Industry sector:

Architect: Legal matters


The following is likely to be relevant to anyone offering architectural services. The list is not exhaustive.

Professional regulation (Architects Act 1997)

The activities of registered architects are regulated by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and architects must comply with the ARB Code of Conduct and Practice; failure to do so may result in removal from the register. Only those registered with the ARB may use the title 'architect'.

While it is not compulsory, many registered architects are members of a professional body such as the RIBA and/or the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland bodies (RIAS, RSAW and RSUA respectively). This entitles members to use the title 'chartered architect' and requires them to abide by a Code of Conduct.

Architectural technologists may apply for membership of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) provided they have obtained recognised qualifications and satisfy the entry requirements. All members must abide by the CIAT Code of Conduct; disciplinary procedures exist for infringements of the Code.

Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Regulations

These Regulations place an obligation on the architect or architectural technologist to consider and explain to the client the health and safety issues which will arise during the construction of their design and, once it is completed, in its maintenance. The client must be aware of his or her obligation to appoint a principal designer whose duties include managing and co-ordinating health and safety during the pre-construction phase of a project, and working with the principal contractor to manage ongoing health and safety risks. If you agree to act as principal designer you should draw up a separate agreement to cover this. You can download helpful Construction Information Sheets about the Regulations from the Health and Safety Executive website.

Building and planning legislation

You must have a working knowledge of the building regulations in force and of the planning legislation that controls the development of all land and buildings in the UK.

Employment matters

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation which you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations

The employing people section of the Gov.uk website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Health and safety

The Health and Safety at Work Act and the numerous regulations made under it cover all aspects of health and safety at all business premises. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees. Those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement.

Note that the Work at Height Regulations cover all work done at height where there is a risk of falling that could cause personal injury. The Regulations place very specific duties on both employers and self-employed workers to make sure that all necessary safety precautions are taken when people are working at or above a certain height. More information is available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the HSE website and from your local authority environmental health department.

Fire safety

All employers must comply with fire safety regulations - this means carrying out a fire risk assessment at your premises and putting in place fire precaution measures. These could include fire alarm systems and extinguishers as well as clearly signed escape routes. If you have five or more employees your fire risk assessment must be written down. You're responsible not only for the safety of your staff but also of anyone who might be on your premises, like customers or suppliers. The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced several helpful guides for businesses. You can download these from the Gov.uk website. Information about fire regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website.