National Competency Standards in Architecture Forum - a precis

David Wagner , 25 February 2014

The National Competency Standards in Architecture are currently undergoing a thorough review. An overview of the proposed revisions has been presented at a number of fora around the country. David Wagner reports on the session held in Victoria.


In 1990 the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) was engaged by the Commonwealth Government to develop National Competency Standards in Architecture (NCSA). These have been used since that time as a basis with which to to assess a candidate’s suitability to become a registered Architect. The NCSA is generally reviewed on a five-year cycle. The latest review is currently underway, with the intention of simplifying and updating the criteria of the NCSA, on the understanding that the existing competency standards are appropriate.

This review is being undertaken over 2013/14 by the NCSA Review Work Group, which comprises architects, practitioners, academics and administrators – Andrew Hutson (chair), Gary Bonato, Kate Doyle, Ian Hamilton, Kate Hislop. Input has been received from architects registration boards, professional bodies, schools of architecture, practitioners, academics and other relevant stakeholders.

Competency Assessment

Competency-based assessment aims to establishing occupationally relevant standards of professional practice. The Competency Standards in Architecture describes what is reasonably expected of a person who can demonstrate the standard of skill, care and diligence widely accepted in Australia as competent professional architectural practice. The emphasis is on demonstrated competence in the areas important to an occupation or profession, rather than on measuring knowledge in isolation from skills, or on measuring time spent in formal professional or academic education. The objective is that candidates should be competent in all criteria, and that assessment is then made to determine whether a candidate has reached the requisite level. The level cannot be quantified and so it is dependent upon a pair of assessors who qualitatively examine each candidate.  A national examiner visits examinations to correlate standards across the country.


The intention of the review is make the registration process more up-to-date and relevant. The review panel proposes a number of changes to both content and format.

There has been a slight name change – from the National Competency Standards in Architecture to the National Competency Standard in Architecture. The change to the singular – Standard, not Standards – emphasises that there is one level to be achieved.

The standard is divided into four units: design, documentation, project delivery and practice management. Within each unit, elements of competency describe particular tasks – there are now 53 of these, in contrast to 143 in the earlier NCSA.

Within each element of competency, performance criteria – all of equal standing – specify the level of performance required to demonstrate competency. Contexts describe the range of environments that should be considered when assessing whether a particular performance criterion has been achieved.  These are: regulatory, social, sustainability, disciplinary culture (ie. histories, theories, practice and building) and communication.


The NCSA review document is available on the AACA website, as is the powerpoint presentation being used around Australia.

The ACAA is seeking further review and comments from all interested parties.  All comments are welcome. Responses should be addressed to to be received no later than 28 March 2014. The NCSA Review Work Group will then present the document to the AACA National Council in September.

David Wagner is a member of the ACA – Vic/Tas Committee, and a director of Atelier Wagner.

The forum David attended was held in Melbourne on 17 February 2014. It was presented by Andrew Hutson (Vic) with Gary Bonato (SA) assisting with questions. The forum was attended by a range of interested parties, including Architects Registration Board of Victoria assessors, representatives of the Australian Institute of Architects and the Association of Consulting Architeects among others.