Breaking News

BUILDING SAFETY – THE ROLE OF ARCHITECTS AND IMPACTS ON THE PROFESSION

BACKGROUND

A spate of recent incidents, generating extensive media coverage, has brought significant attention to the safety and quality of Australia’s built environment and severely impacted public confidence.

These include:

  • Lacrosse Tower Fire, Melbourne 2014 – A copy of the Institute’s media statement on the ruling is available here and a copy of the Institute’s Advocacy Alert to members is available here and a summary of the decision here.
  • Grenfell Tower Fire, UK, 2017 – Prompted an inquiry by the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Economics, to which the Institute made a submission that was referenced heavily in the final report.
  • Australian Federal, State and Territory ministers, through the Building Ministers Forum (BMF), subsequently commissioned a review by Dr Peter Shergold and Ms Bronwyn Weir. Their report, Building Confidence, was released publicly early in 2018 and an implementation plan in March 2019. The Institute has supported and publicly called for the urgent adoption of all recommendations.
  • Opal Tower building evacuation, Sydney, December 2018.
  • Neo200 Apartment Building Fire, Melbourne, February 2019 – A copy of the Institute’s media statement on the incident is available here.
  • CBD walkway collapse, Perth, June 2019.
  • Mascot Towers building evacuation, Sydney, June 2019.

WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING…

Shergold-Weir report

  • The BMF’s implementation plan for the recommendations of Shergold-Weir report on building regulation, compliance and enforcement was released in mid-March 2019. This is presented in the broadest terms and indicates a lack of implementation of the recommendations. The implementation plan has given us the opportunity to examine each state in detail regarding regulatory reform.  We’ve also discussed with ACA and ArchiTeam and have released a joint statement on the urgent need for implementation of all 24 recommendations.

Lacrosse and the impacts of novation

  • The Lacrosse decision also raised issues around novation of contracts and roles and responsibilities under a Design and Construct (D&C) contract. The Institute is investigating the impact of novation and D&C contracts through a member survey conducted in April and we’re undertaking further, more detailed research into the issue following that survey. We are also providing members with training on procurement and have numerous practice notes on novation. We have made our online CPD course on inappropriate external cladding use and the subsequent amendments to Volume One of the National Construction Code available complimentary for all members. We have issued advisory notes to members.

Insurance and legislative changes

  • Building owners are commencing legal proceedings against building professionals, including architects, to recover costs of dealing with ACP and expanded polystyrene (EPS) products in their buildings. In large buildings, such claims amount to many millions of dollars. We are monitoring the situation and working with insurers, Planned Cover.
  • The insurance market has also changed considerably. Most professional indemnity insurers are imposing exclusions on insurance policies for ACP/EPS or non-conforming building products. These exclusions could leave architects uninsured for past projects because of the claims made nature of the policies. The market exclusions appear to be for both legal/defence costs and indemnity. Planned Cover are working hard to maintain cover for existing customers for past work by architects.
  • As well, strict controls are being placed on future use of ACP and EPS products, particularly in high-rise buildings. We will keep members advised of legislative changes.

Procurement

  • Requests for highly detailed practice information, project programming and budgeting in EOIs and RFTs for architectural services has been identified as an issue for members. So too has implied or explicit requests for unpaid design ideas, as well as other requirements. We have produced guidelines that offer advice specific to the commonly used processes of EOI and RFT to concisely deliver relevant, comparable information to clients and ensure a cost effective, resource efficient and fair process for all participants.

WHAT’S HAPPENING NEXT…

Shergold-Weir

  • We’re producing a detailed advocacy plan for each state and territory including a formal response to the NSW Government’s recently released discussion paper, Building Stronger Foundations.
  • We’re preparing joint representations to government with ACA and ArchiTeam in addition to our recently released joint statement.
  • We’re holding discussions with the Australian Building Codes Board on the work they are undertaking.
  • We’re continuing to liaise with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia and state and territory board registrars.
  • Direct advocacy with governments – ongoing through chapters and nationally via the Building Ministers Forum and other industry forums and roundtables.
  • Continued media commentary.

Lacrosse

  • We’ve examined aspects of the decision in-depth and will be delivering advice to members on the following issues:
  • Performance solutions vs deemed to satisfy in the NCC.
  • The role of the superintendent/project manager vis a vis the architect.
  • The rights, roles, responsibilities and risks under a design and construct contract.
  • We will continue to monitor government actions and provide regular advice to members on statutory changes and further outcomes from legal actions.

Risk allocation

  • We’re conducting an economic research project on the links between cost cutting practices and increases or decreases in risk, using Opal Tower as a case study.
  • We will be conducting a symposium for members and built environment stakeholders on ways to increase consumer confidence in the building industry, particularly focusing on roles and responsibilities of the people involved in the design, construction and certification of buildings and how that relates to changes in building regulations.
  • We’re producing member advisory notes on risk allocation for different procurement practices.

Procurement and the impact of novated contracts

  • We’re finalising our research report based on the national survey undertaken earlier this year.
  • Using the outcomes from the survey and research project, we will develop best practice guidelines/code of novation with industry stakeholders.
  • We’re also producing practice advice for managing commercial pressures under novated arrangements.
  • And we’re developing a national CPD program for members on the pitfalls and risks of various procurement methods.

Procurement guidelines

  • Our guidelines have been endorsed by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect and we will continue to engage government architects and government and institutional clients around the country for further endorsement and adoption.
  • We’re building on our initial communications, through a concerted and ongoing plan to engage with all levels of government, institutional clients and industry bodies and representative groups at chapter and national levels.
  • We’re also developing templates for members based on the guidelines.

Latest Media Releases