CEO Update - August 2019

Angelina Pillai , 8 August 2019

Two words that have featured constantly in my mind over the past couple of months have been ‘relevant’ and ‘practical’. Much has been publicised recently on the state of the construction industry and the role of architects in stepping up at this critical time. The challenges continue to mount, with the insurance crisis, building standards, government regulations, mental health and climate change all on the agenda, while ACA members continue to juggle the running of a sustainable and (if possible) profitable business with the daily operational obligations of people management, client demands and leadership pressures. So how can our profession remain relevant and practical amid this chaos? 


Keeping on top of things

Our National President, John Held offered some suggestions on how to stay relevant and vibrant and urged architects to step up and make your voices heard – both individually and collectively – and be prepared to lobby politicians to fix a broken system. He explained that the ACA sees research across a range of topics as a high priority, but it comes at a cost so funding and sponsorship of research projects will be an important part of ACA’s future strategy. John also asked what are the top three practical things we should say to the future generation of architects so the profession can continue to create change and make a positive impact in our communities. We would love to hear from you.

Mental Health

Mental health in the architectural profession is not to be ignored. The ACA has published several helpful articles to support practitioners in dealing with this important issue. This month we have published an excerpt from the Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Toolkit, which was launched in the UK last month. I encourage you to make full use of this excellent resource. There is also a wide range of excellent initiatives and services to support Australians living with mental illness. From 24-hour telephone counselling services to online assessments and treatment plans, from manuals to mindfulness apps, there’s genuine help available out there. You can check them out in our Resources for Mental Health.


As many ACA members will be well aware, July was quite the month for the building and construction industry! The ACA has been very active in its advocacy efforts:

Building Ministers’ Forum

The Building Ministers Forum (BMF) took place on Thursday, 18 July 2019. State and Territory Ministers gathered to discuss a range of issues facing the building and construction sector and meet with industry representatives. Matters covered PI insurance and implementation of the Building Confidence report (better known as the Shergold Weir Report).

The ACA welcomed the BMF announcement to adopt a consistent national approach to reform. Through membership of the Australian Construction Industry Forum, the ACA strongly supported the call for a coordinated, nation-wide action on building regulation.

Victorian Cladding Taskforce

The Victorian Cladding Taskforce Final Report was released ahead of the BMF. The ACA congratulated the Victorian Government for taking the lead on the issue of combustible cladding and urged the Federal Government to also take action to ensure a unified national approach.

NSW Fair Trading’s Building Stronger Foundations

The NSW Government continues to progress reforms to the building and construction sector through the release of the discussion paper Building Stronger Foundations. This is the first step in implementing the NSW Government Response to the Shergold Weir Report.

The ACA made a submission and has been involved in a working group in NSW to address the issues with the NSW Government.

SA Productivity Commission

After concerted lobbying, the terms of the SA Productivity Commission’s inquiry have been extended to include capital works. The ACA and the Institute have undertaken a joint submission to the Commission and a draft report will be available in the coming months.

Joint Statement

With all these issues affecting the profession, it’s critical for the professional bodies to unite to support a national approach. The ACA, together with the Institute and ArchiTeam, stand ready to support state and federal governments in acting now to ensure the design and construction of safe, well-constructed buildings and to restore public trust in Australia’s built environment. We issued a joint statement in June.

Climate Change and Biodiversity Impact

Meanwhile, the environment in which we live and breathe is facing a dual climate crisis and biodiversity emergency that cannot be dismissed. Architects Declare is a movement that is committed to addressing these issues head on but needs your help to create increased awareness in our communities. The ACA aims to support 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 climate change effects and loss of biodiversity.


The ACA is committed to helping your practice navigate the complexities of the business of architecture through practical means.  Here are some of the highlights over the past couple of months.

ACA Webinar Series

‘ACA Insight’, our national webinar program, gives architects the opportunity to join a national discussion on the business of architecture, while also gaining CPD.

On 24 July, Ceilidh Higgins asked us the all too familiar question – ‘Will a robot take my job’? Ceilidh researches, writes and speculates on the future of work and the impacts of technology. Ceilidh challenged the audience by showcasing some mind-boggling examples of how automation is taking its place in many an architectural practice. But will it take over your jobs? A recording of the presentation will be available on demand shortly.

State by State Wrap


The roundtable events held in South Australia featured another successful gathering on 23 July, this time to discuss the pressures of small business. SA Government Small Business Commissioner, John Chapman was in attendance, providing a range of valuable insights – from having a dedicated space in your workplace if mediation is required, to being paid on time, but especially how to communicate with politicians by offering solutions to problems they may have and the opportunity for a high-quality built legacy.  The ACA – SA Committee will follow up and arrange a meeting with the Chief Executive of DPTI along those lines. For more useful insights, you can read the report from the Roundtable here.

The Keith Neighbour Graduate Study Program assists graduates of architecture sitting registration exams in South Australia.  The ACA – SA is a proud sponsor. The second group of prospective registrants is currently underway this year with over thirty participants involved!


In November 2018, the Queensland Government released its BIM Principles, which will affect all participants in the delivery of built assets across the State. These BIM Principles nominate the new standards (ISO 19650.1 and ISO 19650.2) as the process to be followed by the supply chain in the procurement of projects from 1 July 2019.  On 26 June, the ACA – QLD/NT conducted a seminar to outline the changes, identify what the architecture profession needs to do to engage with the new requirements, and discuss the opportunities for Queensland practices. The Committee also has representation on the BIM Taskforce, which meets monthly and has conducted a survey to identify the state of architectural practices in relation to BIM, the policies, education and training required by practices.

Another important issue raised by members being addressed has been the education of students and graduates’ work readiness. The Committee carried out research to understand the expectations of students/graduates, practices, universities and the components of the architectural courses. To date, the Committee has surveyed students/graduates and practices and the results are being compiled. The Committee will next meet with the Universities as a group to share their findings and make recommendations on desired course outcomes.


All too often, the erosion of fees is undermining the profession, and this is leading to poorer quality outcomes. To assist practices with determining realistic fee proposals, the ACA – VIC/TAS Committee led the development of the Architects’ Time/Cost Calculator – and now Version 3 of the Calculator is underway, with a current redesign in the works. We look forward to announcing the release of that in the coming months. In supporting practices with their salary management, the ACA Salary Calculator is also being updated. The calculator assists members to ensure they are operating legally and fairly whilst helping practices develop properly informed plans for the future of their business. It is updated annually to address the outcomes of the national wage review by the Fair Work Commission as well as any changes to the award. The ACA has updated the calculator to reflect the current 2019–20 award rates, effective 1 July 2019.

In the meantime, Paul Viney, ACA – VIC/TAS Branch President presented the ACA to several groups within the industry, including the Building Designers Association of Victoria (now called Design Matters), the Practising ARChitecture (PARC) group and the Emerging Architects + Graduates Network (EmAGN VIC).


The Business of Small Practice (BoSP) series has been going from strength to strength and BoSP 4 on 2 August was no exception. Attendees met over lunch to hear HR expert Merilyn Speiser present on the basics of employment. The session, which was both informative and entertaining, appealed to anyone considering employing staff for the first time and those keen on ensuring their existing policies are within HR best practice. Merilyn has written a follow-up article on How to Hire, Fire and Manage Employees.

The Committee is also pleased to report that attendees at the WA branch’s EOFY lunch were treated to an interesting and honest presentation by Alec Coles OBE, CEO of the Western Australian Museum.


The Shergold-Weir Report was on top of the agenda for the ACA – NSW/ACT Committee. With the NSW government overhauling all building professionals’ registration and insurances in light of events at the Opal and Mascot towers, the general view was that architects need to be involved in the project from concept to completion rather than just the design stage. To this end, the ACA – NSW/ACT responded to the NSW Fair Trading Building Stronger Foundations Discussion paper and is continuing to work with the Institute and other industry bodies in the construction industry in lobbying the government. Agi Sterling, ACA – NSW/ACT Branch President, represented the ACA at a meeting with Minister Kevin Andrew’s Chief of Staff Gavin Melvin to further advocate on behalf of architects in NSW.

The NSW/ACT Committee has also formed a sub-group that will work on unsustainable tender guidelines by local councils. Committee members Steve Pearse, Harry Hamor and Michael Lewarne are currently collating information from various firms about their experiences in tendering for these works.

The ACA Chat Forum is going well, with approximately 70 participants, and more requesting to join each week. ACA – NSW/ACT Vice President Michael Lewarne is also doing further work on the Practice Futures Forum. More information on this to come…

For more news, events and updates, click on the ACA Branches section of the website.

The Business of Architecture and Design Conference

The ACA is delighted to announce its partnership with Niche Media in delivering a one-day national conference on 11 November in Sydney tackling the issues of technology advancements, new business models and the economic imperatives that will drive the built environment for the next three years.

In a first of its kind, the ACA together with the NSW Architects Registration Board is supporting this national conference and is looking forward to contributing to a national conversation about the issues that affect practices and the industry.

The conference will lead in to the Sydney Architectural Festival, which will run from 12–15 November, and is proudly presented by the NSW Architects Registration Board.

More details to come but in the meantime, be sure to pre-register here to keep up-to-date on conference developments, including seminar topics, panel sessions and new speakers.

ACA National Executive Committee

The ACA national executive committee met face to face in Sydney on 4–5 August. Top of the agenda was reviewing the ACA strategic plan and agreeing the main priorities for the operational activities for the year to ensure we are managing expectations of our members within the requisite financial capability of the ACA business. Once we have clearly outlined these plans, the ACA will share with our membership.

Get Involved

There’s more to do to keep the profession and your practice relevant and practical, so keep helping us to help you by joining as a member or giving us your feedback.

The ACA is mandated to support and advocate on behalf of architectural practices, so the larger our membership base, the stronger and more credible our voice we will be… Find out more about joining the ACA and getting involved.

Angelina Pillai is the CEO of the ACA.