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CPD: mandatory topic guidance

We have published a set of competence guidelines (see below) which set out areas in which architects are expected to be competent when carrying out architectural work. Competence develops over time and an architect may work ‘competently’ at many different levels at different stages of their career.

Everyone’s professional development needs are different; what you may need to be competent in this area of practice will be unique to you. These guidelines have been designed so that anyone can use them to guide their development regardless of their level of experience or role.

Review the guidelines and assess yourself against them. You should find that you have a strong or good understanding in some areas while in others you feel you need more understanding. Once you have identified which areas you need to develop in, review your work projects for the year and see if there are any identified development areas that you will need for your work. These are the areas you should start you CPD in.

Prioritise the remaining areas into an order to work through them. You do not have to achieve development in all your identified areas in one year, you can spread it over however long you want.

You should aim to keep participating in CPD activities related to this topic until you feel you have reached the right level of competency for your role across all relevant areas of these topics. Once you have achieved competency in all areas of this topic, you should remember to review and update your understanding on a regular basis.


It is a requirement of registration that you carry out CPD in relation to both mandatory topics. What that CPD will consist of will be different for each architect, depending on your experience and the nature of the architectural work you undertake.

There are two mandatory topics for 2024 – Environmental Sustainability and Fire and Life Safety

Environmental sustainability

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. Humanity is facing a climate emergency which requires urgent action. Architects should consider the wider impact of their work, advising their clients how best to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment and its natural resources. In order to be able to do that effectively, it is important that they maintain and enhance their competence in respect of environmental sustainability through further training and development.

Learning resources

The resources available that contribute to keeping current in this area of practice are constantly changing.  Professional and commercial organisations provide targeted, structured training and CPD events. Architects should keep up to date with changes in legislation, professional and statutory duties by reference to relevant online resources from professional and statutory bodies. We do not recommend any particular learning route or resource, but you can find further information on educational tools and resources on our website here.

A. Ethics and professionalism

You should:

SA1.       Understand the principles of climate science so that you are able to make informed and responsible decisions with regards to actions and inaction that may affect this issue

SA2.       Understand the impact that resilience, mitigation and adaptation of the built environment can have on climate change, and do everything within your remit to minimise the negative impact your practice has on the environment

SA3.       Advocate for sustainable or regenerative design solutions and ethical sourcing throughout the life-cycle of each project

SA4.       Maintain your knowledge of the key legislation, regulations and policies in respect of the climate and ecological crisis

SA5.       Share building performance data to raise industry awareness and encourage the growth of a zero-carbon culture

B. Sustainable design principles

You should:

SB1.       Understand the relationships between buildings, settlements, communities and a changing climate, and be able to design low and zero carbon buildings

SB2.       Understand social sustainability and social value as tools to measure the impact of development upon communities

SB3.       Be able to design to preserve, integrate and enhance natural habitats which encourage biodiversity and support access to green infrastructure space for communities

SB4.       Be able to apply the design principles of:

  • Retrofit First
  • Fabric First and thermal/energy efficiency
  • Passive Design
  • Daylighting
  • Appropriate renewable technologies
  • Life Cycle Assessment and Costing
  • Whole Life Carbon & Low embodied carbon design
  • Water cycle, demand, supply and reduction
C. Environmental and building physics

You should:

SC1.       Understand the environmental science relating to temperature, humidity, sound and lighting

SC2.       Understand the principles of human comfort and indoor air quality in relation to energy use

SC3.       Be able to calculate predicted operational and embodied energy use and carbon emissions

SC4.       Be able to carry out Post Occupancy Evaluations / Building Performance Evaluations to understand performance and inform future projects

D. Construction technology

You should:

SD1.       Understand the embodied carbon and resource implications of different methods of construction and performance of building materials

SD2.       Be able to produce adequate detailed designs to allow for airtightness and thermal integrity

SD3.       Understand the performance of major energy demanding building technologies (ventilation, heating, cooling, hot water and lighting), and the use of onsite renewable energy generation or further offsetting to achieve decarbonisation.

SD4.       Understand and be able to apply circular economy principles to the design life-cycle of each project

Fire and life safety

Fire and life safety design is of central importance to the services architects provide.  Clients and users are entitled to expect that all architects will have the competence to prepare and execute designs that will maintain their safety and wellbeing, regardless of the type or scale of the project. Designing for fire and life safety includes understanding and managing the risks involved, regardless of scale and use, and managing these competently.

Learning resources

There have been significant legal and professional developments in this area of architectural practice, and it is important that you continue to maintain knowledge of current practice. For architects practising in England the passing of the Building Safety Act has introduced significant new responsibilities and legal duties on all those carrying out designs on a building.

While informal learning may therefore be useful, most architects will need to undertake more formal training to ensure that they understand their responsibilities in respect of fire and life safety design.

ARB has established a CPD resource hub that you may want to visit.


A. Ethics and professionalism

You should:

FA1.       Understand that ensuring the health and safety of building constructors, users and the public outweighs any other obligations you may have

FA2.        Acknowledge the limits of your competence and only ever practice within those limits, unless under appropriate supervision or with suitable expert assistance

FA3.       Challenge the behaviour of others and draw attention to dangers where they may put the health and safety of others at risk

B. Managing risk

You should:

FB1.       Understand the principles of risk management methodology and be able to apply health and safety to the holistic design processes

FB2.       Maintain an awareness & understanding of the key elements of relevant regulations and secondary legislation relating to health and safety including fire and structural safety

FB3.       Understand how to design in accordance with Building Regulations, Approved Documents and CDM Regulations and other relevant safety legislation

FB4.       Understand construction and site hazards in the context of personal access, construction activities and design risk management

FB5.       Understand the role of an architect, and what fire and life safety information must be provided by the design-team to contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, managers and users

FB6.       Where appropriate, review and co-ordinate the designs of other members of the design team and ensure that they have understood what further information is required, if any

FB7.       Where appropriate seek expert advice on matters outside your own competence, and keep others informed of it

C. Fire and life safety design

You should:

FC1.       Understand the principles of fire and smoke generation and their spread

FC2.       Be able to design, detail and specify in a way that protects users of buildings and the public from fire and the spread of smoke.

FC3.       Be able to design buildings with appropriately safe means of escape

FC4.       Be able to design appropriate access to buildings and facilities for emergency services

FC5.       Understand the qualities of the products you specify in respect of fire performance, and record how they will perform as part of a construction system

FC6.       Be able to design to protect building users from hazards and risks during construction, use and maintenance