2019: A Year in Review

Angelina Pillai , 3 December 2019

As we prepare to draw the curtains on 2019, I have much to be grateful for since I started my tenure at the ACA in February. With a supportive national executive, branch committees, a dedicated administration team and editors that ensure we tell our stories with clarity and integrity, we have certainly pushed a few boundaries in support of architectural practices. Here are some of the highlights and a sneak peek for what’s in store for 2020.


The ACA has continued to grow our membership this year, welcoming several new multi-state members to our network. This can be attributed to a combination of enhanced membership engagement across the branches, increased government advocacy efforts and the collective value derived from the ACA tools and resources to support practices. We are also spreading our message more broadly through our communication channels and urge members to do the same.

3 - NEC

The ACA National Executive Committee: Rob Wesener (QLD/NT President), Angelina Pillai (CEO), John Held (National and SA President), Agi Sterling (NSW/ACT President), Paul Viney (VIC/TAS President) and Malcolm Jones (WA President; not pictured).

Events and Engagement

Business of Architecture and Design conference

In a first for the ACA, our partnership with Niche Media saw us deliver a one-day national conference on the Business of Architecture and Design in November. Delegates were treated to outstanding speakers delivering thought-provoking sessions on a range of topics that challenged practices to think about today and into the future, including an ACA panel session that tackled the triple bottom line and how practices can and should balance people, planet and profits in their business models.

Business of Small Practice

In continuing to create consistency across national offerings, the ACA is delighted to share the success of the Business of Small Practice (BoSP) forum series that was initiated by the ACA – WA committee; bringing together architects to share insights about how they are dealing with running their practices from money matters to HR issues and organisational structures. BoSP was piloted in South Australia recently with a resounding reception from attendees, and the ACA will be rolling this series out nationally in the new year.

Client Choice Awards

In another first, the ACA established a partnership with beaton research group to co-promote the Best Architecture Firm award. These awards solely measure the performance of architectural businesses through the eyes of their clients, giving practices of all sizes the opportunity to receive unfettered feedback from clients, highlighting the positives and areas of improvement. The ACA looks forward to the winning practice being announced in March 2020.


5 - The Great Debate

The Great Debate at the Business of Architecture and Design (BoAD) conference, held in the Legislative Assembly Chamber in the NSW Parliament, explored the value of architecture competitions.


Top of our advocacy agenda has been the implementation of the Building Confidence Report, working with our colleagues across the industry and government to help make this happen. We will continue to lobby state and federal governments, in part through our involvement with the Australian Construction Industry Forum, and are committed to stand as a collective voice with other industry bodies on this agenda. The ACA will continue to make representations at the Building Ministers Forum in achieving a more coordinated approach across the jurisdictions.

4 - ACIF

The Australian Construction Industry Forum meeting in Brisbane on 2 September.

ACA Business Toolbox

The ACA will be rolling out a series of updated versions of our current tools and resources in the coming months.  For instance, the ACA Time Cost Calculator Guide will have improved functionality and include measurements of risk and innovation in developing your fee proposals. The ACA Salary Calculator will incorporate enhanced accessibility to the Fair Work Ombudsman for easier updates, and the launch of a resource sharing service will enable collegiate sharing of human resources. Other updates include the ACA Employment Agreements and HR templates. Look out for these new and improved offerings as we roll them out very soon.

Plans for 2020…

Having reviewed the ACA strategic plan for the coming year, the national executive committee has agreed that the main priorities for the next 12 months will ensure a more bespoke focus for the different member segments. We will engage with larger practices, consolidate our offerings, and undertake a more rigorous approach to reporting and financial management while reflecting current economic imperatives.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

We are pleased to support an application for the Australian Research Council’s funding for a research project on Mental Wellbeing of Architects and Architecture Students: Culture, Education and the Workplace, led by Naomi Stead of Monash University. The ACA’s support of this important piece of work will be through in-kind contributions such as raising awareness, promotion via media channels, and representation on an advisory/steering committee to name a few. With gruelling pressure on practitioners running and directing practices, a long hours work culture and unpaid labour as some of the contributing factors that impact architects’ wellbeing, the ACA is committed to furthering our work to establish mechanisms for practices to be able to support their staff and themselves.

Our Climate

In July the climate change and biodiversity issue gained prominence with the Architects Declare movement committing to addressing these issues head on. The ACA announced our support on this important response to the climate crisis through building awareness of the issues and promoting the benefits of taking action. We will consider the development of tools and resources to support best practice in prioritising consideration of climate change effects and loss of biodiversity. As an employer body, the ACA is also committed to understanding how to support practices better in providing timely advice and information on issues that impact their business.


The impact of mentoring is well established, and the ACA is keen to explore the development of a mentoring program for practice directors. The ACA’s membership is comprised of hundreds of practices and the cumulative wealth of experience, knowledge and skills across the diversity of practices and directors is a strong foundation on which to build an effective mentorship program. We will connect with members in the course of developing the framework for this program, so I encourage anyone who would like to learn more about how you can get involved, to contact us.


We are working with our Research Director Dr Peter Raisbeck on a project on architectural fees, documentation quality, building quality and procurement. The aim is to develop a robust analysis of the intersections of fees, time and quality, outcomes of which the ACA could use to advocate for better processes. We are currently in conversations with various stakeholders in scoping this piece of work and aim to share more information as it comes to hand.

Corporate Partners

We welcome our new national partner Armstrong Flooring, who will join our long-standing sponsor, Planned Cover. Your support is invaluable in assisting the ACA to carry out our plans.

So, before I sign off for the year, I would like to thank the ACA team, our dedicated branch committees, all our members and corporate partners for supporting us this year.

May you all have a safe and wonderful festive season with your friends, family and loved ones.


7 - BoAD Drinks2

The Business of Architecture and Design (BoAD) conference launch event was held at The Architects Bookshop in Sydney.