President’s Comment – February 2024

14 February 2024

I stood for a long time, trying to decide whether to add this issue to the defects list. Was it done in accordance with the drawings? Was it done well, by a competent tradesperson?  Was it likely to cause a problem in the future – a water leak, for example? And if I added it to the list, would the builder point out how little I knew about the realities of construction as a typical awkward graduate of architecture?

As a young graduate, I was often confused by the definition of quality. Was it about design quality – a hotly debated topic? Documentation quality – having a set of drawings with no (or very few) mistakes, easy to read and build from? Construction quality – a building put together well, durable and adaptable. Environmental quality – good for the planet?

Over the years I’ve figured a few things out, but gaps remain. Designs could be better. Life would be easier if the documentation was perfect. True craftspeople are rare. Our careless design does not help the environment.

Recent discussions about the National Competency Standards, one measure of the quality of our graduates, shows how hard it is for many to gain experience across the whole range of competencies. If we don’t do contract administration, how do we give them experience on site? If we don’t invest in their education – by teaching, mentoring and finally giving them opportunities in our practices – how will they appreciate quality?

The reckless approach to procurement of both architectural services and of buildings,  by both the private sector and increasingly by governments, is illustrated by the number of poor quality buildings gaining press coverage. Are we powerless to stop this, or can we say no to projects that will end in tears? Saying no to client’s unreasonable demands or unfair government contracts, fees and timelines?

We must say yes to our responsibilities to the next generation of architects, ensuring they can be proud of the quality of the members of our profession.  I’ll add that to my list.