As the only architect, am I responsible for the practice?
If I am the only architect in a a practice comprising architectural technicians, who takes responsibility for the architectural services we provide?
Question: I have joined a practice comprising architectural technicians, which is owned and run by an architectural technician. As I am the only architect in the office I would like to know how to deal with the situation of responsibility of the architectural services that we provide, and if there is any particular reference to the Arb code of conduct that I should be concerned with?
Answer: The professional qualification of your boss does not affect the responsibility for your work and is not an issue for providing “architectural services”. But the practice should not describe its services as “architect’s services”, as these can only be provided in the UK by registered architects, due to the Architects’ Registration Act which restricts the use of the title “architect” in the UK and is administered by the Arb.
As the only architect you are the only person who can provide “architect’s services” in your practice. The relationship with the client would need to be under your direct control for any “architects’ services” that your practice provides, to comply with the Arb code.
It is also not in your interest for your practice to provide “architects’ services” as it would increase your direct responsibility. You would need to be a principal of the practice for it to qualify as an RIBA Chartered Practice.
The responsibility for the services provided by any practice resides with the principals. Depending on the terms of your employment contract, as an employee you are not normally contractually liable for the work of the company you work for, but you are responsible to your employers for the work you do. You do have potential liabilities in tort to anyone who could reasonably expect to rely on the competency of your own work as an architect. But this is a relatively remote risk, and can be avoided by your practice including an employee limit of liability clause in their appointment contracts, such as Clause A7.2.2 in the RIBA’s Standard Agreement 2007.
As an Arb-registered architect, you are bound by the Arb code of professional conduct and need to annually confirm to the Arb that you, or your employers, have appropriate PII cover. If it is not mentioned in your employment contract, it is worth checking that they do carry PII cover for the work you do. If possible, get them to confirm this in a letter, so that you have evidence in writing. If your employers are members of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists, they will also have similar personal professional obligations.
Disclaimer: This column is for general information only, and is not intended to convey legal advice. It should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific legal advice relevant to particular circumstances. Neither BD nor the contributors’ employers accept any responsibility for the personal views expressed in this section.