Carys Rowlands, the RIBA's Head of Professional Standards, explains key changes to the RIBA's new Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Practice.
RIBA members are the gold standard of the architecture profession – the best of the best – and the codes that members and practices abide by exist to ensure and protect the highest level of professionalism.
While the codes have been regularly amended, the new versions that will be implemented next month have undergone the most comprehensive and substantial update since 2005.
What’s changed since then? In brief: digital technology has transformed the way we live our lives; climate change has become an urgent worrying reality and countless social campaigns ranging from LGBT+ rights to gender equality have rightly hit the headlines. The architecture profession and the way we practice has also significantly transformed.
We started a review of our codes in 2017, to ensure our members could continue to differentiate themselves as practitioners who upheld the highest standards of ethical best practice. The review was wide ranging and in consultation with the RIBA’s own members, the Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission and other membership bodies within the built environment sector and beyond, to ensure that the new codes are relevant and strong.
The new codes now set a higher benchmark, well above the requirements of the Architects’ Registration Board (ARB). Requirements relating to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and employment practice have been strengthened: for example, all Chartered Members (not just Chartered Practices) must pay the Living Wage, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation, and should ensure that the hours worked by their employees are reasonable and allow for a healthy work-life balance.
New guidance has been added on topics such as the environment, health and safety and building performance to ensure RIBA members can be informed thought leaders and the go-to people in these fields of expertise.
The codes are deliberately more detailed and specific than previously and include more guidance for members so practitioners can use them as a resource when dealing with day-to-day questions and dilemmas.
The revised codes will do even more to protect the reputation of our members, to enable them to differentiate themselves to clients and to show their commitment to improving wider issues in the built environment. But as our Charter dictates, the RIBA also has a commitment to the public interest. The new codes reflect this and incorporate duties not only directly to the client, but also to the wider world and public interest. In terms of the disciplinary procedures, disputes will now be resolved on the basis of a different standard of proof the ‘balance of probabilities’. Complainants will also be able to take part in disciplinary hearings for the first time, increasing transparency between the profession and the public and ensuring a fair outcome.
All members of the RIBA commit themselves to delivering best practice – which is critical to their reputation and success – and the RIBA has a duty to ensure they are upholding the highest standards of professionalism. The new codes should not only be seen as a tool for enforcing standards, but also as a guide for the profession (and the public) on what’s to be expected of an RIBA architect – their role, remit, responsibilities and relevance.
The new Disciplinary Procedures are effective from 8 April 2019 and the Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Practice will be effective from 1 May 2019.
Any queries on these new documents should be sent to Professional.Standards@riba.org
The core Conduct Review Taskforce was comprised of:
- Bill Barton (Lay)
- Rachel Gwilliam (Lay)
- Darius Jenner Pullinger (Lay)
- Murray Armes (RIBA)
- Grant Elliott (RIBA)
- David Kann (RIBA)
- Roger Shrimplin (RIBA, Chair)
Thanks must also go, in particular, to: David Roberts of The Bartlett, for sharing his extensive research on Codes within the built environment sector; The Edge, particularly for their work on Collaboration for Change; and Simon Foxell for his support, feedback and most recent publication – Professionalism for the Built Environment.