Since I last wrote, the Institute has been heavily involved in the policy and advocacy sphere while managing a busy awards programme. Chapter Council has been workshopping how we might address perceived and potential systemic risks to the profession as raised by the ARBV in their paper ‘Systemic risks in the Australian Architecture Sector’ that was published earlier this year. Amongst other actions we are looking at a programme of CPD sessions to try to head off these perceived risks. The ARBV is also working on this and is proposing a webinar shortly on client architect agreements. One perceived risk that the ARBV has posited, is failing to maintain observance of the Architects Regulations 2015 with its ‘Victorian Architects Code of Professional Conduct’, which defines how architects should serve clients, administer contracts and behave in our professional role.
Last week the Victorian School Building Authority in its annual briefing to consultants, questioned the requirement for superintendents to act fairly in a building contract. Clearly many superintendents in VSBA contracts are architects, and acting fairly is a mandatory requirement for a Victorian architect. The Code clearly states, under Subclause 5, Administering a building contract, that ‘the architect must (a) act with integrity, fairness and impartiality in administering the building contract’, along with other responsibilities. As such we have written to the VSBA to advise them of this statutory obligation for architects and by doing so have responded to the ARBV’s call to monitor and oppose potential systemic risks. This issue is a reminder of the necessity of both being aware of our obligations as an architect under the Architects Act 1991, but also the need from time to time to explain these obligations to clients and the general community.
The institute has also been recently working to address the need for better Client Architect Agreements and specifically is working with the Department of Treasury and Finance as well as the Association of Consulting Architects to review the standard Government Consultancy Agreement (short and long forms) which are the basis of most government consultancy contracts. The contracts have a number of clauses with favour neither the government nor consultants, and frankly have a number of clauses that are uninsurable. With the assistance of our insurers, Informed/Planned Cover, and with the knowledge base of some experienced members including some of our Senior Counsellors who, not only have experienced negotiating these contracts in practice, but also act as experts in arbitration and disputes, we are well placed to offer the best guidance and hopefully negotiate a good outcome for all.
This week brings to a close the 2023 Chapter Awards programme which has been running since Christmas and absorbed a lot of time and energy from both Institute staff and volunteer juries. Friday 14 June is our first Awards dinner since 2019 and a great opportunity to celebrate at Melbourne’s newest venue, Centrepoint at Melbourne Park. With close to one thousand attendees I look forward to meeting many of you and enjoying a great night out. It is important to remember that the awards are not simply about acclaiming great pieces of architecture and celebrating their authors, although that is important, but also about promoting to the wider community the benefits and virtues of architecture in the development of our built environment. The record 249 entries, 130 shortlisted entries and awarded entries all are a showcase of the high quality of work that is currently being created in Victoria. With a public holiday to begin the week and the celebration of the Awards evening to close, it should be a great week!
David Wagner FRAIA
President of the Victorian Chapter