ARB Insight, December 2022
by Simon Howard, Director of Standards
Last month’s decision of the ARB Professional Conduct Committee to erase an architect from the Register highlights the importance of challenging unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.
While this was an extreme example of discrimination that clearly warranted action, knowing when to report the conduct of someone you work with is not always straightforward.
Architects should be guided by Standard 9 of the Architects Code, which expects you to report to ARB and/or other public authorities any architect whose conduct falls significantly short of the standards expected of a professional.
You should use your professional judgement to decide whether to report concerns as a regulatory matter. In some cases, it may be appropriate for you or the organisation you work for to conclude internal enquiries before taking the matter any further. In other cases, your concerns will be about issues so serious that there should be no delay in reporting them.
You can always contact us for confidential advice (firstname.lastname@example.org), but we recommend considering the following factors when deciding whether the behaviour you have witnessed is serious enough to raise a formal concern.
Health and safety
The health and safety of those who construct and use buildings are of paramount importance. There is a drive to develop a strong safety culture within the built environment, and under the Building Safety Act 2022 all designers will be required to challenge inappropriate or unsafe behaviours and escalate concerns.
If you see an architect act in a way that may cause danger to others, you must highlight those dangers to the proper authorities and report the architect to ARB. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye, nor is it always sufficient to challenge the individual directly. Many serious risks to the public do not come to light until someone decides to report them, or they may only come to light after a great deal of harm has already been done.
It is likely that, as an architect, you will work with a wide range of people, some of whom may have a very different view of the world from you. Because of this it is important to understand the difference between having different ethical outlooks and witnessing unlawful discrimination. The Equalities Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against another person based on one or more of nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. If you experience or witness such discrimination, you should report it accurately and promptly and, where that discrimination is criminal, report the matter to the police.
Often events may be contentious and disputed; in which case, you should consider if it’s possible to collect and retain the evidence you have seen or heard. That can include taking a note of what you and other witnesses may have experienced.
Most of ARB’s cases of serious misconduct are raised with us by clients or from fellow professionals, concerned at the behaviour or competence of fellow professionals. Without this information, our ability to effectively maintain the public’s confidence in the profession would be limited.
Where you see evidence that an architect has acted in a way that would undermine that confidence in architects collectively, you should speak up. There’s no definite list of actions or behaviours that should cause you to report – but by way of example, dishonesty, financial malpractice or mistreatment of junior members of staff are all issues that would normally reach that threshold.
Our personal and collective actions will help to protect individuals as well as maintaining and enhancing the reputation of the architecture profession as a whole.