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Conservation Accreditation

RIAI Conservation Accreditation System

To assist Consumers in the selection of a Practice to provide them with professional services in architectural conservation, the RIAI developed an accreditation system to recognise differing levels of specialist expertise.

There are three Grades of Accreditation, Grade 1 being the highest and Grade 3 the basic entry level to the System.

RIAI Conservation Architect/Practice Grades 1 and 2

An Architect or Practice accredited at either of these Grades has been assessed by an expert Accreditation Board which carries out a rigorous in-depth evaluation of the specialist qualifications, expertise and experience of the applicant. The difference between Grades 1 and 2 relates to the length of experience, the level of expertise, and the nature of the buildings. To be accredited as a Conservation Practice at Grade 1 or 2 the practice must have on its staff at least one architect of the relevant Grade, or have been assessed and accredited by the Accreditation Board on the basis of its collective track record.

Architect/Practice Accredited in Conservation at Grade 3

An Architect accredited at Grade 3 is not assessed by a Board, but must attend an RIAI Conservation Induction Module covering basic general information on the principles and practice of conservation, and successfully complete an Assessment Exercise. To be accredited at Grade 3 an Architectural Practice must have at least one owner – a ‘Partner’ or ‘Principal’ – who holds accreditation at Grade 3.

An Architect accredited at Grade 3 is expected to have a good general understanding of the legislation, philosophy and technical requirements, but not to have the range of expertise to carry out all the tasks undertaken by Grades 1 and 2.

Conservation Skills in the Architectural Profession

By September 2005 forty-nine RIAI Registered architectural practices had been accredited as RIAI Conservation Practice Grade 1 or 2. In addition there are RIAI Conservation Architects working in some Local Authorities and in the Public Service.

The RIAI Conservation Induction Module (the requirement for Grade 3) was introduced in 2001 as a means of providing RIAI architects and architectural practices with skills in conservation which were not included in architectural education and training in the past but which developments in legislation have made essential for any practice. This is now regarded as the basic level of expertise that every architect should possess. By September 2005, one hundred and sixty RIAI Registered Architectural Practices had met Grade 3 standard.

However, the Accreditation System is relatively new one, and some Members and Practices with demonstrated expertise in conservation work have not applied for accreditation. So the system does not claim to be the sole means of identifying conservation expertise within the profession.

What Grade do you need for your building?

This depends on a number of factors:

  • The significance of the building and site. Is it a Protected Structure and, if so, is it designated by the Planning Authority as a building of International, National, Regional or Local importance?
  • The general condition of the building.
  • The nature and extent of the works to be undertaken.
  • The category of building. Some architects have specialist expertise in particular building types - churches, for example
  • Whether specialist conservation input is needed for a particular aspect of the work – the stonework perhaps.

Obviously the more important the building and the more serious and complex the work to be carried out the higher the Grade you will be looking for. You need an architect with the expertise, skills and experience appropriate for the job, so you should check not only the Grade at which the Practice is accredited but also the type and extent of work they have done in the past.

This can be done by:

  • Examining previous works undertaken by the practice
  • Interviewing the practice
  • Establishing whether an architect/practice has received recognition for work to historic buildings – awards, medals etc.
  • Clarifying with the architect/practice what role they played in previous projects – as lead architect or in a minor role.

The services that might be provided by RIAI Architects or Practices accredited at the different Grades are listed here:

The tasks that an Architect/Practice accredited at Grade 1 or 2 can be expected to carry out are listed here: Conservation Architect/Practice Grades 1 and 2: Services

The tasks that an Architect/Practice accredited at Grade 3 can be expected to carry out are listed here: Architect/Practice accredited in conservation at Grade 3: Services

Other sources of information about the type of work undertaken by architectural practices are:

  • The local Planning Authority
  • The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government Architectural Heritage Advisory Unit.
  • The Irish Georgian Society Skills Register

Appointing your Architect

Every member of the RIAI, whether accredited in conservation or not, has the professional responsibility to recognise the limitations of their competence. They may not undertake work that lies outside this competence, and should advise their clients accordingly. For example, a member accredited at Grade 3 may recommend either that your project should be handled entirely by a Conservation Architect Grade 1 or 2, or that a Conservation Architect Grade 1 or 2 should be engaged as consultant on your project or for particular aspects of it. Similarly, a planning authority may also recommend that a Conservation Architect Grade 1 or 2 be engaged for a particular project or for particular aspects of a project.

There are a variety of arrangements by which these services can be provided and you will need to discuss and clarify these before you enter into a Client/Architect Agreement with your Architect. For example, for work on a Protected Structure of some importance you might select a Conservation Practice Grade 1 or 2 to carry out all of the architect’s tasks from briefing to completion. On the other hand, if the project was a large industrial complex on a site that included a historic building or Protected Structure you might select a practice with specialised expertise in industrial buildings but also appoint a Grade 1 or 2 Conservation Architect as a consultant to advise on the conservation aspects of the project. For work on a non-Protected modest terrace house built in the 19th century, for example, you might appoint a Practice accredited at Grade 3, but on the understanding that they will advise you if some issue needing more specialist conservation advice emerges in the course of the project.