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Latest ARB judgments: Scottish director suspended and Sunderland architect fined

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The Architects Registration Board has suspended a practice director in a case involving sewage treatment, and fined another architect £1,000 over a botched attic conversion

At a hearing of the ARB’s professional conduct committee (PCC), Euan Millar a practice director of Icosis Architects, Edinburgh, was suspended for a year for a series of charges including swapping an agreed sewage treatment plant for a septic tank without adequately informing his client.

Millar was found guilty of six counts of unacceptable professional conduct regarding a new-build house in the north-west Highlands.

The committee said Millar’s failings were ‘serious and wide-ranging and had a substantial impact on the clients’.

Its judgement added that ‘it considered that his conduct diminished both his reputation and that of the profession generally and there remained a moderate risk of the failings being repeated.’

Millar was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for:

  • knowingly permitting the contractor to install a septic tank without obtaining permission from building control;
  • failing to adequately notify his client of the decision to use a septic tank rather than a sewage treatment plant;
  • failing to adequately advise his client about obtaining an NHBC building warranty;
  • failing to provide a competent and/or appropriate design for the roof and/or walls of the property when using oak shingles;
  • telling the contractor to omit lead flashings, which contributed to leaks and further costs;
  • certifying the works, despite being aware of ongoing defects in the property.

Millar did not attend the hearing in Glasgow, but admitted four of the charges in writing and accepted the allegations amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

In reaching its decision to impose the suspension, the committee took into account his lack of previous breaches, his remorse and work he put in to try to resolve the issues, and positive testimonials.

A report from the committee said that it had given ‘consideration to an erasure order, but decided against such a sanction given the suitability of a suspension order. An erasure order, the committee considered, would be unduly punitive’.

Meanwhile, at a separate hearing in London last month, the ARB issued a £1,000 penalty order to Lynsey Claire Rollins of L Rollins Design, Sunderland, after finding her guilty of professional misconduct over a botched attic conversion.

The PCC heard that in 2015, the clients had instructed Rollins to draw up plans for a double bedroom and en-suite bathroom in a loft. A few weeks into the conversion, the contractor advised the clients that neither a double bedroom nor an en-suite bathroom could be achieved in the space.

It was alleged that Rollins failed to produce a design that was fit for purpose, resulting in a loft conversion that failed to meet Building Regulations, a double bedroom that was too small, and an en-suite bathroom with insufficient floor space and head height for a shower basin and toilet.  

It was also alleged Rollins had failed to adequately communicate changes to the design to her clients.

Rollins, who attended the hearing and was legally represented, denied all the factual allegations and denied that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.

However, the PCC found it proven that Rollins had produced a design that was not fit for purpose because the relevant head height for building control purposes was not achievable on site.

Rollins insisted she had not been briefed to create a double bedroom space and that she had explained to her clients there would be limitations with an en-suite bathroom. However, the PPC noted that the inclusion in the planning drawings of a double bed and en-suite bathroom created a legitimate expectation that the space would fit one.

Rollins’ failure to properly explain to her clients both the limitations of and changes to her design were serious failings, which prevented them from making an informed decision on the viability of their project, it said.

In considering the sanction, the PCC noted Rollins’ unblemished career across 20 years as an architect and that she had fully engaged in the regulatory process. It also took into account that she had expressed genuine regret for the situation of her clients and had taken some steps to remediate her failings.

But it noted that her failings resulted in considerable cost, delay and inconvenience to her clients. The committee, therefore, imposed a penalty order of £1,000, which it considered to be appropriate in reflecting the seriousness of Rollins’ failings.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    Whilst these disciplinary decisions are good and shows the public is protected against rogue architects. Why do we not hear how many fake architects are not prosecuted for abuse of title and how many of the complaints to ARB are not about architects but people who thought they had employed an architect about whom ARB can do nothing? The public awareness of what an architect is, appears to be very low judging by the number of people who moan to me about the quality of their architect, who nearly always turns out not to be one

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