Wanted! Business-savvy archi-preneurs

Jane Cameron , 15 December 2014

Reflecting on the opportunities ahead, Jane Cameron argues that we need to design new business models, explore different modes of practice and develop new ways to recognise competence.

Our profession is in the midst of exciting times with the fast paced changes happening around us. It’s an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to claim back pieces of the pie we have so willingly given up, and to reinstate ourselves at the forefront of our industry as ‘chief-builder’. What is holding us back? Is our romantic notion of the architect our greatest Achilles’ heel?

Reskilling

The current opportunities are immense, with Building Information Modelling (BIM) being a prime example. By adding value we can reinstate ourselves at the centre of the construction industry by becoming BIM leaders through all stages of design, construction, and building management. We must embrace this technology and software, and not let it be another wasted opportunity. The same philosophy can be carried over to Lean Project Delivery, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) etc. Fundamentally we have the skills, we just need to exploit them in conjunction with our creativity, and become more adaptable and innovative.

The changing role of the architect 

We are no longer restricted by the nostalgic idea of the renaissance architect. We have the freedom to be a general practitioner or to specialise. Modes of practice are becoming wider and more varied. We are seeing rapid changes and complexities through construction technology, sustainability, procurement methods, BIM and so on.

However, this transition period is also resulting in a crisis of professional identity, which isn't assisted by the narrow constraints of our registration system. We are seeing graduate of architects not becoming registering because their chosen mode of practice doe not fit within our registration system. Should we be reviewing this ‘gated road to registration’ as the Royal Institute of Architects is currently doing? Could we adopt a similar system to doctors, who are recognised by their particular speciality? Could we have categorised membership through the Australian Institute of Architects to exploit our chosen speciality and field of expertise to the industry and beyond? This could, for example, be based on the system used by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Would this approach prevent architects becoming lost when they side step into parallel industries and assume another title?

Designing new business models

We need to embrace our creativity and become more entrepreneurial and adaptable. We need to find new opportunities, and, where necessary, change our business models. In some instances, architects may need to find a particular niche to compete effectively and to practice beyond our traditional borders. We not only need to think about the business of design, we need to consider the design of business. Let's become archi-preneurs and be business savvy, while constantly surveying the market place to seek opportunities.

Jane Cameron is director of Jane Cameron Architects. 

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