The Architects Accreditation Council of Australia – Review of the National Standard of Competency for Architects

In January 2020 the AACA commenced a project (the Review) to review the National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA) which identifies the fundamental skills, knowledge and capabilities – professional competency – required for the general practice of architecture in Australia.

Professional competency can be understood as the synthesis of professional education, experience in practice, and the career-long maintenance and improvement of professional practice through continuing professional development.

With professional competency requiring both learning in formal education settings and continued learning in architectural practice, the power of the Standard to influence change from the start of an architectural career and beyond should not be understated.

It is therefore essential that the Institute strongly supports the AACA Review and works to ensure that the views of members on the professional competencies required for the general practice of architecture are appropriately captured in the revision of the NSCA.

The Review has been focused on the extent to which the NSCA:

  • broadly reflects the role of an architect across the diversity of modes of practice
  • represents the needs of regulators and reflects current and emerging risks across the profession as a whole
  • is fit for purpose as the benchmark for AACA assessment programs.

An Expert Reference Group comprised of nominees from stakeholder organisations, including from the Institute, has provided professional advice to the Review as it has progressed. 

In mid-2020 the Institute provided input to the initial stage of the Review which included the release of an Issues Paper for broad consultation. A copy of this submission can be found here.

After reviewing submissions, the AACA released the “Revised NSCA (Consultation Draft”) in December 2020 for a further round of consultations.

In early March 2021 the Institute formally responded to the Consultation Draft with a collaborative paper which included expert advice from each Chapter Education Committee, the National Education Committee (NEC) and the Climate Action and Sustainability Taskforce (CAST), as well as practitioners and academics. Included were also responses from the Institute’s Emerging Architects and Graduates Network (EmAGN) and the Institute’s student members (SONA).

The submission addressed in particular the opportunity to detail the profession’s responsibility to dealing with the climate emergency and proposed that this should be reinforced at every appropriate opportunity within the competencies, guiding practice and training. Also proposed was the opportunity to make performance criteria more relevant to the practical components of the design process including strengthening competencies relating to legislation and statutory requirements and reflecting the realities of practice. Similarly, the changing modes of practice and technology were addressed and specific wording to performance criteria were suggested in many instances.

A copy of the submission can be found here.

The Institute’s First Nations Advisory Working Group (FNAWG) and Cultural Reference Panel has also overseen the co-ordination of a supplementary submission providing comments on how an architect’s responsibility to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ should be represented in the NSCA.

This advice has been given with the aim of ensuring that the revised Standard contributes to a significant step-change in architectural practice and leads to the enhanced respect and understanding of cultural diversity within architectural work environments. A copy of the supplementary submission can be found here.

The Institute recognises a professional commitment to engage and act meaningfully through reciprocal partnership and relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is with acknowledgement and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Countries, Cultures and Communities, and their ways of being, knowing and doing.

Caring for country practices, including architecture and place-shaping, have existed on this continent since time immemorial. The Institute is committed to advancing understanding with First Nations peoples in recognition of this enduring and ongoing connection to these lands and waters.

The Institute will continue to provide input and to support the AACA as work carries on to finalise the Revised NSCA. Keep up to date with the project via the AACA dedicated webpage.