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Architect fined over eco-home costs wrangle

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An architect who failed to tell his clients the conversion of a 1970s bungalow into an eco-home was not achievable on their budget has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and fined £4,000

The ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) said Alan Budden of Eco Design Consultants, in Bletchley, had been ‘morally blameworthy’ in allowing the clients to pursue their project when he knew their budget was inadequate.

Budden was instructed to alter and extend the bungalow in 2012 on an initial build budget of £80,000. The budget then increased by agreement to £100,000, and ultimately £145,000 for the project to become an eco-home built to Passivhaus EnerPHit standard.

After two years of work and £35,000 of costs, build quotes came in at more than £250,000 and the clients were forced to abandon the project and sell the property.

They alleged Budden had failed to inform them of any issue that may significantly affect the quality and cost of the project and - in particular - that he had not notified them that the original quotes would only cover the new-build element of the scheme.

Budden argued the clients had misread his initial cost advice, which related only to the cost of the extension to the property and not to the refurbishment of the existing dwelling. He said the housing market had undergone a ‘seismic shift’ in the months since the original quotes were given, meaning contractors would only tender at ‘greatly inflated’ prices.

Finding him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence, conduct committee members said that the project was not divisible into new-build and refurbishment elements, and that Budden had known his clients’ budget was for the whole project.

‘The whole project was based on a false premise,’ they said. ‘It is part of the architect’s role and responsibility to keep the client’s mind on the costing of the project.

‘It was morally blameworthy to have allowed his clients to pursue their project for such a long period of time when it could never have been fulfilled.’

The board’s PCC said Budden had not ‘demonstrated any insight or remorse’ and fined him £2,000 in respect of each charge.

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