Like all professions, architects are robustly regulated. The Architects Act 1997, section 13 provides that the Architects Registration Board (ARB) must issue a Code setting out the professional standards and conduct expected of a person registered as an architect. This is to protect clients’ interests and ensure the public has confidence in the profession.
The latest version of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (the Code) came into force on 1 January 2017.
The introduction states:
“Any failure to comply with the provisions of this Code is not of itself to be taken as constituting unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence, but it shall be taken into account in any disciplinary proceedings before ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee.
You are expected to be guided in your professional conduct and professional work by the spirit of the Code as well as by its express terms. The Code also covers your private life where your conduct may affect your fitness to practise as an architect, or public confidence in the profession.”
Below is a brief description of the twelve standards listed in the Code.
Standard 1 – Honesty and Integrity
This standard is the backbone of the Code and underpins all the other standards. You must act with honesty and integrity at all times and avert any actions that are contradictory to professional conduct, amongst other things.
In February 2020, Andrew Guy was struck off for using a string of pseudonyms to post fake one-star reviews on Google. Eight businesses were targeted, including competitors and two owned by women he had previous relationships with.
In delivering its decision, the ARB stated:
“Clients must be able to have trust and confidence in Architects. That is an essential element of what it means to be a professional.”
“[His] conduct was menacing and intimidatory and was directed towards other architectural practices and two women with whom he had had a relationship.”
Standard 2 – Competence
As a professional, you are expected to carry out your work competently and anyone you subcontract must be adequately supervised and competent in their particular skills. You are also expected to update your skills and be aware of guidelines issued by the ARB, amongst other things.
Standard 3 – Honest Promotion of Your Services
You must not engage in misleading advertising and comply with the Advertising Standards Authority’s codes and principles. If you are the principal of an architect practice, it is your responsibility to ensure one or more architects leads on any architectural work and the client knows the name of the architects, amongst other things.
Standard 4 – Competent Management of Your Business
This standard is comprehensive, covering the requirement for adequate client contracts; data protection and cybersecurity considerations; the need for suitable professional, financial technical, and staff resources; regular monitoring of projects; and an instruction that client papers, plans, and/or property must be returned upon request (as long as the client is legally entitled to them and the demand is not unreasonable), amongst other things.
Standard 5 – Consider the Wider Impact of your Work
Where appropriate, you should advise your clients on ways to enhance and conserve the environment and natural resources when working on a project.
Standard 6 – You Should Carry Out your Professional Work Conscientiously and with Due Regard to Relevant Technical and Professional Standards
Clients are relying on your expertise; therefore, you are expected to carry out your work with skill and care and in accordance with the agreed timetable. Clients should be kept updated and notified of any anticipated changes to the cost, quality or timescales previously agreed, amongst other things.
Standard 7 – Trustworthiness and Safeguarding Clients’ Money
Make sure accurate records of a client or third-party’s money held by you are kept. Such money should be deposited in an interest-bearing bank account named ‘client account’. You need to write to the bank and instruct them not to combine ‘client money’ with other funds and arrange for any accruing interest to be paid to the client (unless otherwise agreed), amongst other things.
Standard 8 – Insurance Arrangements
You are expected to have adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance in place to cover you, your practice, and your staff. You should ensure that your insurance remains adequate to meet a claim, amongst other things.
Standard 9 – Maintaining the Reputation of Architects
Amongst other things, this Standard states that as well as ensuring your professional finances are responsibly managed, you are also expected to conduct yourself in a way which does not bring either yourself or the profession into disrepute. If you have fallen short of these standards, or that your conduct could reflect badly on the profession, you are expected to report the matter to the ARB. You should notify the ARB within 28 days if, for example, you:
- are convicted of a criminal offence;
- are made the subject of a court order disqualifying you from acting as a company director;
- are made the subject of a Bankruptcy Order, Debt Relief Order or Bankruptcy Restriction Order;
- have given a director disqualification undertaking or Bankruptcy Restriction undertaking;
- are a director of a company which is wound up or placed in administration or a CVA (other than for amalgamation or reconstruction purposes);
- make an accommodation with creditors (including a voluntary arrangement);
- fail to pay a judgment debt.
Standard 10 – Deal with Disputes or Complaints Appropriately
It is important to have a complaints procedure in place which is per the Code and published guidance. All complaints should be acknowledged within 10 working days and a response provided within 30 working days, amongst other things.
Standard 11 – Co-operation with Regulatory Requirements and Investigations
If you are asked to provide information to the ARB, you must co-operate fully and complete requests promptly. You should also notify the ARB in writing of any changes of details held about you on the Register.
Standard 12 – Respect for Others
You are expected to treat everyone fairly and comply with your legal obligations. You must not discriminate because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.
Having been instructed by the ARB for approximately 20 years in relation to prosecutions, we are now available to provide advice and assistance to Architects facing disciplinary and regulatory investigation and hearings before the Professional Conduct Committee. Please call us on 0151 909 2380 or complete our Free Online Enquiry.