architects expected to pass a test demonstrating their competence. Responding to the climate emergency, climate literacy is likely to be the second competence. It is anticipated that the climate literacy needed to enable the RIBA 2030 climate challenge which calls chartered architect members to meet net-zero carbon in the building they design by 2030 will follow the second mandatory competence. Ethics and Social Purpose is to be the third mandatory competence and ‘Research Literacy’ is likely to be the final mandatory competence. The first test is the crucial stage to be passed before other competencies are introduced. 

The new Educational and professional Development Framework developed by RIBA is based on six key components:

  1. A single standard covering pre and post-registration education and professional development 
  2. Education Themes and Values (RIBA part 1) for undergraduate and (RIBA part 2) for postgraduate study
  3. Mandatory Competencies for attaining and maintaining the chartered status
  4. Career Role Levels
  5. The RIBA Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Core Curriculum
  6. Advanced Study leading to specialism and RIBA specialist accreditation

RIBA Educational and Professional Development Framework

RIBA set to introduce mandatory competency tests for architects as part of "once in a generation" reform - Sheet2
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The framework also proposes five ‘Career Role Levels’ and also creates pathways to the specialization that architects can ultimately follow a variety of different career routes. The Career Role Levels will provide practical training, from students, associate members, and the CPD, on to which advanced study and specialist accreditation can be mapped. The framework also outlines the RIBA CPD Core Curriculum, which is an effective and widely adopted means of maintaining and demonstrating professional competence. The new RIBA Education and Professional Development framework goes a step further by the formalization of advanced specialism such as urban designers, sustainability and access consultants, and principal designers. 

From the response of architects on social media, some assumed RIBA’s new framework will not be particularly helpful for small practices and could make the industry less diverse. They suggested the fees in total, will go up and clients will go to non-architects to build buildings on a reasonable budget. However, others refuted this claim and RIBA’s proposals, together with its plans for mandatory testing were defended by several other architects including RIBA former president Ben Derbyshire, who leads London Studio HTA Design. “RIBA members are already required to comply with mandatory online CPD recording. Testing of a small, critical part of the curriculum adds no additional burden and reassures the public as to competence in the profession,” says Derbyshire. 

Author

Tasmania Chowdhury, an architecture graduate, is currently engaged as a feature writer in the leading architecture magazine in Bangladesh. To her, architecture exists as an emotional platform. It has the potential to make people move. She enjoys putting down this emotive tool in writing while enjoying a cup of latte and plugging to ‘Rabindra Sangeet’.

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