ACA President’s Comment – March 2021

John Held , 30 March 2021

John Held takes a look at the issues of the day, from the Lacrosse appeal decision to the end of JobKeeper and the Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill.

Lacrosse appeal decision

I’m told Lacrosse can be quite a dangerous sport and can injure unsuspecting players. The recent judgement of the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal backs the VCAT decision that the builder of the Lacrosse apartments in Melbourne was not liable for damages because they could rely on professionals – the building surveyor, fire engineer and architect – for compliance.

What effect will this have for other architects? Hopefully, a better understanding of the pitfalls of procurement: the need to check and check again, and the intertwined complexity of building rules compliance, consultant roles and responsibilities, materials selection, build quality and responsibility. The ACA hopes to publish more information and commentary on the judgement over the next few weeks.

Pulse Check 5

With the upcoming Design and Building Practitioners Bill set to commence in NSW on 1 July 2021, there are certainly many issues affecting the future of the profession. More immediate is the cessation of JobKeeper this week – we don’t know how many architects were still using it, and so after Easter we will run Pulse Check 5 to see how architects are managing this year. Keep an eye out for our survey – it’s important to get a really good response to this if we need to go back to State and Federal Governments with data that will provide early information on construction activity.

Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill

Last week, amongst the less-newsworthy things that happened in Federal Parliament, the Mutual Recognition Amendment Bill 2021 was passed. Our understanding is that it is enabling legislation to encourage automatic recognition of state registration of various professions across multiple jurisdictions.

The ACA’s submission welcomed the concept of being able to work across different states using your home state’s registration and not having to pay additional fees to work interstate. However, we pointed out that there were a number of issues that would need to be addressed by architectural boards in all states, including the lack of provision for registration of companies; the differing standards for CPD and PI insurance; and the possible reduction in fees to each board from interstate registrants, weakening the ability of local boards to properly administer their functions.

We encourage all our members in each state and territory to pay careful attention to this issue and liaise with their relevant governments on how this might work in the future. The status of Boards as keepers of professional standards, with their ability to discipline members and oversee consumer protections, should NOT be taken for granted – it seems they are sometimes viewed as needless “red tape” by governments looking for easy targets to show they are reducing bureaucracy. Be careful what you wish for!

Construction Culture

On a local level, the South Australian group of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Forum met for the first time yesterday, and this morning I attended a breakfast hosted by the AIA and MBA and attended by a wide range of representatives from the construction industry to launch the Construction Culture Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to tackle the ever-increasing adversarial nature of the industry, noting that:

“Sadly despite the demand for Design and Construction services there is relentless pressure to deliver buildings faster within poorly planned project timelines, for less money and compromised quality – underpinned by heavily modified contracts, which shift project risks and unfair conditions onto designers, contractors and trade contractors. As a result, projects are secured and commence with inadequate resourcing and margin allowances, insufficient contingencies, rising fixed overheads, tightening regulations and unknown external factors placing at risk the ability to deliver all requirements of the project as promised.”

Its aim is to re-create a healthy, sustainable and vibrant construction industry.

What was notable was the unity of purpose and the desire for change, and an understanding of the role of the architect in creating and contributing to great outcomes for the built environment. If we could replicate this across Australia, the whole industry would benefit. This is a challenge we should all accept to ensure the future of our profession!

Pathways from Graduation to Registration – Seeking Input

Finally, the ACA is represented on an AACA group looking at pathways from graduation to registration as part of the 2020 Review of the National Standard of Competency for Architects. Mentoring and further education options are being discussed but we’re also keen to hear from members on what they see as the key issues to be addressed. Please send through any ideas or input to Angelina Pillai.