1st Edition

RIBA Ethical Practice Guide

By Carys Rowlands, Alasdair Ben Dixon Copyright 2023
    184 Pages
    by RIBA Publishing

    Ethical practice distinguishes an RIBA chartered architect from other design professionals. The RIBA Code of Professional Conduct requires practitioners to uphold high standards, while encouraging and empowering them to reflect critically and to continually strive to improve. The Grenfell Tower tragedy was a significant reminder of the ethical responsibilities of the architect, and the importance of ethical decision-making. By making ethical practice one of its mandatory competences, the RIBA has made it a requirement that students and professionals develop a fundamental level of awareness and understanding of ethics. This guide is designed to improve industry’s grasp of ethical decision-making as it relates to the wider world, society, clients, the workplace, the profession, and the individual. Each chapter introduces an ethical duty, setting out the relevant legal, regulatory and professional context before exploring the detailed subject matter and key principles. It includes an ethical dilemma for each duty and views and experiences from inside the profession. Delving into issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, social value, wellbeing and integrity, it does not seek our ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. Rather it encourages reflection on different interests, consequences and considerations, in order to reach a considered and balanced position. While ethical practice is invaluable in itself, it is also vital for establishing trust with clients, improving transparency, enhancing reputation, attracting and retaining high-quality staff, avoiding disputes and for a high-level of accountability that benefits the entire industry, and society more broadly.

    Intro: Ethics in practice

    - History & definitions

    - Ethics not morals

    - Ethics and culture

    - Virtue Ethics / Social Contract Ethics / Duty Ethics / Utilitarian Ethics

    - Defining behaviours

    - Codes, Regulations, Sanctions and Best Practice

    - The Public Interest

    - How it is defined and who is responsible

    - Professional ethics

    - Recognising an ethical issue

    - Ethical processes and techniques

    - Whistleblowing

    - The 6 duties

    Chapter 1 – Duty to the Wider World

    - Legal obligations

    - The Codes of Conduct and Practice

    - The Climate and Biodiversity emergency

    - Sustainable and Regenerative design (mitigation / adaptation)

    - Supply Chains and Resource Use

    - Rights of Nature

    - Whole life performance

    - Net Zero

    - Openness & transparency

    - Tools & techniques

    - Dilemma – Challenging the brief

    Chapter 2 – Duty to Society and the End User

    - Legal obligations (tort & company law)

    - Building Regs, Housing Standards and Planning Policy

    - The Codes of Conduct and Practice

    - Specification

    - Health and safety

    - Bribery & corruption

    - Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (including bias & discrimination)

    - Stakeholder Identification and Engagement

    - Social Value and Social Responsibility (including link to sustainable development and including embedding throughout organisation)

    - Regeneration

    - Evidence-informed design

    - Inclusive design and inclusive environments

    - Wellbeing

    - Accuracy & truthfulness

    - Rights of Future Generations

    - Tools & techniques

    - Dilemma

    - Affordable housing provision

    Chapter 3 – Duty to those Commissioning Services

    - Legal obligations

    - The Codes of Conduct and Practice

    - The client relationship

    - Conflicts of interest

    - Competence and diligence

    - Lay clients

    - Experienced private clients

    - Public Sector clients

    - Confidentiality

    - Time, cost, quality

    - Communication and complaints

    - Stewardship and aftercare

    - Learning and improvement

    - Tools & techniques

    - Dilemma

    - Client’s best interest

    Chapter 4 – Duty to those in the workplace

    - Legal obligations

    - The Codes of Conduct and Practice

    - Company culture

    - Respecting colleagues

    - Managing practice and work environment

    - Training and development

    - Health, safety and wellbeing

    - Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (including the RIBA EDI Policy Guide)

    - Modern Slavery

    - Tools & techniques

    - Dilemma – Workplace

    Chapter 5 – Duty to the Profession

    - The Codes of Conduct and Practice

    - Reputation & Value

    - Respecting previous appointments

    - Copyright & Credit

    - Whistleblowing and disclosure

    - Knowledge sharing

    - Research, Data Ethics, POE & Building Performance

    - Contributing to and representing the profession

    - Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (including the RIBA Inclusion Charter)

    - Tools & techniques

    - Dilemma

    - A competition

    Chapter 6 – Duty to Oneself

    - The Codes of Conduct and Practice

    - Principles and values

    - Competence

    - Accountability

    - Continuing Professional Development

    - Evaluation, reflection and positionality

    - Pro Bono work

    - Bribery & corruption

    - Tools & techniques

    - Dilemma

    - A conflict of interest

    Conclusion – Resolving Ethical Issues

    - Core values

    - Decision making

    - Lifelong learning

    - Independence

    - Leadership

    - Advocacy

    - Resources and toolkits

    - Reviews and feedback


    Carys Rowlands is a barrister (unregistered) and Head of Registration & CPD at RICS. She is former Head of Professional Standards at the RIBA. Carys’ work for the RIBA involved professional conduct issues, dispute resolution services, specialist accreditation, conservation and heritage, and ethics in architectural practice. Carys has written publications in collaboration with the UN Global Compact, including Ethics in Architectural Practice. She was the staff lead for the RIBA Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission and has delivered CPD on ethical practice for the RIBA and independently for universities and schools of architecture.

    Alasdair Dixon is a founding Partner of Collective Works, co-ordinator of the Architects Climate Action Network and a Trustee of Architecture for Humanity UK. He has long held a commitment to finding a better way for architects to balance the needs of the wider world with the needs of their clients & stakeholders. During his career he has advised on ethical issues within a large established practice, an architectural charity and in the day to day running of a small practice.