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MacCormac Jamieson Prichard

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MacCormac Jamieson Prichard has completed its first City office block in Clifton Street just north of Broadgate. The building, for Real Property Investments, stands on a corner. The grey-clad circulation tower contrasts with the white cladding and dark reflective glass of the main five-storey building. Whitby Bird and Partners was the structural engineer.

ARB in 'climb-down' over new code of conduct

The arb has completely rewritten its code of professional conduct and practice, with clarifications of its position on the so-called 'whistleblower's charter' and a new standard which deals with the thorny subject of competence. But it has once again declined to give a full definition of what constitutes incompetence and is already predicting it will need to firm up its wording on supplanting if consultation on the document brings forth complaints that it is too vague.

arb assistant registrar Richard Coleman said that the reworking of the code - now called 'Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice' - had been necessary to counter criticism of the original, which the board had been 'under pressure to issue quickly' in November 1997. The new standard 10 on whistleblowing - standard 11 in the original - says architects should now 'ensure that the standards in this code are followed by themselves and should, in appropriate circumstances, report to the registrar any breach of the Standards by themselves or fellow architects which may be of concern to the Board.' This is a major dilution of arb's previous insistence that architects report 'any serious falling short' of the standards, while a sentence urging architects to do 'whatever can reasonably be done to ensure their observance by architects' has been deleted.

Coleman said that a new Section 10.7 deals with criticisms of the earlier document about the position of arbritrators, mediators or expert witnesses in a dispute. It says the architect will need to 'balance his or her duties to the parties with his or her obligations under this code' and that the board accepts that under these situations it could be 'inappropriate' for an architect to report to the registrar any breach of standards. 'However, where an architect is acting on behalf of another architect (eg as an expert witness) he or she should in appropriate circumstances encourage the architect concerned to report themselves to the registrar by recording in writing to the architect their concern,' it adds.

Coleman said incompetence has not been defined as very few professions actually do so and it was difficult to define it 'in any meaningful way', but the arb will give publicity to cases once the conduct committee gets decisions going towards that cause. A new standard 1 on 'conduct and competence', however, lists a number of 'shoulds' and 'shalls' concerning 'truthfulness', 'business and professional interests' and supplanting.

On this last point, however, Coleman said that it was likely that wording needed to be firmed up. The line reads that 'an architect should exercise usual professional courtesies when commissioned (for whatever reason) to take over a project from another Architect'. Coleman said the issue of supplanting had not been directly addressed but that the board takes the view that supplanting can be a serious matter and can amount to 'unacceptable professional conduct.' The 'usual professional courtesies' could amount to the architect taking over a project simply writing to the other architect concerned.

Architect and aj columnist Paul Hyett, who has campaigned against some of the elements of the earlier code, said: 'From an initial scan I'm cautiously optimistic that the new code will be good because it appears to be a complete rewrite and a climb-down on the Whistleblower's contract.' Elsewhere the ordering has been changed with a section on client care and complaints, a new strapline reads that the arb is 'protecting the consumer and safeguarding the reputation of architects', and references to architects as 'he' have been brought up to date to become 'he or she'.

Consultation on the document will go on until 5 October, with representations brought back to the board on 20 October. The arb hopes to get it out into operation in the New Year, possibly with a loose-leaf format designed for minor amendments.

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