Joint Code of Professional Conduct

edge_jcpc_coverIn Collaboration for Change (2015), The Edge Commission Report on the Future of Professionalism written by the former Government Chief Construction Adviser, Paul Morrell, a key recommendation (A1) was to “develop and standardise a national code of conduct/ethics across the built environment professions, building on shared experience in the UK and internationally”. This was intended to encourage the development of a strong understanding of the duties of professionals across the industry, whatever their discipline. Professionals currently working together on projects operate in accordance with standard protocols, a shared plan of work and back-to-back appointments intended to provide comprehensive and seamless coverage of responsibilities and effective teamwork, yet they operate in accordance with very different codes of conduct, practice and ethics. This is not sustainable.
The Edge has examined numerous codes in operation across the industry including those of the: Society of Construction Law, RIBA, ARB, EC-RAE, ICE, RICS, CIAT, CIBSE, CIOB, IStructE, LI, RTPI, International Ethics Standard, Nolan, Deloitte, Atkins and Arup – as well as the new professionalism code proposed by Bill Bordass and Adrian Leaman in New Professionalism, a special issue of Building Research & Information (January 2013, p6).
From its analysis the Edge notes the following:

  • Despite their differences, codes across the industry are not discipline specific. All clauses in the codes examined can be applied to all other disciplines
  • Codes tend to be reworked versions of earlier published codes with any new and pressing concerns dealt with in a series of supplementary clauses. In other words, codes gradually accrete, but they also tend to end up reflecting issues exercising each profession at the moments of their major revisions. Very rarely are they comprehensively rethought to address current issues of practice and ethics.
  • In addition to making explicit demands that their members refrain from certain activities individual codes are also frequently silent on matters that are given high priority in the codes of sister professions. On analysis professional codes are revealed to be full of holes.
  • The structure of the great majority of codes follow Mosaic principles of ‘thou shalt not …’ while only a handful of them attempt to describe what actions should positively be taken.
  • In response to the Commission’s recommendation and following its own analysis the Edge is proposing a model text for a shared industry code of conduct. This has been principally drawn and adapted from clauses in the industry codes listed above. Rephrasing has been carried out where necessary to achieve consistency and grammatical sense.
  • The proposed code is intended to:
  • Demonstrate that a shared code can be comprehensive, feasible and practicable.
  • Act as a resource for professional institutions rewriting or reviewing their codes
  • Provoke discussion as to the use and significance of professional codes in the industry.

The structure of the proposed code is based on whom duties are owed to, as is, for example, le Code Guadet (France 1895) and the American Institute of Architects’ code. The format was selected in order to provide maximum clarity to all those using the code, including professionals, those commissioning services from them, their employees and wider society.
The proposed code doesn’t include institutional housekeeping matters or disciplinary procedures as it is considered that these are generally better located within the rules and regulations of membership.

It is the Edge’s view that the most important role of a professional code (of ethics, conduct or practice) is to communicate to society, prospective commissioners of projects and others the obligations of industry professionals to uphold agreed industry-wide standards, behaviours and responsibilities. These include a requirement to put the interests of the wider environment and society before those of the individuals and bodies paying for professional services. To this the end the text of a professional compact between built environment professionals and those commissioning their services is included in a standalone section at the end of the document. The code and compact complement each other but can be treated and published separately.

For further information and analysis please consult Professionalism for the Built Environment by Edge member, Simon Foxell (Routledge, 2019)

the Edge, June 2019

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the Edge Model Joint Code of Professional Conduct 2019

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