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Mr Matthew William Deering

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

In the matter of

Mr Matthew William Deering (051052A)

———-

Emma Boothroyd (Chair)
Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member)
Steve Neale (PCC Lay Member)

In respect of the charges against Matthew Deering (“the Respondent”):

Matthew Deering:

a. accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against him in the terms set out below;

b. confirms that he has been offered the opportunity to appear before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee to present his case, but does not wish to do so.

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against Matthew Deering in the terms set out below:

The Allegation:

An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct has been brought by the ARB against the Respondent. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:

Complaint by Ms M

1. The Respondent did not provide terms of engagement to the Complainant contrary to standard 4.4 of the Architects Code;

2. The Respondent did not produce adequate designs and drawings for the purposes of obtaining a fixed price from a contractor, in that they did not provide any and/or all of the following details:

(a) Materials and finishes, either internally or externally;
(b) The height of the first floor;
(c) The height of the pitch of the roof;
(d) Construction detail;
(e) Information regarding provisions for the lift, including the lift pit;
(f) Structural specifications.

3. The Respondent did not deal with a complaint about their professional work appropriately;

Complaint by the Registrar

4. The Respondent did not have adequate and appropriate insurance in place contrary to standard 8 of the Architects Code.

Statement of agreed facts:

1. The Respondent is a registered architect and has his own practice, Matthew Deering Architects Ltd.

2. In 2013, Ms M (“the Complainant”) instructed a specialist company that designs dental practices (“Company P”) for assistance with the proposed development of a purpose built dental practice. Company P had previously worked with the Respondent and introduced him to the Complainant to assist with the project.

3. The Complainant had located a potential site for development in 2013 but in due course an alternative site had to be sourced. Once this had been done, the Respondent initially assisted with a feasibility study which took place in 2015. The Respondent invoiced Company P for his assistance with the feasibility study. Following the study, the Complainant completed the acquisition of the site in December 2015.

4. On 27 January 2016 the Complainant met with Company P and the Respondent to discuss the next stages of the project. At this meeting it was agreed that the Respondent would design the building and that Company P would complete the specialist dental practice fit out. The Complainant understood that she was commissioning Company P and the Respondent individually and in particular that Company P would be the designer and the Respondent would be the principal architect. An interior designer was also appointed.

5. Following the 27 January 2016 meeting, confirmation was sent by Company P confirming the individual roles and stating that the Respondent would invoice the Complainant directly from that point onwards. The Respondent did not provide any contract or terms of engagement to the Complainant at this point or at any stage.

6. The Respondent prepared a planning application for submission to Carlisle City Council and this was submitted in June 2016. Planning permission was granted on 25 October 2016.

7. The Respondent also prepared drawings that would be used to tender to obtain a fixed price contract with a construction company. The Respondent approached potential contractors to tender for the works. Only one company expressed an interest or ability to take on the works (“the Contractor”).

8. The Respondent met with the Contractor on 4 April 2017. It was agreed that the Contractor would conduct very initial groundwork to satisfy the requirements of the Council’s lease. Whilst those works were being progressed, the Respondent noted that he, the structural engineer, Company P and the interior designer would finalise the specification to ensure pricing could be ‘frozen’.

9. The Complainant instructed the Contractor to commence initial works on site on 24 April 2017. At that stage a full specification had not been provided to the Contractor for them to prepare the build cost.

10. In May 2017 the Respondent issued drawings and specifications to the Contractor. The Contractor contacted the Complainant to advise that he had concerns about the drawings produced in respect of a lack of detail.

11. The Complainant attended a meeting with the Contractor on 19 May 2017. The Respondent was not present at that meeting. The Contractor had invited another architect, SW, to the meeting and had asked SW to review the drawings produced by the Respondent. The Complainant advises that during the meeting she was advised that the design drawings produced for the Contractor were not adequate and that the drawings did not contain the detail that would be expected to allow the Contractor to provide a price for tender.

12. The Contractor and Respondent exchanged correspondence regarding the drawings in May and June 2017. The Contractor sought pre-construction information required and raised concerns about the contents of the drawings.

13. The Complainant, who has stated that she had concerns about the issues raised by the Contractor, contacted Company P advising she had lost confidence in the Respondent’s ability. Company P spoke to the Respondent on her behalf to raise the Complainant’s concerns. On 7 June 2017 the Respondent emailed the Complainant noting that he was disappointed and that he had sought to carry out his work professionally. The Complainant replied on 9 June 2017 setting out her concerns, including the fact that she did not have a package adequate for obtaining a reliable fixed price contract with the Contractor.

14. On 27 June 2017 the Complainant wrote to the Respondent raising her concerns about his involvement in the project and requesting a copy of his complaints procedure and a response within 7 days. The Respondent replied on 6 July 2017; he did not provide a copy of his complaints procedure. He stated that he was commissioned by Company P and that his brief was to solely quote for architectural drawings.

15. The Complainant wrote to the Respondent on 7 July 2017. She did not accept that the Respondent’s appointment was directly with Company P. She again requested a copy of the Respondent’s complaints procedure and a response within 10 days.

16. The Respondent replied on 14 July 2017 advising he had forwarded his letter to his insurers and was awaiting their comments. He did not provide a copy of his complaints procedure.

17. On 31 August 2017 the Complainant wrote to the Respondent noting that she had not heard anything further and that she had not yet received the Respondent’s complaints procedure. She sought a response by 4 September 2017. She did not receive a response and sent a further letter on 13 September 2017 advising that she would be raising a complaint with the ARB.

18. The Respondent wrote to the Complainant on 18 September 2017 advising he had been in hospital and on annual leave. He provided a copy of his complaints procedure. The Complainant made a complaint to the ARB in September 2018.

19. As part of ARB’s investigation, ARB’s Investigation Officer wrote to the Respondent to notify him of the complaint that had been received. The Respondent provided representations in response to the complaint on 14 March 2019. That response included details of the Respondent’s Professional Indemnity Insurance (“PII”). The Respondent advised that his previous policy had expired and since then he had been unable to obtain PII or run off cover.

20. On 25 March 2019 the ARB sought further information regarding the Respondent’s insurance provisions. In response the Respondent noted that his previous PII policy had expired on 16 August 2018 and since then he had carried out graphics work for the interior design of a gym and provided advice on how to comply with regulations on a loft conversion which was designed by another architect. The Respondent also stated that he had been engaged as an architect in relation to a refurbishment project. He advised that he had since resigned from the project and had no other continuing architectural projects.

Inquirer

21. As part of ARB’s investigation, ARB instructed an independent inquirer to provide a report in relation to the drawings prepared by the Respondent. In conclusion the Inquirer stated that the drawings were not adequate for the purpose of obtaining a fixed price for a contractor. The Inquirer has advised that basic information missing from the drawings included:

I. No mention of materials and finishes, either external or internal;
II. Sections AA and BB on drawing 1579/06 B do not give the height of the first floor or the pitch of the roof;
III. A lack of construction detail;
IV. No information about the lift. The Inquirer goes on to note that the lift location shown would not be possible due to there being so little height within the overrun. Further, no lift pit is indicated;
V. There are no specifications

Admissions

22. The Respondent admits that he did not provide terms of engagement to the Complainant at the outset or throughout. The Respondent accepts that he was providing architectural services to the Complainant and on that basis he ought to have provided her with terms of engagement at the outset of his work for her, or certainly at the stage at which the project moved from the feasibility study to the production of drawings. The Respondent admits that he had a professional obligation to provide the Complainant with terms of engagement in accordance with the requirements of the Code.

23. The Respondent admits that he did not produce adequate designs and drawings for the purposes of obtaining a fixed price from a contractor. The Respondent accepts that the drawings were not adequate for the purposes for which they were produced and in particular that the drawings did not provide any of the details listed at paragraph 21 above.

24. The Respondent admits that he did not deal with the complaint from the Complainant appropriately. He accepts that he did not provide a copy of his complaints procedure until 18 September 2017, despite this being requested in June 2017. The Respondent accepts that he did not provide any substantive response to the concerns raised for a protracted period of time.

25. The Respondent admits that he carried out work after his insurance policy expired in August 2018 and without any new policy in place. The Respondent accepts that he ought not to have carried out such work without insurance or run off cover in place, as required by the Code.

Statement as to unacceptable professional conduct:

26. In light of the admissions above, the Respondent further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.

27. Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code 2010 states that an Architect is expected to ensure that they enter into a written agreement with the client which adequately covers a number of matters including the scope of the work, who will be responsible for what and details of fees and/or the method of calculating fees. The Architect is expected to enter into this written agreement with the client prior to undertaking any professional work. As a result of not providing written terms of engagement, the Respondent did not provide any information as required under the Code.

28. Setting out full and accurate terms in writing prior to undertaking work is essential for both the architect and their client in order that the parties are aware of their respective rights and obligations. As there were multiple parties involved in this case the Respondent ought to have ensured that clear and unequivocal terms of engagement were issued.

29. Standard 2.1 of the Code expects an architect to be competent to carry out their professional work. The drawings prepared for the Contractor were not completed to a standard that would be seen to be competent and caused issues to arise when the Contractor reviewed the drawings to provide a contract price. The Inquirer appointed by ARB commented that by sending the drawings prepared to the Contractor this demonstrated a “significant degree of incompetence”. The drawings were crucial for a fixed price contract to be provided, as was required by the Complainant. The Complainant had to instruct a new architect to prepare new and suitable drawings at further expense and causing delays to the project.

30. Standard 10.2 of the Architects Code 2017 requires that complaints are dealt with promptly and courteously at every stage. The Complainant ought not to have had to make repeated requests for the complaints procedure and she was entitled to receive a full response to concerns raised. The failure to provide a full response and the complaints procedure in a timely manner has the potential to diminish a complainant’s faith in the architect and the wider profession.

31. Standard 8 of the Code is clear that an architect must hold adequate insurance when practicing as an architect. The Respondent delivered architectural services without either PII or run off cover in place. The failure to hold adequate insurance is serious; were a complaint or claim to be made against the Respondent then there would be no insurance provisions in place to provide protection to any potential complainant. The Respondent’s actions potentially exposed clients to risks in the event of any possible future claims.

Disciplinary Order

The Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee, with the consent of the parties and having taken account of its responsibilities to protect the public and maintain the reputation of the profession, makes the following disciplinary order:

1. In all of the circumstances the Respondent agrees to a 12 month suspension order.

2. The Respondent has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.

3. The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Respondent’s reputation and that of the profession generally and therefore the parties agree that the Respondent’s conduct was sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order.

4. The Committee is of the view that due to the seriousness of the allegation neither a reprimand or penalty order would be sufficient to address the public interest in this case. It does not, however, consider the Respondent’s conduct to be so serious that it is fundamentally incompatible with future registration. In light of the concerns raised, it considers that a suspension order for a period of 12 months is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.

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