The Architects Registration Board has launched a consultation on its proposals to amend the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice.

Background

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is an independent body established by the government to regulate the architectural profession in the UK. It is responsible for issues such as maintaining the UK Register of Architects, prescribing what qualifications are needed to become an architect and dealing with complaints against architects.

The ARB issues a code of conduct (the Code) which sets out the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of registered architects. Failure to comply with the Code is not in itself a disciplinary offence, but the Code is taken into account when assessing an architect's conduct or competence as part of disciplinary proceedings.

The first edition of the Code was published in 1997. Since then, there have been a number of updated editions, culminating in the latest edition in 2010. The ARB has now proposed to amend the Code, and has published its proposed amendments for consultation.

Proposed changes

The key changes are:

  • Clarifying that the Code also covers architects' private lives, where conduct may affect an architect's fitness to practice
  • A distinction between duties which architects "must" comply with, and duties they "should" comply with. "Must" is used for mandatory duties, where compliance is required by law. This includes the Equality Act 2010, the Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Regulations. "Should" is used for duties where there may be circumstances which could affect whether, or how, an architect complies with the duty
  • Standard 4 (Competent management of your business) has been amended to reflect the Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Regulations. Standard 12 (Respect for others) has been amended to reflect the Equality Act 2010
  • Standard 5 (Considering the wider impact of your work) previously required architects to take account of the environmental impact of their professional activities. This has been strengthened so that architects should, when appropriate, advise clients on how best to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment and its natural resources
  • Standard 9 (Maintaining the reputation of architects) previously allowed architects to enter into settlement agreements which prevented another party from reporting a breach of the Code to the ARB. This has been removed; architects now should not enter into any agreement which prevents such a report.

Other changes are minor amendments to phrasing, to clarify issues, or to delete repetition.

Out of all the proposed amendments we consider the one that will trouble most is the extension of the code to architects' private lives. In particular, how one draws the line between where conduct in someone's private life may affect fitness to practice as an architect and where it does not. This is a marked difference from the code set by RIBA, which specifically states that its code does not normally extend to members' conduct outside the practice of architecture. The exception to this (where such conduct generally "offends against the honour and integrity of the profession") requires significantly worse conduct than that being considered by the updated ARB Code.

However, it does bring the Code in line with that of some other professions, for example the code of conduct set by the Institution of Civil Engineers, which specifically states it includes any aspect of a member's personal conduct which could have a negative impact upon the profession.

It will be interesting to see how the members respond to this part of the consultation.

How to respond

The consultation closes on 30 March 2016. Click here for further information and to submit a response.