How Can Architects Take Action?

John Held , 3 September 2019

As governments tackle systemic issues in the building industry, John Held outlines some of the ways that architects can make an impact.

The recent Four Corners program “Cracking Up” highlighted the problems with quality in the construction industry and in particular with multi-storey apartments. It reinforced what we have been saying for some time – that poor regulation, unsuitable procurement processes and lack of concern for long-term quality and value have left many owners with faulty apartments no-one will want to buy. It also featured Bronwyn Weir telling the reporter that she wouldn’t consider buying a recently built apartment.

ACA CEO Angelina Pillai and I recently attended the Australian Construction Industry Forum in Brisbane, at which Bronwyn Weir was a guest. She noted that the terms of reference for the Shergold Weir report were related to regulation, not procurement, as it was unlikely governments would directly legislate to outlaw specific procurement methods. She also noted that the report did not specifically deal with the consumer outcomes of poor quality, rather concentrating on fixing systemic issues leading to those problems.

2 - ACIF Meeting

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

But what actions can architects take? Firstly, the ACA must help hold State and Federal Governments to account. We need our members to tell us what’s really happening in their state, which may be different to the sweet words the governments have spoken as they promise to fix everything, and fix it quickly.

Secondly, we need to loudly advocate for better procurement, realistic fees and high quality design, documentation and construction, leading to better value not the lowest price. The impact of the cost of defect rectification and cladding replacement far outweighs the savings made by cutting corners during design and construction. Governments are not going to legislate for compulsory use of architects, but we can make ourselves more indispensable in this new regulatory regime.

Finally, governments need to fix their own procurement issues. As the largest procurer of buildings, they should be demonstrating best practice, not lowest common denominator or just trying to shift risk. They should be modelling best value examples, which other clients can follow.

There are multiple areas where you, as ACA members, can make a difference. Are you ready to help?