ARB: Commitment and integrity crucial to public perceptions of architects

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) has published new research into public perceptions of professionalism among architects in the UK.

… The public want a highly trained profession with proven technical expertise…

ARB writes:

The research reveals that the public perceive architects to have high standards because of the extensive training required to join the profession, and that they want architects to demonstrate integrity, commitment and show empathy for those who will use the buildings and spaces they design.

As the regulator of architects in the UK, ARB sets the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of anyone who is registered as an architect. The study, conducted by the independent research agency Thinks Insight & Strategy, delves into the perceptions that small-scale clients and members of the public who use public spaces have of the architects’ profession, and the standards, behaviours and qualities they expect of architects.

Key findings from the research show that:

  • The public value high professional standards and believe architects have high standards because of extensive training requirements, and a perceived absence of bad news about the profession.
  • The public believe that having the right values – namely integrity, commitment and empathy – is crucial for professionalism amongst architects. So is having the right abilities, which is seen to be especially important in a sector requiring strong creative and scientific skills.
  • Safety is a ‘hygiene factor’ for the public, who expect architects to behave safely as the impact of unsafe behaviour can be catastrophic.
  • It matters to the public that architects are highly qualified with proven technical knowledge, that they have insurance in place in case things go wrong, and that a Code of Conduct sets out how they must behave.
  • 89% of the public agree that architects have a responsibility to make sure buildings are designed safely e.g. with fire safety materials.
  • 89% think that architects should have guidelines in place to make buildings as safe as possible.
  • 88% think it is important for architects to show integrity and honesty, including with contracts, disputes and client money.

Alan Kershaw, Chair of the Architects Registration Board, said: “This research offers an invaluable insight into what the public expects of architects. The public want a highly trained profession with proven technical expertise, which is why the Register is such a useful public resource. Anyone working with a Registered architect can be reassured that they’re appropriately qualified, have insurance in case things go wrong, and that there’s a Code of Conduct and Practice to which they adhere.”

The research is being used to inform a review of the ARB Code of Conduct and Practice for architects. The most recent edition of the Code was published in 2017, and ARB is now seeking to revise and update it so that it remains fit for purpose, reflects the expectations that members of the public have of architects, and focuses on positive professional practice. ARB is hosting workshops with architects to discuss the research and develop a new Code.

The research focused on expectations. The research did not investigate concerns nor seek to determine whether architects meet expectations.

ARB is currently planning to publish an updated Code for consultation later in 2024.

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