From the National President

1 Dec

The Institute’s participation in the Building Codes Committee has been raised as an issue among the membership. The committee is the Australian Building Codes Board’s peak technical committee. The Institute has been represented by its Chief Operating Officer, Ross Clark. Unfortunately in recent times the BCC’s meetings often clashed with National Council or National Executive meetings, making his attendance impossible. Consequently, the Institute was asked to step down for non-attendance. It was then unclear whether a replacement would be welcome, but the CEO has now obtained reassurance from the ABCB’s General Manager.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from members to serve as the Institute’s representative. The EOI containing more information can be downloaded here.

In recent weeks there has been a lot of media about gender equity in Australian business, with a particular focus on the pay gap.

It’s been one year since the Institute adopted its Gender Equity Policy, so how do things stand for our profession?

As you know, the Institute has been strongly advocating for change in this area. The adoption of the Gender Equity Policy opened up the debate and set some benchmarks. Its aims have been reinforced by the establishment of the National Committee for Gender Equity (NCGE), which is chaired by Emma Williamson of CODA Studio. The NCGE have met twice and have come up with a substantial number of initiatives all aimed at making a positive contribution towards achieving gender equity in the profession. These initiatives will be pursued in coming months.

Since 2012 the ARC-funded project Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership and its public platform Parlour: Women Equity and Architecture has been researching and promoting the myriad aspects of this issue.

In May, the team published the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice, then, in September, released its findings in a series of articles that were published in Architecture Australia – if you haven’t read these, I encourage you to do so.

Through this work, we now have a comprehensive picture of the issue. The difficulty in achieving genuine gender equity in our profession is that the reasons for the current imbalance go beyond simply attitude; to a large extent it is structural. Gender imbalance is deeply entrenched and the way we operate has evolved to suit the status quo. In order to make genuine structural changes within our industry it is essential that leaders step up and show the way. The Institute is serious about demonstrating leadership on this issue and about guiding others so they can also lead by example.

There has also been continued commentary around apartment regulation,  in both trade and mainstream media. This has provided opportunities to publicly state our position, namely that we support the SEPP65 model and call for similar planning legislation to be implemented in all jurisdictions.

The current review of SEPP65 confirms that the legislative package, which includes mandating the use of registered architects and design review panels, has resulted in improved living standards in NSW and has received broad support. In Victoria the Institute has been actively lobbying for the introduction of minimum guidelines and prior to the election a member working group critiqued the draft Victorian Apartment Design Standards. The change of government in Victoria over the weekend bodes well for the introduction of standards in 2015.

By adopting SEPP65-style legislation, performance-based design quality guidelines can be applied with flexibility to allow innovative design solutions that lead to improved affordability, housing diversity and improved living standards – now and in the future. I refer you to the following articles: The Age, the Australian Financial Review and most recently Architecture & Design.

Entries are now open for a Creative Director or team for the Australian Exhibition of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. The 2016 Biennale sees the opening of the new Australian Pavilion, and the spotlight will be on Australia and its architecture. Do you have a captivating idea on what our exhibition should represent? Find out more here.

As 2014 comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect briefly on the past year.

For the profession, the year has been a mixed bag, with some states’ economies recovering and others contracting. On a positive note, there is evidence of a trend towards a more socially responsive approach to architecture emerging from the depressed market of the last few years.

The Institute has set in train many significant initiatives in 2014 to support and promote our profession, and in 2015 your National Council and Chapter Councils, supported by passionate management and staff, will continue to work hard to improve what we do for the benefit of the community and our members.

I wish you the very best for the holiday season.

David Karotkin, FRAIA
National President