When I started working at the Institute, people asked if I would miss practice. Almost five years on I am still being asked this question, and I am pleased to be able to respond that I am still enjoying applying my knowledge and experience in a different context.
Being able to support architects and advocate for the profession in a way that is not possible while in practice is a great responsibility and privilege. It has enabled me to better understand the political context within which many projects exist, and which shapes the construction sector. It has provided the time and opportunity to delve deeply into issues impacting the way we work and to explore opportunities to improve outcomes for the profession and the wider community.
One example is the work the Institute has been doing in relation to the Department for Education Capital Works program. This ambitious, once in a generation program has so much potential: to improve the education of South Australians and to provide a legacy of well designed, progressive infrastructure, but also to place those involved in the delivery at significant risk of overwork, contractual risk and financial strain. This includes consultants, clients, contractors and sub-contractors.
A political promise made during the election campaign is driving a relentless program that everyone, including government departments, acknowledges privately is extremely challenging. The Institute is committed to continuing to support architects involved in these projects, as well as continuing to advocate for the benefits associated with an extended construction period. These include better value for money by ensuring the SA construction market does not overheat, sustained stimulation of the South Australian economy and skills development through apprenticeships, which require sustained construction activity to be viable.
We may not achieve all these objectives, but the conversations we have will encourage alternative positions to be considered and demonstrate the strategic thinking capabilities of the profession. Ultimately, this will be of value.
Other issues explored this year include:
- Housing – Access to a home is recognized as a basic human right. However, even in Australia, this right is fragile, with increased density, rising socio-economic inequity and housing affordability all placing pressure on housing accessibility. The Festival of Architecture and Design provided a forum for discussing many of these issues and the role of architects in addressing them. The SA Chapter also provided a submission to the Housing, Homelessness and Support Strategy and is seeking to engage in the 1000 Homes program recently announced by the SA Government.
- Climate Change – Changing climate increases the imperative for well designed, environmentally responsive buildings that lessen environmental impacts, assist in managing heat and water in our urban environments and provide access to shelter that also support peoples’ health and wellbeing. The recent University of Adelaide Heat and Habitat Symposium focused on environmental responsiveness, as did a workshop conducted by Water Sensitive SA. The Planning and Design Code seeks to regulate for better built outcomes, with urban infill a focus area and design quality identified as a key to achieving improved outcomes for our urban environment. The Institute is continuing to work with DPTI and other stakeholders to champion the important role that design plays in delivering improved process and built environments.
- Construction Quality – Issues with construction quality and consumer confidence are ongoing. Government has been slow to respond and piecemeal in its approach across Australia, despite the recommendations of the Shergold Weir Report to respond in a coordinated, timely manner. The Institute has been active in its analysis and response to the issues. The role of architects in achieving a higher standard of building and supporting consumer confidence is also being explored and advocated for.
- Procurement – Procurement of buildings is complex and specialized. Increased pressure on program and cost, a loss of procurement expertise in client bodies, including government and evolving procurement methodologies is placing architects in a position of increased contractual obligation and risk. The Institute is continuing to develop resources to educate clients and other stakeholders regarding best practice procurement and how this assists them in achieving quality and value for money in their projects. We also continue to support architects’ understanding of these changing conditions through Acumen practice notes and CPD. Finally, the SA Chapter provided a response to the SA Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into SA Government Procurement, to advocate for more sustainable and fair procurement within the design and construction sector.
Gender equity, collaborative practice, design education in schools and 20th century built heritage are other areas that the SA Chapter has worked on during 2019. As you can see, it’s been an active year with engagement across a range of topics.
The final benefit of this work is the unique opportunity it provides me to meet and work with Institute members. For those who have contributed to the work outlined above, we extend our very sincere thanks. It would not have been achieved without you. For those who we have collaborated with on other projects or who have attended our activities, we thank you also.
A healthy, active Institute is a sign of a vibrant, connected profession. We look forward to reconnecting with you after a well-deserved break. In the meantime, enjoy the festivities, refresh over time with family and friends and keep cool!
Nicolette Di Lernia
SA Chapter Executive Director