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CPD That Works Best For Architects And Specifiers Right Now

By Paul Iddon on 27-Jul-2022 14:50:18

Topics: CPD

Recent research from the construction media index shows that 48% of architects attend a CPD because it is relevant to one of their current projects. This can be interpreted as indicating their interest in a specific product or system. 

But truth is, it’s probably a bit more complicated than that.

There have been more legislative changes in construction during the past two years than in the previous quarter century.

This is causing a great deal of head scratching and, I think it fair to say, consternation amongst even the most experienced architects as they try to absorb complex implications for themselves and their practices.

A CPD may also be relevant to a current project because of these huge legislative changes.

Response to CPD about Legislative Changes

There has been a huge response to these types of CPD events. Specifically, those that shed light, give insight, and offer an interpretation of Approved Documents B, L, The Building Safety Act and Equality Act/Approved Document M.

As part of my role as Vice President of Manchester Society of Architects, I run the twice-monthly CPD programme on Zoom, the most recent being on the recent Building Safety Act. The normal sign-up rate for a product CPD is around 35-60, with a show-up rate of about 55-60%. This one achieved 95 sign-ups with 60 attendees. This forms part of a recognisable pattern with legislation-based content.

Over the past couple of years, we have seen similar, if not higher results for CPD updates on Parts B and L. Anything related to these will always gain traction for obvious reasons – Grenfell and Climate.

The last Part B CPD sign-up rate was 180 and I expected about 80-90 attendees. In the event, we maxed out our Zoom capacity of 100 and were receiving emails from people unable to log in. We ended up running the CPD twice and hit capacity both times.

This may have been partly due to Covid-19, but more recent events have consistently shown at least double the attendee rate for regular product CPD and no sign of slowing. Some manufacturers are already reacting to this trend and are reporting improved results.

One reason is the change to the Architects Registration Board’s (ARB) role in maintaining standards in the profession. The Building Safety Act grants ARB additional powers:

The act gives the ARB new powers to monitor the training and development of architects throughout their careers to maintain competence. It will be able to strike off architects who do not meet the required standard of competence. Previously the Architects Act 1997 only gave the ARB powers to prescribe entry requirements to the register.

The ARB is planning to introduce its own scheme for monitoring continuing professional development (CPD). In its latest policy statement on regulation of architects, the RIBA has expressed concern that the ARB’s proposals for monitoring CPD will result in a prescriptive parallel system to the RIBA’s own CPD requirements.

From RIBA website – Architecture.com 

(Interestingly, there is a sideshow to this that does mean ARB rules and code of conduct re: CPD monitoring may challenge a key function of the RIBA which some architects have spotted.)

 

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There is no doubt that digital CPD and self-directed learning are going to be major contributors to specifier learning and product awareness – particularly for younger generations entering the industry. But there are compelling reasons why face-to-face CPD is likely to remain part of the mix for the foreseeable future:

Firstly, construction product sales are measured by direct contact via network development and face-to-face CPD. Many commercial directors have targets for their teams to meet.

Secondly, practice owners will be more accountable for staff knowledge development. Any senior architect who witnessed the testimony from the project architect on Grenfell and his admission of failure in learning on key areas such as Part B will be left in no doubt of their potential liability.

Whilst both RIBA and ARB codes of conduct are clear that individual professionals are responsible for their own learning development, directors and owners will want to know they are covered through more structured learning programmes.

 

Which CPD's will directors and owners be most interested in?

They will tend to book CPD’s that they believe:

1. Will develop the knowledge of their team

Especially junior members. This can be product related, but they are very keen on ‘issue’ related CPD. This can be Legislative due to extreme nervousness in the profession due to the BSA, ADB, ADL, and updates in specific industry products that are related to Grenfell and sustainability.

This one is tricky as there is a huge amount of ‘greenwashing’ going on in all sectors. When pushed, specifiers will always defer to price in value engineering.

 

2. Related to specific sector speciality or current project types 

Again, this can be specific to ADB (Building Regs Part B) – the implication of the BSA is that it will push clients toward practices with experience of high-rise residential for instance. This is a driver for such practices to be ahead of the curve and train up their teams to exploit a more limited ‘architect supply’ in the market.

This would include RIBA assessed CPD on rainscreen cladding, and external envelope solutions such as brick slip, fibre cement, and porcelain cladding for example. Also ADL – changes to the way U-values are calculated as part of a whole building modeling approach – especially changes to allowable areas of glazing upcoming in the Future Homes Standards and Future Building Standards.

A key part of this will be changes in glazing– probably meaning triple glazing as standard in the future, and changes to thermal breaks and foam insulators.  Another area is Fire Doors - there is a lot of focus on this due to the failure of the installed FD30 doors on Grenfell that actually failed after 15 minutes.

 

3. New Products and in-depth material reviews (learn something new)

There are more ‘challenger’ products on the market or being promoted in performance terms, ranging from products like vacuum glass units in conservation and listed buildings. There are also existing products that are ‘taking the gloves off’ and being more challenging to habitually specified products like ceramics (heavy in embodied carbon).

 

4. Satisfy the criteria for sufficient CPD points 

This is a perennial that shouldn’t be ignored, especially in the era of both ARB and RIBA-mandated CPD. It can still be very useful to manufacturers – especially if they fit into the 10 categories identified by RIBA.

The reality remains that there’s no real magic bullet when it comes to effective specification sales through CPD, it can be as much about being in the right place at the right time as relevance.

It also depends on practice policy. From a digital CPD perspective, this is very important, but it is worth remembering the practice owners will need to monitor their staff more closely than before, due to the issues of competence.

Scrutiny and monitoring of the role and responsibility of the architect in design and construction processes will gradually increase over the next two years, according to Project Four Safety (one of the Manchester Society of Architect sponsors).

This will likely mean being seen to undertake CPD openly, so it can be observed and recorded to protect the practice from liability (I wouldn’t be surprised if PI insurance makes this a condition of cover in the future.

Conclusion

In summary, a relevant CPD to a project might not be product related - but the power of CPD will only increase – whatever the delivery format.

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Paul Iddon

Written by Paul Iddon

Paul is an experienced Architect, specifier and Vice President of the Manchester Society of Architects, which is the largest Architectural group outside of London.