Our director Tamsin Bryant was featured in the Times, Bricks and Mortar Magazine which raises awareness of the mis-use of the title Architect, and highlights concerns with businesses which purposefully mis-lead clients into thinking they are using an architect when in fact they are not.
Finding an architect? It can be a fine line
May 3 2019, 12:01am, The Times
Martin and Punam Peck used a design and architectural company to oversee an extension to the top floor of their home in central London. “At every stage and in all our conversations the company we used referred to the man we were working with as an architect,” Martin says.
The couple soon became suspicious, however. “The drawings were shoddy, there were few ideas and we now know that some of the things he told us about building regulations were incorrect,” says Martin, who works in finance. “We asked the company directly was this man really an architect. We were told he was.”
Two months later Punam, who also works in finance, found out he wasn’t. Deciding to research the situation, she learnt about the Architects Registration Board (ARB), which was established by parliament in 1997 to regulate the profession. By law an architect has to be registered with the organisation. The man working on their home was not registered.
The Pecks terminated the contract because of the company’s negligence, refusing to pay more than the invoice they had already settled, and walked away. “Our new, real, architect is concerned about all kinds of things, such as foundation loading, which the previous company didn’t even mention,” Martin says. “The difference is like night and day.”
The Pecks learnt the hard way that while the job title is a protected term under the Architects Act 1997, meaning that it can be used only by individuals who have the relevant training or experience, anyone can call themselves an “architectural consultant” or set up an “architectural company”.
Pippa Booth, a freelance picture editor, had a similar experience. She used the services of Amber Rand, the owner of Plan & Design, which says on its homepage that it offers “residential architectural services”. Assuming that Rand was an architect, the Booths employed her to oversee a loft and rear extension of their house in New Malden, southwest London.
“We discussed what we wanted and she came back with some plans,” Booth says. “We discovered that the rear-extension plans were a perfect example of what the council would never consider agreeing to. It was too high, bulky, came out too far and would have blocked our neighbour’s light.”
The loft plans were also problematic. “The way she had drawn them meant that to access the loft you would have to crawl under a steel beam, and the bath in the en suite was designed under the eaves, in a space you couldn’t get into,” Booth says. “At this point alarm bells went off.
“Eventually I thought: ‘How can an architect not know this?’ So I phoned up the ARB, who said they had no record of her. Suddenly the penny dropped: on her website it says ‘architectural planner’. It never occurred to me that you could say this and not be some kind of architect.”
Booth says she was “soul-destroyed” by the experience. Having had their plans rejected by the council, she and her husband decided to cut their losses and use another architect. “I don’t know exactly how much it cost us, but it’s in the thousands,” she says. “We should have been moving into the house now, which we’re paying a mortgage for, and we’re renting.”
Rand failed to return calls from Bricks & Mortar.
An ARB spokesman says: “The register is a definitive record of all UK architects, which anyone can check easily online. If someone is not on the register they are not an architect and not subject to our regulation — simple as that.”
The spokesman adds that “anyone” can provide architectural services. “However, they will not be subject to regulatory requirements, which include standards of education, training, competence and conduct.”
The maximum fine for misusing the title of architect is £2,500. In some cases the ARB seeks criminal convictions and in January Robi Miah of Luton in Bedfordshire was ordered to pay a record sum of £29,525 for misusing the title.
Tamsin Bryant, the director at Adams + Collingwood Architects, says: “If you employ somebody who is not an architect and doesn’t know what they are doing, there is no guarantee that the design complies with building regulations, which means it may leak, crack or fall down. If something goes wrong they are unlikely to have insurances, which may leave the client with a poor design and out of pocket.”
To check your architect, go to architects-register.org.uk