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.