The government must act now to ensure the design and construction of safe, well-constructed buildings and to restore public trust in Australia’s built environment.
The Australian Institute of Architects, the Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) and ArchiTeam Cooperative Ltd (ArchiTeam) are calling for urgent action in the ongoing aftermath of construction failures in Australia – this ranges from structural issues compromising residential towers in Sydney, to potentially disastrous flammable cladding incidents in Melbourne’s Neo200 and Lacrosse apartments.
The safety of residents, occupants, building owners and the broader public is paramount. We must act now to ensure adherence to the rigorous building and construction standards that protect their interests.
Consistency across jurisdictions is key, as is the development of better procurement processes that prioritise the quality and integrity of the built environment and consider whole-of-life costs and the benefits that come from good design.
Many of the solutions have already been identified in the Building Confidence Report (also known as the Shergold Weir Report). Released in February 2018, this assessed the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia and set out a series of recommendations.
We support these recommendations and urge state and federal governments to take swift action.
A start was made in March 2019, when the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) released the Building Confidence Report Implementation Plan (BCRIP). This outlines a roadmap for reforms, including target timeframes in each jurisdiction. We acknowledge that implementation and timing will vary according to state regulatory systems, but much more stringent and focused timelines are needed in most states.
The role of the architect in delivering quality outcomes requires serious attention. We strongly argue that architects should play a significant role in the proposed reforms. Architects already operate within a well-regulated, professional system, and have the capacity to increase their service offerings to help ensure a safer, higher quality built environment. All too often, however, architects find their role compromised by fragmented procurement processes that result in unclear roles and scope, confused lines of responsibility, and unfair allocation of risk.
The Institute, ACA and ArchiTeam endorse the full implementation of the Shergold Weir report. We encourage federal and state governments to prioritise the following key areas:
Timeframes and targets
Adherence to targets with clear timelines is essential. Little can be achieved without a nation-wide commitment to specific timeframes. To date, we have seen inconsistent progress across states. Some states have set clear targets and made substantial progress, but others have yet to identify timelines for implementation.
We strongly recommend that the Shergold Weir report timelines and targets be explicitly implemented.
The Shergold Weir Report makes it clear that increasingly fragmented processes for procuring and delivering complex building projects are compromising the built outcome, to the detriment of all. The experience of our members backs up this finding. Current processes need to be carefully and thoroughly investigated with a view to consolidating and integrating procurement processes. This is a crucial step in achieving a safer, better quality built environment. Architects look forward to working cohesively with builders, construction managers, project managers and other building industry professionals as part of a coordinated and transparent model.
The lack of regulatory controls across a federated system is challenging. We strongly support the development of a nationalised approach to the system of compliance. This would provide much-needed oversight and control of the sector and coordination between all states and territories.
Registration of building practitioners
We support the proposed registration of building practitioners. This could be extended further to roles not specifically identified in the BCRIP, including roles that have developed in recent decades and operate without a clear regulatory or educational base.
Architects are already registered through the Architects Act in each state, and the profession has a clear educational and regulatory framework. Some jurisdictions require mandatory continuing professional development for architects in their registration requirements. We strongly recommend that this system be extended across all jurisdictions. We encourage the development of mutual recognition across these state-based systems.
We wholeheartedly agree with the Shergold Weir Report’s view that “The building and construction industry needs to actively participate in lifting standards, competency and integrity if it is to produce safe and reliable buildings and continue to be an important driver of infrastructure development.”
We stand ready to support state and federal governments, and we urge immediate action!