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Protection of function is a fallacy in the real world


I read with interest that the ARB has embarked on the first step toward the protection of function. Great news for architects, the ARB is on our side after all.

Or maybe not. Regardless of the situation in other countries, the powerful lobbies of the construction industry and client bodies will never agree to the higher fees as a result of the decrease in competition. That's aside from the representations of the RICS, BIAT and other bodies whose members currently earn a legitimate living from designing buildings. Yes, there could be a better standard of design with protection of function, but that is not the only issue and the view of 30,000 architects is still a minority view.

If the ARB wants to regulate 'architectural' services, who will pay for this wider remit? The Act only allows revenue to be collected from those on the register, so either architects will pay or the government will have to supply a subsidy.

What will the sanctions be?

You cannot be tried for failing to adhere to the Standards of the Code if you are not bound by them. You are only bound by being on the register. Unless the statute is changed to embody the Code, which means that it will be up to Parliament not the ARB to alter it, and applied to all building designers, the ARB will only be as effective as it is now but at a greater cost (to us).And I can't see them giving up the power to amend the Code.

I can do my own conveyancing or divorce or represent myself in court, but I go to a solicitor because that is the most appropriate profession. I expect a certain standard of service as laid down in the rules of the Law Society and if this is not met I can complain to them. If I am 'duped' by a non-solicitor then there is also a sanction, as currently exists to those representing themselves as architects if they are not on the register. But I remain free to exercise my right to conduct my own divorce or have a building designed by anyone I wish. Protection of function will never happen and we're deluding ourselves if we think that the world outside of architecture will even give it a serious thought.

It's interesting that this idea comes from the ARB at a time it is criticised for introducing regulations that are out of proportion with the low level of complaints upheld against architects. Perhaps the announcement will deflect attention away from the current issue. One thing is certain. Either by the increased regulation of architects or the function of building design, the ARB is intent on increasing its powers without any consideration of the commensurate benefit to the consumer.

Mark Benzin, London EC1

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