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Ethics in the Architectural Field: Where Does One Draw the Line?


When you think of careers that involve ethics, the medical field may be the first thing that comes to mind. After all, the motto of physicians is to “do no harm.” Doctors have an obligation to do what they can to can to treat a sick or injured person to the best of their ability.

But what about architects? Sure, contractors are the ones who build the buildings but architects are the ones who design them. What if they are not created safely? What if there is a flaw in the design and this flaw causes the building to collapse, injuring or killing a number of people. Should an architect take on controversial jobs such as prisons and execution chambers?

These are all ethical issues that an architect should deal with. The ethical code of the American Institute of Architects is: “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.” This is somewhat vague, however. What exactly is meant by human rights?

Do No Harm—for Architects?

An organization called Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility is looking to add to the current ethical code. It would ban architects from accepting commission for designing buildings used for execution, torture and other types of cruel or inhumane treatment of humans. This includes prisons.

However, without architects, prisons would then be designed by unlicensed people with less design skill. These new prison designs could be even more inhumane.

Ethics and Obligations

While Rule 1.401 in the code of ethics prohibits discrimination against others based on age, gender, race, religion, disability and sexual orientation, ethics go beyond that. Ethics are based on obligations. Any architect can attest that their obligations consist of financially supporting their families, serving the clients’ needs despite conflicts and serving the public while simultaneously meeting the needs of the client. The last two can be complicated, since obligations are not always equal. When there is conflict, the public’s interests come first, then the clients’.

In any case, the architect must act in an ethical manner throughout any type of project. They must treat everyone they come into contact with—including clients, colleagues, employees and the public. This can be quite the challenge, but the final result—the building or space—will encompass the architect’s passion and adherence to ethics. Seeing how the design impacts those who use shows how the architect has met this challenge.

Keep Your License with Help From a Tampa Architect Licensing Lawyer 

Designing a structure, whether it be a shed, house, office building, store or skyscraper, requires a lot of planning and forethought. People will be inhabiting the building or using it as a place of business as a business owner or client. If the building is not safe, it could fall apart and injure or even kill someone.

Architects must be licensed by the State of Florida. Without their license, they cannot earn a living in the architectural field. If you are an architect who is facing penalties for ethical issues, make sure you understand your legal rights. The Law Offices of David P. Rankin, P.A. can help you keep your license. He has decades of experience representing architects and other licensed professionals. Schedule a consultation today by calling (813) 968-6633 or filling out the online form.