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Victorian Policy & Advocacy Update

The latest Victorian advocacy and policy updating including the building reform discussion paper, heritage advocacy and more.

BUILDING REFORM UPDATE

Victorian Chapter and the Institute’s Policy and Advocacy Team are currently preparing a submission in response to the independent Building Reform Expert Panel’s discussion paper, Framework for Reform, which was released on Wednesday 7 April. The discussion paper is available on the Engage Victoria website. The final lodgement date for submissions is Wednesday May 19th.

The discussion paper leads the consultation and development for the first phase of Victoria’s three phase building reform process. It seeks to address four aspects of the building regulatory system: 

  • Practitioner registration
  • Building approvals
  • Regulatory oversight
  • Consumer protection.

Important reference points for the discussion paper are the Building Confidence Report (a.k.a. Shergold Weir) and the National Registration Framework.

Who will regulate Architects and other Design Practitioners?

The discussion paper sees the separate regulation (registration and disciplinary schemes for Architects and other Design Practitioners) as problematic,

Some stakeholders also consider that the separate regulation of design practitioners under the Building Act and of architects under the Architects Act fragments regulatory oversight of persons involved in building design. The inconsistent approach to regulation of those involved in design may contribute to poor quality and inconsistency of design documentation during the early stages of building works. (p77-78)

The discussion paper proposes in summary fashion to “consider reform to structure of the current regulatory oversight framework” (p83) but more specifically proposes in detail that,

 For example, the practitioner regulator functions of the VBA could be expanded to include architects and the current functions of the ARBV. (p82)

 The wording of this  – “the current functions”  – suggests that the intent is not to move the Board itself. It could be concluded that this might mean that Architects in Victoria would not be regulated (including registered) through a Board, but would be simply regulated by the Victorian Building Authority.

This would have flow on effects for the profession. As the discussion paper notes under section 8.1.3,

The ARBV oversees compliance and enforcement of architect’s conduct. The primary focus of the ARBV is the regulation of architects. The core functions of the ARBV are:

  • monitoring architect conduct;
  • investigating architect misconduct;
  • undertaking disciplinary action against architect misconduct; and
  • establishing a Tribunal to hold an inquiry into misconduct of an architect.

There are complex risks that could result from proposed re-regulation with regard to the current overall status of Architects as a profession with protected title, a robust national competency framework governed by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia, a regulated code of conduct, and investigation and determination of outcomes for poor conduct by a Board that includes professional peers. Anything that dismantles these elements could disrupt the Architecture profession in Victoria and potentially place national mutual recognition within Australia and with New Zealand at risk as well as the overall, public confidence in the standing of Victorian Architects locally and in national and international markets. Notably, the discussion paper makes no mention that the ARBV accredits the Architecture programs delivered by Victorian universities which account for  43% of all Australian Masters of Architecture graduates.

The Institute is positioning to maintain an independent Architects Registration Board of Victoria which currently exists as a self-funded statutory organisation.

However,  we are attentive to the way the discussion paper regards the separate regulation of Architects and other Design Practitioners as highly problematic. One solution, therefore, could be to propose the establishment of separate divisions of the Architects Registration Board for Design Practitioners as well as for our Architecture graduates, similar to the way the Dental Board of Australia has separate divisions on its register for professional Dentists, and other dental occupations such as Dental Hygienists, Dental Prosthetists, Dental Therapists and Oral Health Therapists (see: https://www.dentalboard.gov.au/registration.aspx). We also note that in the Netherlands, the Architects Register controls the use of the titles of urban designer, landscape architect and interior architect. Similarly, in Italy, the Provincial Rolls cover architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and conservation. South Africa licences three classes of architectural technologist and draftsperson. The Board of Architects Malaysia also licenses drafters and interior designers. In Spain, there is a licence class called Aparejador, which is like an assistant architect and building work supervisor. While in Japan, only 1st class Kenchikushi are able to design complex buildings. 

We would be interested to receive feedback and any other suggestions as to how an intact and independent ARBV can be maintained (and Architects Act) while providing a solution to the perceived problem of separate regulations schemes for Architects and Design Practitioners. Feedback can be provided by email to vic@architecture.com.au and it would be helpful to include the phrase, “Victorian Building Reform” in the subject line. You are also welcome to share your views about other matters raised in the discussion paper.

HERITAGE ADVOCACY – 1 SPRING ST (SHELL HOUSE)

After a robust deliberation and secret ballot process, Victorian Chapter Council resolved to make a submission on the recent permit application P33300 that was advertised by Heritage Victoria for a proposed new construction at 1 Spring Street (formerly known as Shell House). The Institute’s submission has been lodged with Heritage Victoria under the provisions of Section 101 (3) b of the Heritage Act. The submission regards the proposal to construct a new tower over the podium as one that would diminish the totality of the building on its site – one of the definitive works of the late Harry Seidler. The Victorian Chapter sought the views of a number of stakeholders and members of the profession. The Institute does not criticise the large body of expert work that has been carried out, attendant to the permit application, nor the design of a proposed new building, all of which were available for public scrutiny for fourteen days on the Heritage Victoria website. More simply, the Institute has, from an architecture perspective, considered the matter of undertaking any form of work that changes the fundamental nature of an already heritage listed and significantly awarded site. We will keep members informed about the outcome of this process. Click on the green link immediately below “READ THE RESPONSE HERE ->” to access the submission.’s

BETTER APARTMENTS DESIGN STANDARDS (BADS) SEMINAR

Members  may wish to bookmark Friday 28 May, 12pm to 1.30pm for a Better Apartments Design Standards (BADS) seminar to be jointly hosted by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Institute. Topics to be presented by an expert panel will include:

–          Wind

–          Urban context and external materiality

–          Landscape

–          Private open space

The seminar will be open to limited numbers onsite at the Institute’s premises on Level 2 of 41X (41 Exhibition St. Melbourne) via prior registration only, and attendance via Zoom. Attendees in both modes will be able to ask questions of the panel.

Further information will be provided in the next week.