At a hearing of the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) in London on 10 & 11 September 2015 and 1 February 2016, Mr Phillip Armstrong of White Box Architecture, Knutsford, Cheshire was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and issued with a £2,500 penalty order.
Mr Armstrong was engaged by his clients to design works, manage the project, and administer the contract for the conversion of the cellar of their house. When the tenders were returned significantly higher than budget, reductions and savings in work were discussed and agreed with the contractor by value engineering, including underpinning. Part way through the work a wall in the cellar collapsed.
The role of Mr Armstrong was criticised in a number of ways. It was said he did not explain to his clients how the cost reductions were to be effected through the contract, and when a problem with a wall in the cellar arose he did not take effective action prior to its collapse a few weeks later, and then did not deal with the aftermath satisfactorily. It was also alleged that he failed to check the financial situation of the contractor before the contract was entered into.
The PCC found that the architect had left his clients unaware of the contractual position they were in, as they thought they had a contract at around £129,000, when in fact they were contractually obliged to pay some £146,000, and no architect’s instructions were issued to reduce the contractual sum, as Mr Armstrong had intended. It was also found that he failed to provide adequate advice in respect of the contractor’s liability following the collapse of the wall. Mr Armstrong was found not guilty of all other allegations, but the failings identified were sufficiently serious as to amount to unacceptable professional conduct.
When deciding on sanction the Committee was concerned to be told that Mr Armstrong had a previous finding of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence from 2013, and considered that this demonstrated a worrying lack of ability in the architect’s conduct of his practice. The Committee noted that the matters found proved in this decision and in the previous decision were overlapping.
The Committee took into account Mr Armstrong’s regret, but was greatly concerned at the variety of matters that had led to disciplinary action. While the appropriate sanction on this occasion was a penalty order, it said that should he be found guilty of a future disciplinary offence, then a future disciplinary panel would be likely to carefully examine whether it is necessary to impose a sanction which might interfere with his ability to practice as an architect.
Taking all of this into account, the Committee found that the appropriate sanction was a penalty order of £2,500 – the maximum amount available.
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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