At a hearing of the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) in Glasgow on 11 to 13 April and in London on 17 May 2016, Mr Lamb of John Lamb Architect, Glasgow, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and issued with a £2000 penalty order.
Mr Lamb was instructed to undertake a substantial refurbishment of a health centre with the aid of a 66% grant from the Health Board. In order to secure the funding, the refurbishment had to be carried out swiftly, on a fixed price contract. At the conclusion of the project the contractor presented a bill for a sum very substantially in excess of the agreed contract figure.
It was alleged that the architect failed to control the cost of the project; omitted items from the Specification and Description of Works; underestimated the cost; failed to present options for savings, and authorised the exclusion of air conditioning in the file store as part of the tender negotiations.
Mr Lamb attended the hearing and was represented. He denied the allegations and said that the building contract was one that had to be swift, and for that reason some items were estimates only. He said that the contractor’s final claimed cost was not one he had agreed, and it was the contractor who had increased the cost of certain items. He denied that he had been requested to include patient toilets, but admitted that he had omitted the new boilers in error. He had repeatedly pressed the contractor for details of costs of additional work, but the contractor had failed to provide these. He denied that he had been asked by the complainants for such breakdowns, and the minutes did not refer to any such request. The PCC found that as the client had agreed a payment schedule, there was no requirement for Mr Lamb to certify payment for work completed. Mr Lamb therefore kept no running total of contractual cost, although his contract with his client required him to keep them appraised as to cost. No architects instructions were issued to the contractor by Mr Lamb to record alterations or their cost. Once the contractor had issued its final account, Mr Lamb felt that he had done all that was reasonably to be expected in addressing the matter.
The Committee identified that the issues were of contract administration, not of design. Mr Lamb failed in his duty to look after the interests of his client in this project and the effect on those clients in terms of stress and additional expense was considerable. The PCC found that Mr Lamb had omitted some items, but in the circumstances this would not be unacceptable professional conduct. Mr Lamb was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in failing to keep the Complainant informed of matters which had a significant effect on the cost.
The Committee noted that Mr Lamb has had a long and unblemished career, but had expressed no regret for the difficulty his client encountered. Given his marked lack of insight and complete lack of sympathy for his client, the Committee decided that a penalty order of £2,000 would be the appropriate sanction.
A copy of the Committee’s decision can be found here.
Notes for Editors
ARB is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest. The Act requires ARB (among other things) to:
· Maintain the Register of Architects (Section 3)
· Prescribe qualifications for entry to the Register of Architects (Section 4)
· Deal with competence to practise (Section 9)
· Issue a Code which lays down standards of professional conduct and practice (Section 13)
· Regulate use of the title “architect” and prosecute those who use it unlawfully (Section 20)
The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The Committee determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence. Where a guilty finding is made, the Committee will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
· a reprimand
· a penalty order
· a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
· an erasure order
Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
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