Becoming an Architect & gaining your Part 3 – Practical Top Tips

This website hasn’t been active in a long while as I have been focusing on building my career in London for the last 3 years and studying to complete my Part 3 qualification remotely at the University of Westminster during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As my architecture portfolio and blog, it only seems right to provide an update on my Part 3 experience and some Top Tips that I have learnt from completing the course (and which will hopefully help others considering their Part 3 too!)

I completed my course at University of Westminster in October 2021. UoW follows a fairly typical course format and therefore my experience is limited to this type of course so I have tried to keep the content of this post more general.

When to begin the Part 3? I decided to enrol on a Part 3 course in September 2020 with 2 years post Part 2 experience. There is no right or wrong time to decide to complete the Part 3 (that’s a lie – there is a requirement to have 24month minimum experience! But beyond this, it is a personal choice). My main consideration was my own confidence and knowledge that I can competently and professionally perform my role as an Architect. The time between my Part 2 and Part 3 allowed me to settle into my job, naturally progress and gain the required experience of the ARB Professional Criteria. During this time I became project lead on a project onsite which was perfect for a Case Study project.

PRE-ENROLMENT

Top Tip No. 1 Take responsibility for getting the right professional experience. Keep your practice informed of what your plans for undertaking the Part 3 are, what experience you require and formulate a plan for getting there. Ensure you have an Employee Mentor and schedule regular meetings to discuss opportunities of going to site, working at different stages and be given more responsibility. Schedule meetings to discuss the Part 3 and note it on the agenda to discuss during staff reviews.

Top Tip No. 2 Document your time in timesheets and the details of what you have done. This makes both your PEDR’s (a requirement of studying the part 3) and writing about your Case Study so much easier. The PEDR’s (Professional Experience and Development Records) are a really painful part of the process and one position you want to avoid being in, is having deadlines and exams and having to spend time on the PEDR’s. I got in the habit of writing a description of what I did that week for each of the projects I worked on in my timesheets. Although laborious, it will help refresh your memory when writing and evaluating your progress. WORD OF WARNING one place I worked did not use timesheets as they are a small company, this meant trawling through emails to remember what I did- extremely painful and a waste of time! If your practice doesn’t have a process for timesheets try to get in the habit of recording time and what RIBA Stage of Work you are working on.

CHOOSING TO ENROL

Top Tip No. 3 Where should you study? There are many courses available so ensure you research the course you want to apply to and consider:

  • Case Study – Is it likely you will be able to get a Case Study project? This could depend on the type of practice and projects you have. Ensure when you are considering where to go to talk to your Employee Mentor to discuss your options.
  • Course Length- Short courses do exist, these are particularly good for people who have been working/ running projects and already have the experience of being a project architect just without the qualification. Consider whether this is right for you without putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
  • Course Structure and Location – Consider how this works for you. For instance I am working in London so studying in London around my job was the best thing for me. However, particularly since the pandemic, many course still might operate remotely and therefore you course choice might not be limited geographically. Some courses can be completed without needing to live in the same city. For instance the University of Bath do a week of intensive lectures meaning you can study there remotely but travel to Bath for a week. Ensure that you discuss your study leave allowance with your practice before deciding when to go and what is the best for you.
  • What type of learner are you – Do you like lectures and deadlines spread out? Or prefer to hit them all in one fowl swoop? At Westminster there is one lecture per week with one exam in Jan, another in April, and the Case Study in the summer. I liked this as it felt as if I was chipping away at the Part 3 however others prefer the structure of somewhere like London Met that has all of the deadlines structured more closely together.

PART 3 REQUIREMENTS

For the Westminster Course the timetable typically runs something like this:

  • English Law, Regulations, Construction Procurement and Contracts module runs from September to January with a written Exam in January
  • Architectural Practice Management module ran January to April.
  • Draft of Case Study due around March
  • Final Coursework in June (including CV, Career Appraisal, Case Study and PEDR’s)
  • PEDR’s are signed by Academic Tutor periodically thoughout the course.

This format worked well for me and I found that the lectures helped to informed my case study so as the lectures were underway, I would use a different coloured pen or sticky note to mark where a topic was related to my case study this in turn helped to formulate the case study into a structure. This only worked as I knew what my case study was prior to beginning the course which some people don’t have the luxury of so don’t worry if you don’t have a project at this stage however consider if parts of the course will help inform others.

The lectures being spread throughout the year also meant I was able to start asking more contractual questions and engaging in conversation about procurement and tendering within my practice.

Top Tip No. 4 Use your practice’s resources as much as possible. The people you work with will have been through their Part 3’s and will have a wealth of knowledge, engage with that as much as possible. It is also a good time to set up meetings with other members of the design team and ask questions for your case study, that could be the Project Manager or Employer’s Agent etc.

Top Tip No. 5 Set up a study group. One area I struggled was studying for exams when the course was remote. I luckily knew one of two people from my masters course that were also at UoW so we were able to run through exam questions together however I could have benefitted from a larger group. Many practices have study groups set up, if yours does – use it! I tried to set one up with other Part 3’s in the office however we were all on different course with different deadlines and focuses so it didn’t work out however your practice should be able to facilitate study groups. This is also helpful when looking at how to structure the Case Study. It can be difficult to get people to share them but it is extremely helpful to look at how others have structured their documents.

RESOURCES

Each course will give you a plethora of resources you should look at for the Part 3 however make sure the information is up to date with current legislation. Over the last few years, with Grenfell and regulation changes and pandemic, there have been lots of changes and it is beneficial to read up on the changes in the industry.

The resources that helped me the most were:

  • The Construction Information Service. This was more valuable to me that the university library. It has a wealth of knowledge and has many resources that your university won’t have. At Westminster, I was able to get access through the library online however my practice also have access so always worth checking where you work. There are lots of publications including:
  1. RIBA draft contracts so you can look up wording and clauses and familiarise yourself with the most common agreements;
  2. Good Practice Guides – these are really useful RIBA guides on various aspects of practice. One of the most recent is Stephen Brookhouse and Peter Farrall’s GPG on Fees, one-stop-shop for all fee-related queries and was published in 2021 so if very up-to-date.
  3. Sometimes the latest versions of key Part 3 books such as Stephen Brookhouse’s Part 3 Handbook and Matthew Cousin’s Architect’s Legal Handbook so it is really worth checking if you can’t find anything on your university library or your practices own resources.
  4. Sarah Lupton Guides – Sarah Lupton has a series of guides that look at different contracts and procurement routes. Essentially she breaks down the clauses of the contracts and explains what these mean in real terms. She uses law case studies to explain the contract mechanisms and often compares the different types of routes to show how they differ particularly in relation to the Architect’s Role.

The key resources I found useful were:

Scenario-based resources – If you are like me and learn best through scenarios, these are really key resources that include case law and explanations around the impacts of certain policies or contractual clauses and were really useful for my understanding as a whole:

  1. Stephen Brookhouse and Peter Farrall’s Good Practice Guide, Fees
  2. Sarah Lupton, Guide to JCT Standard Building Contract 2016
  3. Sarah Lupton, Guide to JCT Design and Build Contract 2016 – Note my case study was design and build procurement so I used this a lot. The Standard Building Contract is commonly used for exams as it has provision for the Architect as Contract Administrator.
  4. RIBA Plan of Work 2013 Guide – Town Planning – Note although this isn’t related to the most current Plan of Works (2020) the guide is really clear and gives examples and scenarios to explain the impact of different planning policies and laws etc.
  5. David Chappell, Construction Contracts Questions and Answers – This book basically runs through a number of different commo issues that occur in construction contracts and provides answers and explanations. This was one of the closest resources I found to scenario-style questions that can come up in exams. I haven’t been a Contract Administrator myself so this book really helped me understand that role and the difficulties that can occur.

Other key resources

  •  Guide to RIBA Professional Service Contracts
  • Simon Foxell, Starting a Practice A Plan of Work
  • RIBA Code of Professional Conduct
  • RIBA, Handbook of Practice Management – Note I believe the latest edition to this book is 2013 and therefore doesn’t include key criteria such as CDM regulations 2015. It is good as an overview and particularly in-depth for practice management but ensure you also use other, more recent, sources.
  • Matthew Cousin’s Architect’s Legal Handbook – Note book for quick explanations of key legal terms and a current edition is available.
  • JCT Practice Note on Tendering
  • HR for Creative Companies
  • Which Contract & Deciding on the Appropriate JCT contact – Note both of these are really clear in terms of what procurement/ contracts are used for what and the situations where different variations might be chosen. Although other contracts (aside from JCT) exist and are commonly used within the industry, it is unlikely they will come up in an exam situation but are more likely to be used in your case study.
  • Architect’s Registration Board, The Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice.
  • RIBA, RIBA Job Book
  • RIBA, Plan of Work 2020 Overview
  • HSE, Managing Health and Safety in Construction, Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 L153.
  • RIBA, Good Practice Guide: Marketing your Practice.
  • RIBA, Good Practice Guide: Painless Financial Management

Note- these were just my top resources and everyone’s style of learning is different. Your universities will give you a reading list and ask your practice and colleagues what helped them prepare the most!

Note that this post is biased toward the Westminster course structure and there are other options out there but hope this has helped provide some tips for completing your Part 3.

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