The Code and “best” practice                                                                   15 July 2009

The word “best” occurs three times in the draft Code:-


            S4        Carry out your work conscientiously and to the best of your ability

            1.2       Where a conflict of interest arises you are expected to disclose it and to do your best to manage it to the satisfaction of all affected parties.

            4.3       You are expected to maintain your professional independence and act according to your best professional judgment.

This usage shows a failure on the part of the ARB to distinguish between excellence in professional practice and what the Board itself can prescribe, enjoin or require in respect of persons whose right it is under the Act to practise using the title “architect”. A firm publishing this sort of thing about itself would properly be considered to be using trade puffery or cant Footnote unsuited to a professional practice worthy of the name. In the code which the ARB is required to issue under the Act it would be actively unhelpful as guidance, whether to persons in Part I or Part II of the statutory Register or to users of architectural services and the general public.

It may be argued that phrases such as “the best of your ability” are sufficiently overworked as to be meaningless or at best capable of varied interpretation and it follows that its use in this context is sloppy and imprecise. Similarly, it may be seen that the use of the superlative “best professional judgment” is unnecessary, for professional judgment ceases to be professional if it is in any way compromised.

Of greater concern is the use of “best” in conjunction with “ability” in the overarching Standard, clearly indicating that if an architect acts merely competently or, to use the words of the RIBA appointment forms, uses only “reasonable skill and care in conformity with the normal standards of the Architect’s profession”, that will be taken into account as being a failing of professional conduct Footnote .

Catch-all clauses such as these are inappropriate. The Register of Architects has the defined purpose of recording the names of every person “entitled to be registered” under the Act. A minimum qualification and a certain amount of practical experience is all that is required. It is not a register of excellence but a register of entitlement.

Policy makers may hold that the Code’s purpose is to describe conduct which by serious omission or contravention, may result in a disciplinary order Footnote . The present draft must have been designed to obscure and detract from that objective.

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