Mr John Nicholas Woods
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr John Nicholas Woods (046873H)
Sean Hammond (Chair)
Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member)
Alastair Cannon (PCC Lay Member)
Emma Boothroyd (Chair)
Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member)
Martin Pike (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against John Woods (“the Respondent”):
a. accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against him in the terms set out below;
b. confirms that he has been offered the opportunity to appear before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee to present his case, but does not wish to do so.
The Architects Registration Board accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary against John Woods in the terms set out below:
An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct has been brought by the ARB against the Respondent. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
- The Respondent did not provide adequate terms of engagement to the Complainant contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code;
- The Respondent did not prepare accurate drawings, measurements and plans in respect of a loft conversion.
Statement of agreed facts
- The Respondent is a registered architect and is a sole practitioner based in Gravesend.
- In 2019, C and C M (“the Complainants”) contacted the Respondent in respect of works at a bungalow they had inherited (“the Property”). The Complainants wanted to carry out a loft conversion to add a bedroom and shower room upstairs. The shower room was to be situated at the front of the Property to allow the use of existing and recently upgraded drainage. The Complainants also wanted to build a porch and carry out internal reconfiguration works.
- Following an initial meeting, the Respondent sent a letter to the Complainants dated 17 February 2019 setting out three potential proposals for the works and his costs for each proposal. Following further discussions, a further letter was sent by the Respondent dated 6 March 2019. That letter confirmed the proposal agreed upon, namely a loft conversion to create a bedroom and ensuite bathroom, a full rewire, plumbing and hearing works, a “revamped” kitchen, new windows, chimney removal, a small rear extension and construction of a porch.
- The Complainants provided the Respondent with a key so that he could attend at the Property to take measurements; the Property was empty at the time. The Respondent then prepared drawings and on 14 August 2019 a planning application was made to Gravesham Borough Council. Planning permission was granted on 27 September 2019. Conditional Building Regulations Approval was granted in November 2019.
- The Complainants appointed a contractor themselves and works commenced at the Property in January 2020. In February 2020 the Complainants were contacted by Mr A, Director at the Contractor. He advised that the proposed works on the drawings did not fit into the space for the loft conversion. The Complainants contacted the Respondent to advise of the issues.
- The Complainants attended at the Property and were advised by Mr A that the measurements on the Respondents drawings were incorrect and that the loft conversion proposal did not fit into the space, with a shortfall of over 14 square metres.
- The Complainants and the Respondent met at the Property on 25 February 2020. The Respondent took measurements of the site.
- The Contractor redesigned the layout to enable the Complainants to retain a bedroom and shower room but these ended up considerably smaller than originally planned. The shower room had to be relocated to the rear of the Property rather than the front of the Property, which required the installation of additional drainage. The final design also resulted in a loss of storage space and additional steels and supports had to be installed. A pocket door had to be installed due to the lack of space.
- On 3 March 2020 the Complainants wrote to the Respondent outlining their concerns. They sought reimbursement for additional costs incurred. On 14 March 2020 the Respondent replied to the Complainant noting that the plans were “generally correct” but accepting that there were “dimensional discrepancies in the overall width and length of the loft space”.
- The Complainants sought further information from Mr A as to the additional costs incurred. On 15 August 2020 the Complainants wrote to the Respondent and confirmed that the building work was complete and that their additional costs totalled £4,174; they provided the breakdown of costs provided by Mr A. The Complainants requested reimbursement of this sum.
- The Respondent requested a further breakdown of costs and supporting documentation. The Complainants obtained further information from Mr A and provided this to the Respondent.
- The Complainants then made a formal complaint to the ARB on 28 August 2020.
- In May 2021 the Complainants received costs from the Respondent in the sum of £2,904 by way of settlement of the additional costs incurred.
- The Respondent accepts that he did not provide adequate terms of engagement at the outset of the contract or throughout. The Respondent admits that he had a professional obligation to provide the Complainants with full and adequate terms of engagement.
- The Respondent accepts that his letters dated 17 February 2019 and 6 March 2019 did not clearly set out the role and responsibilities of the parties and any constraints/limitations on those responsibilities. He accepts that in addition, no information was provided on the suspension or termination of the agreement, that he had adequate and appropriate insurance cover, details of complaints handling and that he was registered with the ARB. The Respondent accepts that all of this information ought to have been provided at the outset in accordance with the requirements of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (2017).
- The Respondent accepts that the drawings and plans he prepared contained incorrect measurements and were inaccurate. He accepts that as a result of that, the proposed loft conversion had to be altered which resulted in a significant reduction in the space available. The Respondent accepts this also caused his client to incur additional costs.
Statement as to unacceptable professional conduct
- In light of the admissions above, the Respondent further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
- Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code 2017 states that an Architect is expected to ensure that they enter into a written agreement with the client which adequately covers a number of matters including the scope of the work, who will be responsible for what and details of fees and/or the method of calculating fees. The Architect is expected to enter into this written agreement with the client prior to undertaking any professional work. As a result of not providing full written terms of engagement, the Respondent did not provide adequate details as to:
- The contracting parties;
- Who will be responsible for what;
- Any constraints of limitations on the responsibilities of the parties;
- The provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement;
- The existence of any Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes that the contract is subject to;
- A statement that the Respondent had adequate and appropriate insurance cover as specified by the ARB;
- That a complaints handling procedure is available on request; and
- A statement that that Architect is registered with the Architects Registration Board and subject to the Architects Code.
- The Respondent accepts that it was necessary for him to provide adequate written terms of engagement for the project, as required under Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. A failure to provide adequate terms is serious because, as in this case, if an issue arises later in the process then it can be more difficult to resolve matters without clarity as to important matters such as cost and responsibility for the works.
- The Respondent accepts that Standard 2.1 of the Code expects an architect to be competent to carry out their professional work. The Respondent’s errors in the drawings demonstrate a failure to comply with this requirement of the Code. Standard 6.1 of the Code expects an architect to carry out their work with skill and care, in accordance with their terms of engagement. The Respondent accepts that he did not apply sufficient skill or care on this project; his design was not buildable as had been originally envisaged and significant issues arose with the works that had to be remedied.
- The Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee, with the consent of the parties and having taken account of its responsibilities to protect the public and maintain the reputation of the profession, makes the following disciplinary order:
- In all of the circumstances, the Respondent agrees to a penalty order in the sum of £1,000.
- The Respondent has no previous disciplinary history. He has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
- The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Respondent’s reputation and that of the profession generally and therefore the parties agree that the Respondent’s conduct is sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order. In light of the above considerations, the parties agree that a penalty order in the sum of £1,000 is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.