Explaining the Roles and Responsibilites of an Architect

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What is an architect?

A picture speaks a thousand words, and before a building is constructed or converted it is an architect’s job to transform the words of a specification into a design. They may do this themselves or work alongside an architectural technologist or technician. These individuals have highly specialised skills and are also comprehensively trained.

What do they do?

An architect is involved in the planning and drawing of this design, as well as overseeing its construction. This involves taking into consideration not only environmental and economic needs, but also the concerns of the construction team, which include materials and safety. The design has to be functional, thus an architect needs to have knowledge of the builder’s requirements, such as which planning and building codes the construction must abide by. Ultimately the employer wants a design that is going to be most economically effective for them, giving the architect a further task to draw upon their knowledge to meet these requirements. Quite a feat to take on.

Who exactly can be called an 'architect'?

The title of architect is solely reserved for people who have taken the correct exams and have the appropriate experience to be on the national register of architects. This is held by a government organisation - the Architects Registration Board.

Where should I look? What should I be looking for?

All architects must be registered with the Architects Registration Board. To check for registered architects, see the website. Many architects are also members of RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects); however this membership is not obligatory. All its members have to follow the institute’s code of professional conduct, which includes having to own PI (Professional Indemnity) insurance, which provides cover in case the architect makes a mistake or gives unsound guidance. This is a legal requirement for all architects, and thus the safety net this provides when using a registered architect is removed when, for example, an unqualified individual is used. There are some out there who provide architectural services without insurance or any form of formal training.