Architects' as Employers + Employees

Image credit: Human Capital Institute

Image credit: Human Capital Institute

Architects as Employees and Employers

In running an architectural practice, an architect will typically have to employ others to assist with delivering the services promised to clients. This element of work is quite generic to the world of business and will cover some of the following points:

  • Resourcing and Recruitment – knowing when to seek to employ more personnel and identify the skillsets, experience, qualifications required.

  • Office Management, Health + Safety, Insurance

  • Public Relations/Marketing/Advertising

  • Financial Management

  • Direction and Leadership for the practice 

Its worth noting, having obtained the desired personnel, the challenge exists to retain them, develop them and motivate them through good leadership and career direction. This may come through Mentoring, coaching and performance reviews.

As aspiring or qualified architects, there are many routes to finding employment in the industry. As large as the construction industry is, you’ll also probably appreciate it is quite tight-knit as well. Personnel recommendations from networks, friends or former colleagues are often a way to seek out opportunities at a desired practice. The other obvious means are via:

  • Recruitment agencies

  • Direct responses to website advertisements

  • Online advertisements such as those found on RIBA Appointments

  • Direct applications (unsolicited). If you take this approach, it is probably worthwhile finding out who the person is that you intend to address to stand the best chance of success.

As an employee you’ll probably want to give thought to the type of working arrangement you want to be employed under. There are a number of ways personnel can be employed by architectural practices, including:

  • as a Permanent employee

  • as a Part-time employee

  • on a Temporary Contract basis

  • via an agency

  • on a Self-Employed / Consultancy basis

When accepting any offer of employment, employees should always seek clarity on basic terms in a contract of employment. The fundamental terms, as set out by the Employments Rights act 1996.

Architecture practices will also typically include terms relating to the following to protect their specific interests:

  • Confidentiality clauses…

Business Models for Architects

Image credit: Venta Partners

Image credit: Venta Partners

Business Model for Architecture Practices

Most architecture practices follow the traditional, commonly used business structures to operate there practices, which are:

Sole Trader

A sole trader, also known as sole proprietor, is an individual who runs their own business and is able to keep all business profits – following paying tax on them. Once anyone starts working for himself or herself, they are considered a sole-trader, and must inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Limited Company (Ltd)

This is a company whose owners are legally responsible for its debts to the extent of the amount of capital invested. The main point here is that the company finances are completely separate to the personal finances of its owners, and therefore, any debts owed by the company, cannot be recovered through the personal assets of the company owners. Limited companies are one of the most popular in the country for this reason.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is a partnership where some or all partners have limited liability. This means that one partner is not responsible for another partners negligence or misconduct. All profits and losses are shared between the partners and each partner pays tax on their share of the profits. In this structure, the partners are not personally liable for debts and their liability is only limited to the amount of money they invest in the business.

As mentioned, the above are the traditional formal business models/structures most professional organisation take. There are, however, new forms within these springing up in the architectural profession, still under these typical structures but with a bit more nimbleness and flexibility. .

Collectives are becoming more popular as more architects look to lean on and collaborate with each other and other disciplines. Examples include Collective Works, Collective Architecture and Assemble…..

Professional Standards for Architects

Image credit: The ISPY Academy

Image credit: The ISPY Academy

Professional Standards

The architectural profession in the UK is regulated by the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Parliament established the ARB in 1997, hence the term, ‘The Architects Act 1997’ (The Act). The ARB is an independent, public interest body that ensures that both the profession, and the general public, are held to, and maintain, good standards within the profession.

Section 13 of the Act specifically requires the Architects Registration Board to issue a Code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of persons registered as architects under the Act

Once architecture students completes their professional exams, in order to practice and call themselves architects they will need to register with the ARB who keep a register of architects.

If they also happen to register to be RIBA Chartered, they will also be obliged to comply with the RIBA Code of Conduct. 

The RIBA Code and its accompanying Guidance Notes set out and explain the standards of professional conduct and practice that the RIBA requires of its members. It’s code comprises :

  • Three principles of professional conduct

  • Professional values that support those principles

  • Guidance Notes which explain how the principles can be upheld…

Advertising and Marketing

Image Credits: Architects Journal / The Fees Bureau

Image Credits: Architects Journal / The Fees Bureau

Advertising and Marketing

Gone are the days of relying solely on ‘good design’ to get noticed and referenced. In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven society, architects must take the bull by the horns and become proactive in making themselves known to the wider public but also understand their client base. A well-designed building’ won’t necessarily land itself on the front cover of the next glossy magazine – it has to be put there by you or someone in the practice dedicated to that particular task!

Marketing and Advertising are two quite different activities. Marketing and deals with the implementation of a strategy to analyse and predict client requirements and preferences, and gauge the feasibility of promotional/advertising strategies. Marketing focuses on making the strategic link to a practice’s potential client base. It also includes the investigation and implementation of innovative ideas to help practices in the creation of their brand identity.

Advertising can be undertaken using a variety of means and is focused more on the specific promotional tools a practice may choose to use to gain additional work. In it’s simplest form it is a marketing tactic involving paying for space to promote a product or service. The goal is to The goal of advertising is to capture people/clients/consumers most likely to be willing to pay for a company’s products or services.

In this instant digital communication age, the advertising lines are increasingly blurred but online marketing and advertising platforms must be critical components of any practice’s business plan…


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Professional Indemnity Insurance

Image credit:

Image credit:

Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII)

The Architects Registration Board requires all architects to carry PII – it is the most important area of insurance cover for all architects. Failure to obtain and maintain appropriate insurance cover will leave the architect potentially open to extreme liabilities.

PII cover is essential to protecting an architect in case of allegations of professional negligence and litigation expenses, which are often complex and sometimes traumatic. It is in the interest of both the client and the architect, that PII protection against liability incurred in practice or business related to architecture is in place. It ensures that there are enough funds to compensate the client if the architect is found to have been professionally negligent.

When an Architect is an employee of a practice, it is the practice, not the individual that has to take out PII. When an architect chooses to start their own business or operate individually, they are responsible for obtaining PII for themselves. Specialist advice should always be sought...

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What are Building Regulations

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Image credits:

The building regulations are statutory mechanisms that seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are carried out for the health and safety of building occupants. These include standards relating to the conservation of fuel and power (energy efficiency) and accessibility.

In essence they are a set of minimum technical standards that dictate how a building should be built to ensure a good quality of comfort/life for end-users. The technical standards range from spatial design to construction standards. They include space standards (i.e. certain rooms are to be certain sizes to ensure most people can use them comfortably) and they prescribe minimum sound insulation standards between units (i.e. to ensure that each person has certain comfort levels).

An architect will often produce a set of building regulations information packages that include drawings, building regulation reports or statements, and typical details for submission to either the local authority’s building regulation department (public), or an approved inspector (private).

Building regulations apply to almost all buildings and are relevant for almost all building work…

Architect's Fees

Image Credit: Architects Journal

Image Credit: Architects Journal

Architects’ Fees and Financial Management

This is such a hot topic as the fees charged by architects can vary very significantly for a multitude of factors, and since the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) abolished their indicative fee scales, there is very little benchmark data freely available.

Making a good profit should be integral to any business so running an architectural practice is no different. Architects are required to be financially savvy or they will suffer the consequences of the inevitable peaks and troughs of running a practice.

Accounts are filed annually for 4 main parties with different purposes:

• Filed annually to Companies House (statutory requirement for limited companies)

• Investors: as they have a financial stake in the company

• Creditors: lending institutions including banks

• Managers: have direct interest in a company including staff and unions, and are responsible for preparing information for management purposes

Making a profit should be integral to running a practice, and, in most cases, projects should make a profit.

It may occasionally be worth taking on a project with little profit potential where the prospect of getting future projects from an active client looks favourable. However it should be noted that active clients sometimes use this temptation of future work as a means to attract lower fees from consultants.

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What are Planning Conditions

Image credits: Planning Law Blog

Image credits: Planning Law Blog

Planning Conditions are obligations that limit and control the way in which approved planning permissions may be implemented.

Conditions are often imposed on developments to enhance their quality and mitigate against adverse effects of development, but they also allow development to take place where it would otherwise have been refused permission. They are usually site and application specific.
In accordance with the Town and Planning Country Planning Act 1990, conditions can be imposed by the local authority and the Secretary of State, or by their inspectors, as they “think fit” for a development.
According to the Planning Practice Guidance, planning conditions should have the six tests applied to them prior to imposing them on a development. Conditions should only be imposed where they are:
• Necessary • Relevant to planning • Relevant to the development to be permitted • Enforceable • Precise • Reasonable in all other respects…

Navigating the Planning System

Image credits: HTA Design LLP

Image credits: HTA Design LLP

The planning system has been put in place to manage the development of land and buildings in the interests of the public and the economy. It plays a role in clarifying what, where and when development is needed.

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) are responsible for deciding whether a development can go ahead. They are responsible for preserving heritage and improving on the infrastructure that allows for good civilised living.

Other key decision makers include:

  • Local councillors

  • The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

  • The Planning Inspectorate

The planning officer is often the most visible face of the planning system, and is seen as the go-between who maintains a balance between those seeking to undertake development and the public interest.

The Planning Portal and Planning Practice Guidance websites house a vast amount of information related to planning legislation, building regulations, and general advice on planning requirements for proposed developments…