Standard 1: Honesty and integrity
Standard 1 underpins all other Standards within the Code. Acting honestly and with integrity is the cornerstone of all regulated professions in the UK – it goes to the heart of the trust and confidence placed in those professions by the general public.
The public must feel able to trust architects with their homes, properties, investments, finances and even safety. A breach of Standard 1 is the most likely to seriously and irrevocably undermine public confidence in the profession.
Given the significance of this Standard, a finding of dishonesty by a Professional Conduct Committee will often result in erasure from the Architects Register. While breaches in other areas of the Code may be remediated through training, reflection or further practice, attitudinal failings are often harder to remedy and so pose a greater future risk to the public.
Even where there is no risk of repetition, the courts have made clear that the need to uphold public confidence and professional standards may still require the ultimate sanction. The reputation of the profession is more important than the interests of any individual member.
So what does the Standard mean by honesty and integrity? Honesty is based on the same principles we apply to our everyday conduct, being truthful and candid and not acting deceitfully. Integrity, in this context, is a little more nuanced. It has been defined by the courts as the higher standard of conduct society expects from professionals, and professionals expect from their fellows.
For example, an architect may be considered to have acted without integrity if they recklessly allowed a planning authority to be misled about facts of a planning application or construction, even if they make no explicit dishonest statement. An architect may also be considered to lack integrity if they place their personal interests ahead of their clients’. Lack of integrity doesn’t require an intentional act of deceit, but is likely to involve conduct which the public would find questionable and falling short of the high standards expected of a respected professional.
A common area of complaint we see is the management of conflicts of interest. Standard 1.3 states that an architect should disclose any such conflict in writing and seek written confirmation from the affected parties that they may continue to act. This requirement may arise if you have a pre-existing (and sometimes personal) relationship with the contractor, or where you are acting as both architect and contractor for the client. It is not always possible, or necessary, to avoid such conflict but in such circumstances you must ensure the client understands the conflict fully and any implications it may have on the work being carried out. You can search our published Professional Conduct Committee decisions for other examples of cases involving Standard 1.
It is important to note that the expectation to act with honesty and integrity extends beyond your professional life. As the Code makes clear, it is conduct expected “at all times”. We assess such allegations carefully, on a case by case basis, to determine if they are sufficiently serious to require regulatory intervention. For example, telling a white lie about your age will not prompt us to take action. However claiming financial benefits to which you are not entitled, because of the wider implications on reputation, is more likely to result in regulatory action.
We hope you found this advice useful. We are here to support you through regulation and the Professional Standards team is on hand to provide further advice and guidance on professional obligations under the Code. Contact us if you have any concerns or queries and we will be happy to help.