New Competencies, Building Reform & Upcoming Projects

14 July 2021

AACA CEO Kathlyn Loseby joins the organisation at an exciting time, with new competency standards to finalise and roll out, automatic mutual recognition on the way, and other new programs in development.

Congratulations on your appointment to the AACA CEO position. What does your new role involve?

Many thanks. I’m delighted to be in the role as I feel it has been a natural evolution to get to this point. When the role became available I thought this is perfect for me.

Principally, the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) provides consumer protection. The National Standard of Competency for Architects is the vehicle through which this is achieved, and I began in the role in March during the final shaping of the 2021 revision, a good time to start.

As the new CEO it’s an exciting time at the AACA. Not only do the competency standards define the level of skill, care and diligence required to work in Australia as a competent architect, it also defines the competency expected of a graduate of Masters of Architecture, and at the point of registration as an architect.

Considering the impact of the Shergold Weir Report, the cladding crisis, and the states and territories all looking at their requirements of the construction industry, this is the exact time we need to make sure the consumer knows and understands the robustness of an architect’s competency.

What skills and experiences do you bring to this new role, and how have you found the transition from architectural practice to governance (so far)?

It’s been a long road involving architectural practice, parenting, some tutoring, a master’s degree in business, and two years as the NSW AIA President.

The latter role was the principal influencer on my understanding of the context in which laws are made and how skills and knowledge are defined; how stakeholder engagement, competency and relationships define outcomes; and how creating legislation is slow and meticulous for a reason. Practice experience has ensured I know the multifaceted reality of life in the profession, while tutoring and university studios always fill me with such enthusiasm and excitement for the elegance of the built environment. Parenting reminds me of the future we want for all children, and a post-grad master’s in business continues to make me always look at the bigger picture.

I feel the different elements of my past have shaped my experiences to the point where I am in the right position at the right time.

What are the current priorities of the AACA?

So many !!!

The 2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects was released on 1 July, and we are embarking on the development of guidelines and mapping to all our programs. The rollout of the 2021 NSCA to our programs starts from January 2022, finishing in 2023 with the accreditation of the universities and the registration three-step process (log book, exam and interview).

Several International Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). These facilitate easy access between countries for registered architects. The United Kingdom MRA is due early 2022, and hopefully an Ireland MRA will be established at about the same time. The Australian government is encouraging us to open conversations with some of our Asian neighbours and we are busy working in the background on these.

A new program called our ‘Pathways project’, which involves a pre-registration education program and a support mentoring framework. It’s still early in its development but we envisage it assisting the registration process and it should be online for the implementation of the new National Standard of Competency for Architects in 2023.

Australian Building Codes Board national registration framework and the national construction codes education and awareness teams have us busy developing our guidelines and pathways project to surpass their requirements.

Automatic Mutual Recognition will be phased in a few states at a time. It will eventually mean an architect needs only be registered in one state, but can practice in any other state (pursuant to letting the second state know). The logistics and agreements behind this are currently being developed, as is the required national database (no small task on its own).

That’s just on a slow day.

What do you see as the main challenges for the AACA and the profession as a whole – short term and long term?

That’s a big question. I could talk for a long time on this one so I will limit it to the big three as I see it:

1. Evolution of the role of an architect

Trying to ‘crystal ball’ what is the architect of the future so we can educate and prepare architects with confidence. Architects have to adapt to changing technologies and expectations for design, documenting and communicating. How can we value-add in the service so the profession can grow and not diminish?

2. Economic and environmental influences

Increasing consumer knowledge of the lifelong benefits of a well-designed built environment to justify quality time on architectural services actually saves money in the long term and creates a better living environment. Putting a value on the intangible in a society that has not previously done so – this is a challenge.

3. Construction reform

Every state in Australia has their own disaster stories borne out of a common legislative mantra of ‘cut the red tape’. The outcome was cutting cost and process, which meant less design and documentation and minimal site observation. Over decades, this has also led to a slow deskilling of the profession. Industry and sector reform is an opportunity to show how architects are the most regulated and tested of the building design professionals, but we need to improve training and competency in areas that have been deskilled.

How do you see the ACA and AACA working more collaboratively on priorities that affect the profession?

The ACA is a major stakeholder. Its leaders are among my main ‘go to’ advisors for understanding what is happening in the profession, and I rely on the ACA newsletters, pulse check surveys, and website as a key source of information. Collaboration is what we do inherently because both our organisations understand and respect our different roles. The AACA is a self-funded private not-for-profit company in the regulatory domain, set up by the state architect registration boards to act nationally and internationally. We exist because we manage the competency standards, and the programs that come out of the standards (registration, overseas qualification assessment, experienced practitioner assessment, national program of assessment as an alternative qualification, international mutual recognition arrangements). The assessors and working groups behind these are often ACA members; in a changing hat scenario I feel the ACA is always there in all our programs and work.