COVID-19 SA Business Response

A webinar to help small business navigate the COVID-19 crisis is being held tomorrow with the Small Business Commissioner at 6 pm tomorrow. To register click here.

For more details click here.

The Institute has also written to the Small Business Commissioner to address the concerns of our members. See the text of the letter below:

Dear John,

The Institute of Architects is working along with other organisations including the ACA, to support the architectural profession negotiate the COVID-19 outbreak.  We are aware that the rapidly changing conditions and uncertainty are placing significant strain on architects, the wider design and construction sector and society at large.  With the majority of architectural practices in SA being SMEs, the Institute is writing to bring issues pertinent to architects to your attention. 

Through talking with members and the ACA, the Institute is aware that many architects are facing significant issues including:

  • managing existing project loads given the current restrictions on meetings and site attendance, constrained access to key stakeholders and supply issues in relation to key materials and products.
  • potential issues with meeting the requirements of existing contracts, with delivery against agreed program milestones being the key concern
  • cash flow, with many practices reporting projects being put on hold or cancelled.  The Institute’s anecdotal evidence is supported by the ACA survey. Members are reporting the clients are not commencing new projects on the basis that digital delivery will reduce the level of service they receive.  They are also advising that work on ongoing projects will not continue past the existing phase.
  • concerns regarding timely payment of invoices for projects that are continuing, particularly where the architect is novated to a contractor.  We note that the financial viability of the construction sector is under significant pressure at the current time.
  • Increased costs and technical risks inherent in work-from-home arrangements for architectural practices, which rely on specialist software that may be restricted to use on specific hardware located within the practice office.  Establishing remote access in this situation is not straight forward and may require significant outlay for additional/amended licences and additional equipment.  Variability in the speed and reliability of internet connections will also limit the ability of some staff to work remotely.
  • Limitations in the manner in which architects work on projects, with a collaborative, team culture being difficult to replicate in a digital environment. 
  • Consideration of the insurance, HR and WHS implications of work from home arrangements.

While the risks to architectural practice are significant, we believe that these can be ameliorated through a few key measures:

  • Reviewing the novation of architects to contractors.  This will remove the risk of exposure to the potential financial failure of contractors, and reduce the risk of late payment, with clients generally better than contractors in observing payment terms and less inclined to dispute invoices.
  • Commence forward planning for capital works projects.  Large organisations, including government, can use the current time to undertake feasibility and master-planning for future works, even if they have decided to put construction activities on hold for a period.  Development of selected projects with clear and realistic timelines to enable forward planning by architectural practices regarding resourcing and to provide a sustained pipeline of work when the current restrictions on travel and interpersonal contact are lifted.
  • Waiving of penalty clauses for consultants and contractors for extensions of time relating to the completion of projects, where these can be directly attributed to issues arising from the impact of COVID-19
  • Inclusion of a reasonable proportion of building projects, as well as civil projects, in the stimulus package being developed by the State Government.  Building projects tend to involve a wider range of participants from the consultant, construction and supply sectors, spreading the economic benefit more broadly across the community.
  • Advice regarding work from home arrangements and consideration of exemptions in response to the current circumstances.

The aim of these measure is to provide ongoing viability for the profession, which is a significant resource in delivery of innovation and a driver for economic stimulus for South Australia. 

We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you further and to understand what the South Australian Government is able to do to support the proposed actions listed above. 

We appreciate your consideration during this challenging time and note that the Institute and the profession is committed to delivering benefit to the State.