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Standard 2: Competence

In this Advisory Note we will be discussing Standard 2, which addresses competence. Competency is widely understood to refer to the knowledge, skill and ability of an individual to successfully execute a skill or responsibility.

Given the nature of the service architects provide, it’s an essential quality that clients expect. A client’s trust depends on the ability of an architect to effectively manage and deliver from project inception to project completion.

Although there can be challenges in specifically defining and assessing competence, it is a vital factor in upholding the high standards and good reputation of the profession. Given the potential impact on safety, when Standard 2 is breached it often results in a finding of Serious Professional Incompetence (SPI) by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), and can result in erasure from the Register, which prevents the individual from practising as an architect.

The Architects Code presents competence as a number of expectations, including the expectation to have appropriate cover should you be unable to complete your work, and the expectation to have the necessary communication skills and local knowledge to discharge your responsibilities. Each expectation helps assure the public their architect will manage their project to a high professional level.

Competence is not a static achievement but an evolving standard, so the knowledge and skills relevant to your professional work must be kept up date – particularly in response to advancements in technology and methods within the built environment, or changes in regulatory guidelines.

This could be done by routinely reflecting on your technical knowledge and expertise to identify where improvements may be made, periodically undertaking continued professional development (CPD) courses or workshops, and engaging with changes in industry and legislation.

This is not an exhaustive list, and the Code itself is not prescriptive. There are many ways you could choose to maintain your competence and you can make your own determination, though we would advise making it carefully and keeping a clear record of what you did.

Having an awareness of past PCC decisions is one way to understand the practical applications of Standard 2. For example, failure to provide feasible designs, failure to adequately supervise and inspect the work of subcontractors on site and carrying out flawed tender processes have all be considered in breach of the Code. By reading about past decisions you can help avoid similar issues.

When deciding the outcome of such cases, the PCC have considered the impact on the complainant and the reputation of profession, the architect’s level of insight into the issues and the steps taken by the architect to address any failings. Keeping these important factors in mind could help you resolve a dispute with a client or effectively explain your actions to us if we receive a complaint.

We hope you found this advice useful. We are here to support you through regulation, and the Professional Standards team is on hand to provide further advice and guidance on professional obligations under the Code. Contact us if you have any concerns or queries and we will be happy to help.

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