Perth Theatre - Richard Murphy Architects

© Keith Hunter

Accreditation in Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable development is now the stated policy of local, national and international governments, and of much industry and commerce. There is a growing commitment on the part of professional bodies to reverse unsustainable trends in development.

The construction, fit-out, operation and ultimate demolition of buildings is a huge factor in human impact on the environment both directly (through material and energy consumption and the consequent pollution and waste) and indirectly (through the pressures on often inefficient infrastructure). The built environment also has a crucial impact on the physical and economic health and well-being of individuals, communities and organisations. A good building is a delight and will enhance a community or organisation, enhance our ability to learn or increase our productivity. A poor building will do the opposite. Where buildings and built environments contribute to ill-health and alienation, undermine community and create excessive financial liability, they are undesirable and unsustainable.

To meet the challenge of sustainable development we have to enhance quality of life for all by designing healthy buildings and environments fit for individuals and communities both now and in the future. We need to minimise resource throughputs, waste and pollution, and to fulfill our responsibility to protect other species and environments.

Architects are well placed to effect positive change. Those who are recognised as having a proven expertise in sustainable architecture will have demonstrated - through design - that this encompasses an understanding of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

The Black Shed - Mary Forster Architect

© David Barbour


The RIAS successfully completed a pilot in sustainable building design accreditation in 2004 with co-funding from 'Sust: The Lighthouse on Sustainability'. This scheme was conceived and initiated by Gaia Research in 2000 as part of the DTI-sponsored Sustainable Construction CPD project. In 2008, in response to increasing government sustainability energy initiatives, and public awareness, the RIAS conducted a substantial review of the Sustainable Building Design Accreditation scheme in order to address the significant developments in this area of practice and offer recognition to members who had gained specific skill, knowledge and experience in sustainability.

The Scheme

RIAS Accreditation in Sustainable Architecture is available to practising members of the RIAS who can demonstrate the integration of sustainability in the design and implementation of completed projects. An architect accredited in Sustainable Architecture will be able to demonstrate personal commitment, knowledge and skill in integrating sound sustainable principals into architecture and the built environment.

Applicants will be accredited at two levels which will recognise skills attained and applied to projects, and the ongoing personal and professional commitment to and the advancement of sustainable design.

As leaders in the field it is anticipated that architects accredited in Sustainable Architecture will contribute to the furtherance of the Scheme and the dissemination of knowledge amongst architects, the construction profession, clients and stakeholders.

Accreditation by the scheme relates to an individual and does not confer an accreditation on a practice, business or other entity. The onus is on the practice and individual to ensure the accreditation is not used inappropriately.

The two levels of accreditation are:

Accredited Architect in Sustainable Architecture

RIAS Members who can demonstrate through a track record, that they have delivered Sustainable Architecture and have communicated and promoted their understanding of it.

Advanced Accredited Architect in Sustainable Architecture

RIAS Members, with a minimum of 5 years experience, post qualification, who meet the above criteria and have gone on to demonstrate through a substantial track record a holistic approach to sustainable design, demonstrating both innovation and expertise in this field as well as a commitment to directing and mentoring others to understand and deliver Sustainable Architecture.

Once accredited, architects will be expected to retain active RIAS membership.

Holyrood North Student Accommodation - jmarchitects

© Chris Humphreys


The primary benefit of the Scheme is the recognition that an Architect Accredited in Sustainable Architecture has demonstrated a skill set that is additional to that required to become registered with the ARB.

Over time the RIAS is well placed to respond to members of the Scheme by providing additional benefits, relating to sustainability (subject to viability) such as:

  • CPD
  • Book discounts
  • Practice Notes
  • Networking
  • Scheme forum
  • Online facilities
  • Links to other organisations, etc
  • Promotion to clients and stakeholders

Application Process

Accreditation is by a simple process of ‘peer review’ by a panel of assessors, on the basis of the applicant’s track record largely demonstrated through case studies. Applicants are invited to submit written evidence of their education, training and career history, of relevant study, knowledge and special interests and of projects and other work completed. The review panel will decide which category the applicant best falls within, based on the evidence presented.

Most applications will be considered on the basis of the information initially submitted. However, assessors can request further information and call applicants to an interview.

INEOS HQ, Grangemouth – Michael Laird Architects

© David Barbour

Instructions for Applicants

In addition to the information requested within the form, Applicants should submit a maximum of six A4 pages to demonstrate their experience. Applicants should present a suitable choice of information to demonstrate to the assessors that they have applied the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge and possess the skill, experience and commitment to be accredited in Sustainable Architecture. This should include a brief statement of the applicant's approach to Sustainable Architecture, a brief account of the range of sustainable projects on which the applicant has been engaged, and their exact role in the project.

A minimum of three Case Studies should be selected to illustrate the range of knowledge, skills and experience gained including specific and appropriate technical information or data and illustrations. The inclusion of examples of projects in which applicants have had a direct hands-on role in the design and delivery, is crucial. Applicants must clearly explain the role that they took in delivering a sustainable project, and why their input made a difference, stating that they were the Project Architect is not enough.

It is not necessary for applicants to present details of every project that they have worked on. Applicants are encouraged to submit the edited highlights of what they think are their contributions to sustainability in the fields of:

  • Innovative design and specification
  • Project management and contract administration
  • Research, education, and dissemination


Applicants will be required to pay a one-off fee of £150 + VAT. This fee is set to cover the costs of the accreditation assessment and is non refundable regardless of outcome.

A further fee of £150 + VAT is payable on seeking to upgrade.

Application Appeal Process

Applications may be deferred with advice given on the required steps to clarify the information or re-submit. Assessors may defer if, for example, they are seeking better information, more appropriate case studies or clarification of the applicant's role in a project. If the application is subsequently refused the applicant will be advised on the panel's reasoning.

Applicants who are refused accreditation may appeal formally in writing. A new assessor will be asked to review the original application. If this assessor agrees with the decision of the original assessors, the decision to refuse accreditation will stand. If the new assessor disagrees with the original decision, a review panel to include the first assessors, the new assessor and the Secretary will be convened to reach a final decision. The applicant may be required to attend for interview. A further appeal may be directed to the RIAS President. The President's decision will be final.


If any complaint is brought to the attention of the RIAS in connection with an architect accredited in Sustainable Architecture and their sustainable design related work they may be invited to attend an interview with the review Panel, following which their accreditation may be reviewed.

The decision of the President of the RIAS will be final.

RIAS Sustainability Policy Statement

In recognition of the significant influence that architects, the construction industry, clients and other stakeholders have in shaping the indoor, local and global environment, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland has adopted the following policy:

RIAS Sustainability Policy Statement

Chartered Practices/Practice Services subscribers can access a framework to help them provide a structured response to those sections of PQQs that require information on the commitment, skills and resources available to address sustainability.

Should you have any queries please contact Elaine Dobie at the RIAS on 0131 229 7545.