From the National President

Clare Cousins

18 Mar 2019

On behalf of the Australian Institute of Architects, I offer our sincerest condolences and support to the people of Christchurch and Islamic communities here and abroad. At this sad time it is more important than ever that we all stand together and remain committed to creating safe spaces – be they places of worship, learning, work, play or living – for all our communities.

Regulatory reform

The Building Minister’s Forum (BMF) last week released the much-anticipated ‘implementation plan’ for the recommendations put forward in last year’s Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report.

You can view the relevant materials at this link.

The Institute has been a vocal supporter of that report and active contributor to policy debates surrounding it. I was pleased to represent the Institute’s members at last month’s BMF meeting in Hobart.

Naturally we have been reviewing the plan in detail and will have more to say on the matter.

Our preliminary view, however, is that certain features, such as the commitment to taking a national approach to reform, and to work with industry and regulators, are very positive.

Other aspects are distinctly underwhelming, such as a lack of agreement to true, nationwide harmonisation of regulation and timeframes for implementation. We also have outstanding concerns around the issue of registration of site or project managers, and how regulators apportion responsibility.

The latter potentially has implications as regards the recent landmark Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruling regarding Lacrosse.

VCAT decision on Lacrosse

The VCAT decision has caused concern for members and consultants in the building and construction sector.

The case was brought against the contractor and consultants by the owners of the Lacrosse apartment building in Melbourne’s Docklands, which was damaged by a blaze in 2014 that was affected by the tower’s external cladding.

We continue to work through the implications of the decision, and further matters in the case that are yet to be decided and will be offering further advice in the coming weeks.

One issue that is under discussion is the implication of the judgement on future relationships between contractors and their consultants, and what responsibilities the contractor, superintendent/project manager, architect, engineers, building surveyor and other consultants have under all contractual arrangements, including novated contracts. The responsibility allocated to architects as lead consultants under novated contracts needs a deeper investigation to make sure that contractual arrangements allocate risk appropriately to those who are best able to manage it. There needs to be clarification of the roles and responsibilities of all parties, especially project managers and superintendents. The Shergold-Weir report recommends they are registered/licensed to ensure they are appropriately qualified and experienced and we fully support that recommendation. We have been vocal on the adoption of all the recommendations from the report and we continue our call urging state and territory governments to implement this recommendation, and the other 23 recommendations, as a matter of urgency.

The Institute’s document Guiding Principles for Balanced and Insurable Novation Deeds aims to simplify the negotiation process for architects and their clients contemplating novation.

We are working with insurance firm Planned Cover and external legal professionals to provide articles and targeted, high quality CPD to assist the profession in developing a deeper understanding of their risks, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities under a novated arrangement, and throughout all stages of the procurement process.

Click here to read Five Tips for Successful Novation by Wendy Poulton from Planned Cover.

If you have any concerns, please speak with your insurer and a reminder that all corporate member architects (Member Level 1 and A+ Members) have access to a free legal reference service through the resources section of Acumen Practice Notes.

We are undertaking a research project on the impact of novated contracts on the profession. We will shortly be issuing a survey to members to gather facts and figures around the issue.

Clare Cousins
National President