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'Architect' Claim Draws Record Fine

Thursday, February 5, 2015

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Calling yourself an architect when you are not is not just an empty boast in the UK; it's a crime that is now drawing a record fine, authorities say.

The Market Design & Build Ltd., a tony construction and renovation firm based in Harlington, Middlesex, has been ordered to pay more than £10,000 ($15,220 USD) in fines and costs after pleading guilty to misusing the title "architect" in its business—a violation of the Architects Act 1997, the UK Architects Registration Board (ARB) reports.

Extension Architects

Extension Architects has pleaded guilty to using the title of architect illegally—a violation of the UK's Architects Act 1997—but its name and website claims have not changed.

That law establishes the ARB and registration guidelines and spells out requirements for use of the title "architect." A violations carries a fine of up to £2,500.

What's in a Name?

To use the title, architects must be registered with ARB and companies that claim architectural work must have a registered architect supervise that work.

The Market Design & Build had no architect on staff but referred to itself as an architectural firm and even used the ARB logo on its signs, websites, advertising and correspondence, "despite numerous warnings from ARB that it was acting illegally," the board said.

The Market Design & Build

The Market Design & Build touts a wide range of construction and planning services. But after being hit with a record fine, the company no longer promotes architectural services.

Finally, ARB took the issue to Uxbridge Magistrates Court. The board argued that such claims "impinge on architects" who spend more than seven years in training and pay registration fees. Circumventing the process gives architect wannabes "a big financial advantage" over licensed competitors, the board argued.

The firm pleaded guilty to five charges and, on Jan. 27, was fined £1,667 (more than $2,500 USD) for each. It was also ordered to pay £2,300 ($3,500 USD) to ARB in legal costs.

The judgment was a record for such cases, ARB said.

Second Case

The board is pursuing similar charges against a London-area company called Extension Architects, whose owner, Youno Kim, bills himself as licensed by Royal Institute of British Architects.

Youno pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to using the title of architect illegally. He was ordered to pay £2000 ($3,050 USD) in fines and costs.

Extension Architects

Undeterred by its guilty plea to violating the UK's Architect Act, Extension Architects continues to advertise architectural services.

Nevertheless, the company's site, full of typographical errors, still referred Wednesday (Feb. 4) to the firm as "a leading Commercial and Residential Planning architectural practice."

Of Kim, it said: "Youno is the company director and Chartered RIBA Architect, he been working in the industry for year and has expert knowledge in all things to do with planning, construction and design."

Such prosecutions are likely to continue, ARB suggested.

"The ARB takes seriously its duty to represent the interests of users of architects’ services," a spokesperson said. "These prosecutions demonstrate the serious consequences for anyone that persists in misleading the public."


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Education; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Licensing; Worker training

Comment from Richard Saylor, (2/5/2015, 11:41 AM)

We in the US likewise take our profession seriously- VERY seriously! As in other professional practice- medicine, the law, etc.- training, experience and the assumption of responsibility are all part of being in professional practice; the misrepresentation of qualifications to the public is, and should be, a criminal act, particularly when practiced so flagrantly. Frankly I'm surprised that such lenient fines- amounting to a mild slap on the wrist- are current in the UK. In the US they are taken somewhat more seriously. You ought to reconsider amending the regulations for professional practice; to my mind, should fining an individual or company prove insufficient to get their attention- not to mention immediate compliance- jail sentences ought to be an option available to the court. Otherwise why would a scoundrel not take the opportunity to cheat the public by skipping years of university study and apprenticeship, followed by comprehensive examinations and finally, a review of his/her peers to determine qualification for professional practice, to simply instead print business cards and publish advertisements claiming to be a licensed architect or engineer, instead?

Comment from Ainig Trahreg, (2/7/2015, 12:48 PM)

I can't say I have found that we take this very seriously in the US. I went through a brief period, where frustrated with seeing so many home designers and contractors offering "architectural design" or even referring to themselves as architects, and seeing this brought to the attention of authorites, the result was a warning letter, and then continued use fot he terms. Somehow in this country saying you are an engineer if not registered is treated with serious consequence but architect is not.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/10/2015, 8:14 AM)

Was it brought to local authorities, or the state Board?

Comment from M. Halliwell, (2/10/2015, 11:21 AM)

Ainig, are the architects self regulating in your area or is it done by the state? I find that most state and provincial engineering associations that are self regulating defend the titles vigorously and have the legislation to back it up. But if it is state regulated, I may get a bit more lacklustre support and enforcement. But that's IME...YMMV.

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