The ARB has found Bletchley architect Alan Budden of Eco Design Consultants guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence, and issued him with a £4,000 penalty order.
Mr Budden was instructed to alter and extend a domestic property on an initial build budget of £80,000, which then increased to £100,000, and ultimately £145,000 to become an “eco home”. After 2 years’ work and £35,000 of costs and other expense, the quotes obtained came in over £250,000 which led to the project being abandoned and the clients selling the property unaltered. It had remained empty throughout.
It was alleged that Mr Budden had failed to keep his clients informed of any issue which may significantly affect the quality and cost of the proposed project, and specifically failed to notify them that the figures quoted were not an estimate for the full build costs of the project, but would only cover the cost of the square metre increase.
Mr Budden attended the hearing with representation and denied the allegation. He said that his clients had misread the 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 that over the period of time in which he was involved in the project the market had changed so much that contractors were only prepared to tender for the project at greatly inflated prices, that his client had not questioned him or sought any costs advice, and that in any event he was not contractually obliged to offer cost information.
The PCC found that the initial design costings given by Mr Budden were only for the new build not the refurbishment of the existing dwelling and that he had failed to make this clear. He knew that his client’s budget was for the whole build cost and that the project was not divisible into extension and refurbishment and so accordingly, the whole project was based on a false premise. It considered that it is part of the architect’s role and responsibility to keep the client’s mind on the costing of the project and that 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.
In finding Mr Budden guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence and in considering sanction, the PCC gave consideration to the fact that his clients had been seriously affected financially and emotionally. They had lost two years of their lives in pursuit of a dream of an environmentally friendly home, which could never have been accomplished. It did not consider that Mr Budden had demonstrated any insight or remorse and in the circumstances found that the appropriate sanction was a penalty order of £2000 in respect of each charge, totaling £4000.
A copy of the Committee’s decision can be found here.
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