John Kellett's Comments
A sensible view. However solicitors and doctors have ‘protection of function’ in order to protect the public. The public has very little protection from fraudsters and charlatans misleading their clients into believing that they are architects. Unfortunately many people believe that it already is illegal for unqualified people to design buildings and therefore see no difference between an architect and an ‘architectural designer’. In my County ‘architectural designers’ are even being given commissions for schools and healthcare projects. With moves by the medical profession to increase the coverage of registration (into cosmetic procedures etc) and the call by the Archbishop of Canterbury for bankers to be required to be qualified, the construction professions should be lobbying for a requirement for building designers to be suitably qualified.
Having just re-read Standard 12 of the ARB code of conduct I would very much like to understand from the ARB how using the phrase ‘the ethnics’ breaks that code. It would appear therefore that merely describing any aspect of a person’s appearance or character or background breaks the code implying that it is now impossible for anybody to be an architect in the UK. If a fellow architect describes me as ‘short’ (which I am) or who ‘looks down on me’ (they have to, due to my height), can I have them struck off the register? The implication from the PCC ruling is that I can! How odd.
A break from providing an architectural education that meets internationally recognised standards, such as the European Directive, is very worrying. The profession requires new members who are fully versed in the long term ‘needs’ of the profession not the short term financial ‘wants’ of the Universities. Students wishing to become architects are not going to benefit from courses designed lower standards or increase University income. Courses for architects need to be both broad and deep in order to cover the knowledge and skills necessary, an undergraduate degree cannot do that. To leave University with just an ability to prepare impressive drawings is not enough, graduates wanting a career as architects need to know how buildings are constructed, how construction is managed, costs and have a good knowledge of all the guidance and legislation that applies as well as the art of architecture. Designers of buildings in the UK are already under qualified to meet the needs of the C21, I don’t see how shortening the education courses can improve things. Better access to part-time and online / distance courses would be a great improvement that would not lower standards and maintain adherence to internationally recognised standards. Perhaps educators would benefit from re-reading Vitruvius’s chapter on the education of an architect?
Comment on: Is architecture gay-friendly?
The profession has much greater concerns at the moment than private personal sexual orientation issues. There is also rife, but mostly unintentional and unconscious, discrimination against the disabled, female, short, ginger-haired and state-educated throughout the profession. It is being marginalised by our un(der)qualified competitors who are profiteering on the break-up of an holistic profession into numerous specialisms. Specialisms that lack any overview of the project, as a whole, meeting the client’s requirements. What’s the point of being a diverse and egalitarian profession, if ‘society' thinks/decides it doesn’t want architects anymore?
The only reason practices can't pay is the desire to udercut their competitors by having more work carried out by unpaid students. My practice is under pressure from all directions to take on unpaid 'interns' under all sorts of 'official' apprenticeship type schemes. Should I bow to 'business' advice or stick to the moral high ground and hope my business can grow without 'cheating'? If students are doing useful fee-earning work the minimum pay legislation should apply, at the very least. An architecture graduate is after all worth a lot more than a 16 year old youth with no GCSEs or a 'media studies' graduate. But until the law is clarified and/or challenged loopholes will, unfortunately, be exploited by those without scruples.
Perhaps women are being cleverer by taking more 'dividend' and less 'salary' in order to take advantage of tax rules? Perhaps more women have got more sense than us chaps by getting out of a profession that currently has such little financial reward! I wonder how pay compares across the profession with other 'differences' such as height, accent, school, hair colour (ginger!), age and ethnicity etc? Speaking as someone who has been 'looked down on' most of his life I think you might be surprised by the results. Discrimination is not always intended. I read another study for another profession (I've forgotten which, it was a while ago) where the pay difference was due to women accepting lower offers. I'm not convinced by that argument but........
One aspect that appears to be missing from most commentaries on the issue of converting office buildings to homes is that many offices are in buildings designed for another purpose anyway. Houses, warehouses and agricultural buildings have all been converted to offices in the past. For those buildings, for which 'office' is now no longer a viable use, the Government 'initiative' is very good news.
"Externally, most office buildings are not suitable for residential buildings in terms of windows, balconies, etc and recladding is often required" Not true, nearly all office buildings that are now unsuitable for office use in towns and cities started life as residential buildings. "Most office floor plates from air conditioned post 1970s offices are usually very deep, which makes them unsuitable for residential units" True, but they can make very good offices or homes by creating atria, it can be a challenge to carry structurally within budget but not impossible. "Wholesale replacement of central plant and equipment to different heating, cooling and electrical loading requirements" Not necessarily and would be necessary in many cases to make the building useable as a modern office anyway. "Biggest issue is often structural alterations that may be required to make the original stair and lift cores work for a residential layout" Surely those office buildings will not be candidates for change of use then! Most ex-residential buildings that have been 'converted' to office use can be 'unconverted' quite simply, especially in terms of lifts and stairs.
Any architectural student from within the EU who has failed to qualify in their home country, and therefore cannot design buildings in that country in their own name, can freely enter the UK and set up in business here designing buildings without having qualifications or having to prove / demonstrate competency! Can the RIBA, ACA, CIBSE, IStructE, ICE and ARB etc. please lobby UK PLC to ensure that, like most European countries, it is a requirement that all building designers are suitably qualified. To allow anyone to design buildings without any consumer protection in place in the C21 is insane. The minimal 'protection' afforded by planning and building regulations legislation is negligible and is of course also present in those many EU nations who, quite rightly, think it dangerous to allow unqualified persons to design buildings. It should be a pan-European legislative requirement that all members of a building design team are suitably qualified for their role within that team. There is actually a 'employment lake' of trained and qualified British nationals fully qualified in many construction disciplines currently being 'overlooked' in favour of cheaper imported and un(der)qualified labour. Why?
"The survey found that 89 per cent of respondents would prefer to live in a house on a street". I suspect a similar proportion of 'respondents' would prefer to have a better car/appearance/phone etc! "According to the Policy Exchange document, nobody wanted a home in high-rise social housing blocks." Nobody 'wants' to live in social housing, it's physical form is immaterial! Take one 'ugly' tower block, clean it, repair it, renovate/update the internal layout, put newer faster lifts, have a concierge and better security, don't fill apartments with large families and all of a sudden the building becomes 'desirable'. A more cost effective and sustainable answer to the 'problem'.