Getting better – ADC

A new era of CPD began this year following a major shake-up of requirements, compliance and enforcement by the ARB and RIBA. Architecture Today’s Technical Editor John Ramshaw reports on the changes that have been made and how these are impacting architectural practices.


tp bennett’s Re-gen panel speaking initiative is part of a year-long initiative with Greengage Sustainability consultants to upskill staff in both sustainability and public speaking. The participants from both tp bennett and Greengage benefit from the research into particular sustainability topics, in this instance the circular economy, and also the experience of speaking on a panel about their research.

Continuing professional development for architects has become more onerous and prescriptive following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the subsequent introduction of the Building Safety Act (2022). This is also due, in part, to a comprehensive overhaul of CPD requirements from both the ARB and RIBA, which is altering how architects and the practices they work for approach this important aspect of professional life. So what’s changed? How can practitioners ensure compliance with the new guidelines? How will these be enforced? And how are practices, such as Feilden Fowles, tp bennett and White Red Architects, adjusting to the new era of architectural CPD, and are they on course to fulfil their obligations?

Defining CPD for architects

According to the ARB, CPD is ‘a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that will help a professional maintain and improve the knowledge, skills, and behaviours they need to carry out their work.’ The organisation says that this can be obtained through both formal and informal events, and covers a wide range of formats, including training workshops, e-learning programmes, idea sharing, conferences, events and seminars.

ARB aims and requirements

Launched in January this year, the ARB’s new CPD scheme is designed to be flexible and accessible with a focus on activities and outcomes. The latter is particularly important, with architects expected to record and reflect on their CPD activities on the ARB or RIBA’s platform. This includes the date of the activity, CPD topic, activity type, what they learned, how the learning outcomes are being applied to their practice, and next steps to further development needs.

The ARB recommends architects create a personal development plan (PDP), identifying how they want to develop their knowledge and in which areas, although this is not compulsory.  There is no minimum requirement for the number of CPD activities that must be completed, but it does suggest architects complete at least eight per year. Mandatory topics for 2024 are limited to environmental sustainability, and fire and life safety. The organisation says that it will annually review whether mandatory topics will be set for the following year, and if it does set one or more topics good notice will be given, along with published guidance on the competencies expected. In order to renew registration, an architect must confirm that they have carried out their CPD.


White Red Architects has a Pecha Kucha-style slot every Monday morning where staff share learnings from lectures, CPDs , and other related events. 

RIBA aims and requirements

Coinciding with the ARB’s updated CPD requirements, the RIBA changed and simplified its rules in January, removing the requirement for members to allot points or leaning levels to their CPD activities and introducing tougher compliance. The intention is to ‘ensure and demonstrate that RIBA members meet the highest professional standards and are equipped with expertise in crucial areas, such as building and fire safety, climate literacy, legal and regulatory compliance, and inclusive design’.

CPD can come from any source, including other professional bodies, although members are encouraged to consider the comprehensive range of existing RIBA CPD offerings. In common with the ARB, architects are required to record their activities, with a brief reflective statement on what they gained from each CPD uploaded to the RIBA online CPD tool.

For 2024, RIBA members are required to complete a minimum of 35 hours of relevant learning – equating to 45 minutes a week – with at least 20 hours spent on ten mandatory RIBA core curriculum CPD topics (two hours per topic). Furthermore, 50 per cent of members’ CPD should be structured, where possible, making use of face-to-face or online courses, rather than informal individual learning.

The comprehensive list of mandatory topics comprises: architecture for social purposes; health, safety and wellbeing; business, clients and services; legal, regulatory and statutory compliance; procurement and contracts; sustainable architecture; inclusive environments; places, planning and communities; building conservation and heritage; and design construction and technology. The RIBA says that that the CPD chosen by members (as long as it’s within the organisation’s mandatory requirements) ‘should be tailored to their own needs or those of their practice or business, and should reflect the statutory and regulatory situation where they practice’. The ARB has indicated that it will accept RIBA CPD records, avoiding issues of duplication.

Compliance and enforcement

As a result of the Hackitt inquiry and ensuing legislative changes, the ARB now has the authority to assess architects’ competence. As such, it will audit a percentage of architects’ CPD records for quality assurance and compliance each year. Temporary exemptions may be granted to architects who cannot complete the required CPD, while architects who have not met the necessary standards will have the opportunity to take corrective steps before being removed from the Register of Architects.

Meanwhile, the RIBA will resume auditing members’ CPD records, ensuring that each one is up to date, rather than sampling records randomly as done previously. Non-compliance under the new auditing system will result in sanctions, with members that fail to respond to RIBA requests, reminders and subsequent warnings, facing suspension and eventual expulsion. A new system of exemptions will be introduced for members who are on parental or adoption leave or are away from practice due to long-term illness or caregiving responsibilities. Upon returning to practice, members will need to complete new return-to-practice CPD modules currently under development.


The architects’ perspective

With the second half of the year already underway, we asked architects from three practices of different sizes and ages how the new CPD requirements were impacting the way they invest in and undertake professional learning and development, and if they were on course to meet the legislation.

What systems (if any) has your practice put in place to ensure staff meet their CPD obligations?

Lizi Cushen, Associate Director at White Red Architects A few of our team collaborate on sourcing appropriate and engaging CPDs, which our practice assistant leads and schedules fortnightly. These focus on delivering a menu of options across the RIBA core syllabus and we keep record of attendance. In addition, there is a lively slack channel where our team share forthcoming lectures/CPD/events that they often attend together. We have a Pecha Kucha-style slot every Monday morning where staff share learnings from these, project-specific innovation or lessons learned. We also provide a £200/year bursary to all staff in the practice, specifically so that they can identify their own interests and passions affiliated with our profession; self-initiating access to new literature, training and classes. This is monitored via approval of expenses by our practice manager.

Ingrid Petit, Associate at Feilden Fowles We use our online project and resourcing platform, CMAP, where all employees can log their CPD hours and outline the learning outcomes. This is reviewed annually as part of our ISO 9001 quality management audits. Team members are also encouraged to create Personal Development Plans (PDPs) during their annual reviews. This helps identify individual training needs and ensures they are scheduled accordingly. Both measures were in place prior to the new CPD requirements.

Vicki Odili, Director of Sustainability at tp bennett Key team members coordinate our CPD events across a wide range of topics. Since the launch of the new RIBA CPD requirements, we have also created an internal online portal ‘TPB Academy’ that enables our staff to easily record training hours and learnings against the ten RIBA CPD topics and the mandatory ARB topics – Environmental Sustainability and Fire and Life Safety.


What has been the impact of the new CPD requirements in terms of resourcing, time allocation, and monitoring so far?

Lizi Cushen
As we have a young team, it has always been a key element of the practice ethos to implement collective training and CPD in order to mentor their professional development and support enthusiasm to learn. A notable demand on resources this year and last has been gaining comprehensive understanding of the Building Safety Act and coordinating the structure required to support it. For example, developing a robust system to satisfy ourselves that we are in a position to offer appropriate Principal Designer services. This process has provided resilience to the atrophy of responsibility (and associated fee) our profession has suffered from in recent decades, which is positive.

Ingrid Petit We typically schedule CPD sessions during lunch hours to avoid disrupting projects and resourcing. Previously, our CPD program was more ad-hoc, with scheduling responsibilities shared across the team. The new CPD requirements have however led one team member to take greater responsibility for scheduling these sessions.

Vicki Odili We have established a team of ‘CPD Champions’ who are responsible for organising training against the ten mandatory RIBA Core Curriculum CPD topics throughout the year. These include external events that we advertise internally, or in most cases, internal talks that are hosted as hybrid events (online and in person) for our studios in London, Leeds and Manchester. The overarching calendar of events is co-ordinated by our People and Culture team to ensure a balance of topics and speakers.

Are you and your staff on course to meet your 2024 CPD obligations?

Lizi Cushen Yes.

Ingrid Petit We are confident that we will meet our CPD requirements by the end of the year.

Vicki Odili Monitoring CPD credits is reviewed by team leaders as part of their regular 1-2-1’s and development appraisals with their respective teams. Some adjustment to a new system is inevitable and we review feedback to ensure ease of use.

Do you have any concerns going forwards?

Lizi Cushen Perpetual learning within our profession is not just a necessity but a source of inspiration and opportunity for innovation. The risk in mandating topics is that practices may focus solely on compliance, in the meantime losing sight of values inherent to their own business that should be reinforced, or failing to recognise knowledge gaps or prejudices within their organisational structure. I also think it’s key to keep joy and playfulness in the pursuit of knowledge building, rather than doggedly logging hours. Our profession is so expansive, in terms of the services offered and the intersectionality of whom we work with, our learning (both sources of and agenda) should also reflect that.

Ingrid Petit Our main concern is consistently scheduling CPD activities that remain relevant and engaging for the team. While the RIBA CPD website is a good resource for material, finding the right provider and format can be time-consuming. We aim to maintain motivation and support across the team.

Vicki Odili We share a comprehensive internal CPD training calendar on our staff intranet with a monthly calendar highlighting the range of sustainability events and training on offer, internally and externally. Although easy to access, it does require regular check-ins to the site to ensure staff remain fully up to date with the range of opportunities available to them.

Have changes to CPD requirements/curriculum affected the type of CPD and subject matter being chosen?

Lizi Cushen I don’t feel the requirements have altered it, but the shift in legislative responsibilities have focussed us more specifically on ensuring that technical compliance is robust. We have been mindful to not make it a limiting factor to other tangents of development though.

Ingrid Petit We have recently emphasised areas such as fire safety and health and safety to ensure we have the right training to undertake the new Building Safety Act duty holder role. Alongside this, we have maintained a focus on sustainability and new, low-carbon materials.

Vicki Odili The changes and guidance have meant we have become more focussed on the training topics we provide, enabling us to share the expertise load across the practice. We have responded to requests from within the practice to provide public speaking training and over the last year have collaborated with Greengage Sustainability Consultants to host an initiative called ‘Regen’ which provides opportunities for team members to speak on ‘practice’ panels in a safe environment across several evening events.


What new types of CPD and learning are you investing in, and what’s stood out so far in terms of useful content and from whom?

Lizi Cushen We have been undertaking the RIBA Principal Designer training, which has been clearly structured and the associated documents slides are a benefit consistently. Tapping into the amazing wealth of experience available through the ATLG forums has also been hugely beneficial for me personally these past few months.

We have recently undertaken a practice-wide training session with Keir at Arka.Works. It was four hours of passionately delivered AI fundamentals which have directly benefited our pitch-building process and lit a fire in terms of some of our teams’ aptitude using Midjourney. We look forward to further collaboration in the future.

We invited Laura Knight to delve into the curriculum and working methodologies used on the Central Saint Martins MA in Communicating Complexity that she leads. What I took away was an emerging understanding of the opportunities that multi-level perspective – an approach that explores transitions, disruptions, and innovations within complex systems – could offer Architects. We need better, clearer visual communication systems to advocate sometimes complex Retrofit, Circular design and Zero Carbon options to our clients and end users. This wasn’t an off-the-shelf CPD, but it aligned with our own values and inquisitiveness as a practice and we were very fortunate Laura was generous with her time to undertake it.

Ingrid Petit We are currently mainly undertaking virtual CPDs and lunch learning sessions with industry experts. We are still exploring the best formats for these sessions.

Vicki Odili We have placed a large emphasis on the two mandatory topics from the ARB: environmental sustainability and fire and life safety. We appreciate the weight given to these topics, as a clear response to the Climate Crisis from the built environment is essential for the future of all human life.

For some time, we have held internal ‘tpb bytes’ lunch and learn sessions which provide an invaluable forum for teams to share case studies and their latest sustainability learnings applied in practice. We have also received some excellent external sustainability training delivered by consultants including Eight Versa and Greengage. Webinars offered by The Green Register and the Passivhaus Trust are also great resources for anyone looking for easy access to a wealth of sustainability knowledge.

Do you think that the new measures surrounding CPD are good for the practice and the profession as a whole?

Lizi Cushen The new measures surrounding CPD are undoubtedly beneficial for both practice and the profession as a whole.

Ingrid Petit The new measures are positive as they promote continuous learning and professional development. However, it is important for the requirements to remain flexible enough to accommodate diverse practice needs and scales. It would also be beneficial for the ARB and RIBA to provide more specific training around key regulatory changes.

Vicki Odili Yes, the guidance and clarity provided is a welcome step-change. The emphasis that the ARB has placed on environmental sustainability alongside fire and life safety may come as a wakeup call for some, but highlights the pressing need for designers to consistently upskill to appropriately respond to the crisis we are facing.

Source: Architecture Today