Serious concerns about architects are rare. On the limited occasions they do occur, as the UK regulator we are here to ensure standards, and therefore trust, in the profession is maintained. We hope the information published about conduct and competence decisions provides useful learning points for others.
Mr Robert Lukas of HLP Architects, Edinburgh has been erased from the Architects Register following a hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) on 25-28 February 2020 which found him guilty of serious professional incompetence (SPI) and unacceptable professional conduct (UPC). Mr Lukas attended the hearing and chose not to be legally represented.
The allegations made against Mr Lukas related to his competence, integrity, impartiality and independence. It was alleged that Mr Lukas carried out a flawed tender process, provided and used an inappropriate contract for building work, and failed to administer a building contract competently, failing to identify major issues with the work carried out. Additional allegations were that he oversaw and witnessed a regime of cash payments to the contractor despite his client raising concerns over this method of payment and the lack of progress of work on site. It was also alleged he had failed to act impartially and independently in response to his client’s concerns regarding the contractor’s workmanship.
The PCC found all the facts and allegations proven. It noted Mr Lukas’ behaviour deceived his client into thinking the approach was normal, when it was in fact unacceptable, and had led to a long lasting emotional and financial impact on the client.
When determining the sanction, the PCC observed that Mr Lukas had no previous findings against him over a long career, had demonstrated a degree of empathy with his client and had engaged fully with the regulatory process. It also noted there was no evidence he had derived any financial benefit beyond his modest fee.
However, the PCC also considered the combination of competence and conduct issues to be wide ranging and significant, the lack of integrity being particularly serious. Additionally, it considered Mr Lukas had little insight into his failings.
Given this, the PCC determined the protection of the public and the reputation of the profession required Mr Lukas’ name to be erased from the Architects Register, rendering him unable to practise as an architect in the UK. Erasure from the Register is permanent unless a successful application for re-entry is made to ARB after a minimum of two years. In this case the PCC, remarking upon the difficulty of remediating such failings, recommended no such application from Mr Lukas be considered for at least three years.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
Notes for Editors
• The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest.
Among other duties, the Act requires ARB to:
– Maintain the Architects Register
– Prescribe the UK qualifications needed to become an architect in the UK
– Issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of architects
– Investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence
– Investigate and where appropriate prosecute unregistered individuals who unlawfully call themselves an architect
– Act as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects
• ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one lay, non-executive Chair and ten non-executive Board members made up of five members of the public and five architects.
• The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The PCC determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence.
Where a guilty finding is made, the PCC will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
– a reprimand
– a penalty order
– a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
– an erasure order
• Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
For further information, please contact Kate Howlett (ARB Communications Manager) on 020 7580 5861 or by email at KateH@arb.org.uk.