Our role in maintaining standards
Professional Conduct matters
ARB maintains standards within the profession for the benefit of the public and architects alike. The professional standards function oversees the implementation of a Code of Conduct which sets out standards of professional conduct and practice expected of persons registered as architects. ARB provides a complaints mechanism for dealing with allegations of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence against architects, and also produces guidance to both architects and clients on how disputes can be avoided.
- Following a public consultation that took place in 2012, ARB introduced a new process for investigating complaints about architects – an Investigations Pool consisting of appointed architects and lay people with expertise in investigating professional disputes. In 2013 this led to a 28% increase in cases being completed within agreed timescales.
- There were 27 Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) hearings held in 2013, an increase of 17% from the number heard in 2012. Findings against architects at the PCC are published to inform the profession.
- ARB continues to provide information for the profession on how to avoid disputes arising. We regularly help with enquiries from architects about practice related issues. New guidance was published on how to avoid complaints, and a number of seminars and presentations were given to architects on matters of professional practice.
Misuse of title
ARB is also responsible for protecting the title ‘architect’. Section 20 of the Architects Act makes it a criminal offence for anyone not on the Register of Architects to call themselves an ‘architect’ in business or practice. The ARB takes very seriously its statutory responsibility for the regulation of the title ‘architect’ as required by section 20 of the Architects Act 1997, every individual case brought to its attention is thoroughly investigated. ARB’s objective is to investigate and resolve any on-going misuse of title as quickly as possible rather than pursuing a criminal prosecution on every occasion. In reaching a decision as to whether to prosecute, two principles are applied: the public interest test (including for example the risk of the defendant reoffending and evidence of client harm) and the evidential test – whether there is a sufficient prospect of proving the case. The prospect of success will usually be determined by the quality of the evidence available.
- During 2013 we carried out 381 Investigations into misuse of the title ‘architect’, an increase of 9% from 2012. All were successfully resolved, either by way of co-operation or prosecution. During the course of 2013 ARB had six successful criminal prosecutions for misuse of title.
- In 2013 we had our first successful Scottish criminal prosecution brought by the Procurator Fiscal for misuse of the title ‘architect’. The evidential requirements in Scotland are different from England & Wales. This was the first Scottish case to be brought by the Procurator Fiscal relating to misuse of the title architect, and represented a very positive outcome.
In tandem with this statutory responsibility we work to prevent misuse of title (rather than solely prosecute) and to raise awareness of the restrictions on using the title ‘architect’. To support our work in this area, we also work to raise public awareness of the Register and help users and potential users of architects’ services to make informed choices.