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Guidance for education institutions on Fire and life safety design and Sustainability

A Consultation

Architects have told us that safety and sustainability have become more important in their work in the last five years. ARB must ensure everyone admitted to the Register has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to practise as an architect. We therefore set criteria and processes for schools of architecture, so that we can recognise their qualifications and their students can qualify as architects.

We are consulting you on new guidance on those criteria. The guidance will be issued to institutions to help to ensure that architecture students are well trained to be able to design safe and sustainable buildings and environments.

Please complete our consultation by midday on Friday 23 April 2021 by clicking here. 

Before you complete our consultation, please read the information below and take a look at the draft guidance document, which can be accessed at the bottom of this page.

Why has ARB drafted new guidance for institutions teaching architecture?

Architects play a crucial role in our society. The buildings and environments they design have to last for decades, if not centuries. 

ARB is the professional regulator of architects. We maintain a Register to protect the public, so that anyone using an architect’s services, or a building designed by an architect, can be reassured that the design has been developed by an appropriate expert. ARB must ensure everyone admitted to the Register has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to practise as an architect. This means ARB must prescribe the qualifications and practical experience that an architect must have. ARB sets criteria and processes for schools of architecture, so that we can recognise their qualifications and their students can qualify as architects.

As new generations of architects study and start to practice, they need to be skilled in addressing new social and environmental challenges and opportunities. In August 2020, ARB surveyed over 4,400 architects – that’s around 10% of all architects working in the UK. When asked about the issues that had become more important to their job in the last five years, the two most common issues raised by architects were safety and sustainability:

  • The management of health and safety risks, including fire safety, was raised by 96% of respondents as being more or much more important;
  • The climate emergency and sustainability was raised by 88%.

These results can’t be a surprise. Following the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, architects and other built environment professionals are increasingly aware of the importance of their work and the need to ensure buildings are safe for people to live, sleep and work in. The long-term effects of human intervention in the Earth’s climate must be addressed urgently. Architects have a significant role to play in addressing the challenges. Through robust sustainable practice, architects are in a position to reduce the effects of climate change in the built environment by conserving natural resources, designing for adaptation and mitigation and minimising carbon emissions. These issues are crucial to the role architects play in society, but they also go far beyond the role of architects. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is developing new laws and policies to ensure that all the relevant built environment professionals understand their own responsibilities. This includes architects, and also contractors, builders, and planners, amongst others. 

What does the new guidance do?

With architects telling us that these issues are becoming more important in their work, ARB has a responsibility to ensure that institutions teaching qualifications in architecture are preparing architects of the future to be ready to face these increasingly important challenges. 

The Criteria by which ARB recognises qualifications in architecture are already set, but this guidance provides additional clarity on the elements of fire and life safety design and sustainability which we expect qualifications to cover. Every year ARB monitors institutions offering ARB-recognised qualifications. This new guidance we’re proposing to introduce will be shared with institutions, so that they know what ARB will be looking for when we monitor them. We are not proposing to change the criteria institutions need to meet. Rather, each guidance document includes supporting detail about how institutions can continue to meet the criteria whilst addressing the issues architects have highlighted as increasing in importance.

There are two separate guidance documents that we have drafted:

  • Guidance for Institutions on Fire & Life Safety Design. This guidance specifies that qualifications must address ethics and professionalism, managing risk, and fire and life safety design. 
  • Guidance for Institutions on Sustainability. This guidance specifies that qualifications must address ethics and professionalism, sustainable design principles, environmental and building physics, and construction technology.

You can read the draft guidance we’re proposing to issue to institutions at the bottom of this page.

Why are we consulting on it?

ARB has developed this guidance with detailed input from subject matter experts and the professional bodies in response to feedback from the profession and the public about issues that are becoming increasingly important. We have also had feedback from the Standing Conference of Heads of Schools of Architecture (SCHOSA) to help us understand better the impact of the guidance on institutions and any practical implications. We would now like to receive feedback from anyone with an interest in the subject matter, particularly individual institutions, before the Board formally approves the guidance. It is important that institutions offering ARB-recognised qualifications have an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft guidance, both on the detail within the guidance documents, but also the impact the guidance will have on the ways in which architecture qualifications are taught.

Whilst the guidance directly applies to institutions, it relates to issues that are crucial to the built environment sector at large, and of course to society. We are therefore running a fully transparent public consultation, and invite responses from anyone who is interested. 

What happens next?

The consultation will close on Friday 23 April 2021. Responses will be analysed and we will review the guidance in light of the feedback we have received. We will publish a full report on the consultation once the analysis has been concluded.

Once the consultation has closed, the ARB Board will consider the consultation report and any proposed changes to the guidance. When the guidance is approved for publication by the Board, we will provide advice on implementation, working closely with institutions and other key interest groups.

The proposed guidance forms part of a thorough review ARB is undertaking to determine the competencies architects need to develop, and how ARB can be assured that architects have them. This review will continue through 2021; more information can be found here.

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