Definition of an Architect

Before a person can be called an architect he or she will have completed a seven-year course in the design, specification and erection of buildings and passed the professional practice examination which is the final stage of an architect training.

This permits entry to the list of UK Architects held by the Architects' Registration Board (ARB), and use of the title 'architect'. Thereafter, application can be made to one or both of the chartered professional bodies listed below which entitle members to use the term 'chartered architect' and the following initials: RIAS / FRIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland), RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects). An architect may also use the initials RSUA (Royal Society of Ulster Architects) or RSAW (Royal Society of Architects in Wales).

A chartered architect is obliged to uphold the reputation of the architectural profession and fellow professionals; to carry out work on behalf of clients honourably, independently and efficiently; and to declare any interest which might conflict with their status as an independent consultant architect. Please note that the use of the title 'architect' is protected actively under the Architects' Act 1997 by ARB. If you are in any doubt whether your advisor is a chartered architect member of the RIAS or RIBA contact the RIAS membership department. t: 0131 229 7545.

The RIAS Clients Advisory Service will help you find the right architect for your project. Search our online directory of architects to find a practice with the skills you require and use the links to practices' websites to see the sort of work they undertake.

Finding an Architect

You should select your chartered architect with care, perhaps interviewing more than one, to discuss the project in relation to their experience and capacity to take it on. This will provide you with the opportunity to look at their work. Try to match the scale of the project with the resources of the practice. You should establish that you and your chartered architect are compatible and share a common approach to your project. Time spent at this stage is never wasted.


It is important that you and your chartered architect communicate with one another throughout the project. You should keep them informed about any matters affecting the brief, the budget and site acquisition. Similarly, your chartered architect should keep you informed on progress and costs by means of regular reports throughout the design and construction stages.

Both you and your chartered architect should be careful to commit yourselves to do only what lies within your skill, power and authority. For example, a chartered architect cannot guarantee to obtain planning permission, but can, and normally does, make the appropriate application.

Architect/Client Relationship

Successful projects are those which proceed in an atmosphere of understanding and mutual trust. You and your chartered architect must understand one another's roles and responsibilities. The foundation of that understanding are the RIAS and RIBA appointment documents, available from the RIAS Bookshop with the guidance and related documents ( We recommend that a single person should be appointed by the client with authority to make decisions.

At the outset all chartered architects must agree in writing the terms of their appointment, services and their fees. The standard conditions are designed to assist in recording agreement.

Health and Safety

The Construction Design & Management (CDM) regulations 2015 came into force on 6th April 2015. As a client you are very likely to have to appoint a Principal Designer to co-ordinate a health and safety plan for the project and to ensure that you are provided with a health and safety file at its conclusion. Chartered architects are some of the most able to take on this role, which should be subject to a distinct agreement. Your chartered architect can advise you further.