John Kellett's comments
Having read the ARB's report it appears that in the case of an 'architect's certificate' the profession's duties have become untenable. Even a 24/7 presence on site could not prevent the Contractor 'pulling a fast one'. It would be interesting to know whether the contractor, who was clearly in the wrong for cheating, suffered any penalty.
Let's hope the legal profession do not transfer this onerous duty to the normal JCT inspections etc.
If I believed in conspiracy theories I would say that this ruling is designed to keep architects off site and further erode our role in construction.
The ARB must provide the profession with further explanation and perhaps guidance, although that may be beyond it's remit. It was supposed to be just a registration body! We have a perfectly capable professional body for dealing with professional conduct in the RIBA, have they been asked to consider the case? How, and why, did the ARB expand it's function to that of 'OffArch'?
This is an issue that requires input from Europe and a investigation into the Architect's Directive.
As I understand it, persons qualified in Europe to the equivalent of Part 2 can register with ARB here as architects. Persons qualified here require Part 3 to register with ARB. That is plainly inequitable.
RIBA membership, "the gold standard", requires Part 3 regardless of where one qualified and is, I understand, regarded highly around the world.
A two tier system would be silly and insupportable, there is no reason for the Architect's Directive not to raise the level of 'qualification' across Europe to that of Part 3 or equivalence.
Surely it is illegal under UK law to employ students and not pay them. Whether you are an RIBA Chartered Practice or not is immaterial.
Voluntary work is for the 'not for profit' charity sector or 'work experience' for school-children only.
The US unpaid 'internship' model is not valid in the UK (or indeed anywhere).
Any architect or practice paying staff (student or not) less than the minimum wage should be stuck off and challenged in court. The majority of Part 1 and Part 2 students provide valuable work, in fact they wouldn't be employed if they didn't!
If the profession's business model relies on an underpaid or illegal workforce it is in a sorry state indeed.
It would be helpful to see what the original facade detail and appearance was. As it is the building might as well be new, the interest lies in the re-organisation of the plan and facades.
Simply restricting local authority powers to town planning (geography, economics and infrastructure) matters and preventing them from interfering in the design of individual buildings would be a start.
Requiring all applications to be by suitably qualified agents (CIAT, RICS, RIBA/ARB) would also help, as in many countries outside the UK.
Both are simple to legislate for and would increase local authority efficiencies.
If 'gentlemen architects' stopped undercutting those of us who need to make a living the profession can perhaps return to it's holistic role. At the moment the smaller the fee the less we can do for the money. Earnings are already pitiful and improved efficiency through BIM can only go so far.
A change is also required in terms of Indemnity Insurance to allow architects to more easily grow a multi-disciplinary architect-led practice.
As a small practice I cannot afford to enter competitions, I don't have the funds or an independent income. It takes most of my waking hours to keep financially afloat after the impact of the incompetence of bankers.
Competitions give clients the impression that design is free, PFI + BSF are prime examples. If a building is designed in full by several teams / practices, each losing team / practice has to recover costs on other jobs.
If community groups, formed as result of Localism and The Big Society, are expecting free advice without the prospect of a commission, or for the commission to subsequently go to another practice or plan-drawer the profession has no future as a source of income.
The way forward is a form of protection function as in other countries and professions. The government has given, or has plans to give, all sorts of job functions protection by qualification and registration, even dog walking! Surely architecture and the built environment, for humans, is more important to society than animals.
So the school was never needed in the first place then! It's construction wastefully diverted funds away from the hundreds of State, CofE and RC schools that do need replacing, whose funding has been axed.
Why not use the building to replace out of date schools in the area?
Surely these are meaningless statistics without some account of the volume of projects 'in progress'. There are probably 144 projects 'on hold' in my home town! What are the criteria for a 'project'? To have 144 projects out of 144 on hold is serious. To have 144 projects on hold out of 1,440,000 is not serious!
It would be more helpful for the statistic to be expressed as a percentage of projects on hold, perhaps defined by sector or size too.
As it stands the reported information is meaningless.
"pro-bono opportunities for architects"?
Working for free isn't an opportunity it is exploitation, unless there are enforceable requirements for the architect to be paid for the work at a later date at a sensible fee.
I fail to understand why we should provide our services for free in order for somebody else to make a profit. It's hard enough as it is with ridiculously low fee levels for the work we are required to provide.
Not quite tongue in cheek because I truly hope that I'm not the only architect using full BIM in the County of Northamptonshire. There are only about 100 architects and a significant proportion of those work outside the County!
Despite the additional work early on I am finding that there is an improvement in productivity and efficiency overall. The link between NBS and VWA/ArchiCad is useful too.
The trick is not to produce information that looks like it's imitating a 2D Cad drawing that is imitating a pen drawing imitating a pencil drawing! Neither am I wasting time in Photoshop or Excel.
That doesn't surprise me at all. Even with skills in the BIM capabilities in ArchiCad and Vectorworks I found it impossible to find work when 'credit crunched'. My own new small practice uses the full BIM capabilities of vectorworks. I know of no other practice in the county using full BIM!
The other side of the argument is of course that groups of householders will grant themselves permission for very large ugly extensions. I can also imagine a group of agricultural landowners making a tidy profit out of redefining their own land as 'development land'. It will be interesting to see how a 'neighbourhood community' is defined!
From what we know at the moment it doesn't look as if the idea / policy has been thought through fully.
Why not just fast-track applications that meet policy and/or are by 'approved agents' (ARB/RIBA, CIAT RICS etc) to allow planners to concentrate on the badly presented / non-conforming to policy applications?
Just a thought.
Whilst architectural education appears to concentrate on the "delight" to the detriment of "firmness" and "commodity" there will always be a shortfall in knowledge, which has to be gained in practice. Educationalists need to decide whether they are training professionals or artists!
The European requirement to allow anyone with Part 2 (or equivalent) to practice as an architect sets entry to the profession at a lower level than is acceptable. The RIBA's "gold standard" of Chartered status is at risk. Protection of function could perhaps provide the protection of the consumer by permitting 'registered architects' and other building designers to have design control over a limited range of building types / project sizes. Chartered architects with Part 3 Chartered Practices having to be used for larger non-domestic projects. Many countries operate similar systems.
Part 1 = artist / building designer (small projects + unlisted) = RICS / CIAT equivalence
Part 2 = registered architect (up to medium scale non-complex projects + unlisted) = Euro architect equivalence
Part 3 = professional chartered architect (all projects including listed) = RIBA "gold standard"
By no means is that the only answer but the anomaly needs to be openly discussed and a solution found.
When many Local Authorities do not have RTPI qualified case officers and even fewer have conservation officers with architectural or planning qualifications it should be difficult to justify.
Every applicant should expect every submission to be dealt with by a fully qualified town-planner.
Will architects, and their clients, be permitted to counter-charge for incompetence and time wasted on matters that are not town-planning matters?
Will "agents" be vetted such that application submitted by RIBA / TRPI / CIAT / RICS / ARB professionals are 'fast-tracked' for a lower fee?
Why not have an even simpler system, RIBA Chartered Practice status? From my experience over the years any chartered architect is capable of designing any public building, it's one of the many things we are trained and qualified to do. Many local authorities appoint a variety of under-qualified consultants to design buildings etc. I've known estate agents and contractors to be appointed as urban designers and conservation consultants, without any visible qualifications whatsoever!
Certified v. registered:
Surely it makes more sense for 'registered architect' to refer to those with EU levels of qualification (RIBA part 2) and 'Chartered architect' to those with the higher RIBA part 3 level of qualification. The RIBA does of course cater for members with Part 1 and 2 as well as 3.
Perhaps the ARB can then concentrate on the real abuses of title, the unqualified 'architectural designers' and 'architectural consultants', who mislead the public and usually provide a much inferior service. Bring on protection of function, whereby only those suitably qualified are permitted to design buildings, or parts of buildings (Chartered Structural / Services Engineers, Chartered Building Surveyors, Chartered Technologists, Registered Architects and Chartered Architects).
It all depends on what is required of an architectural education. To spend a year on 'tools of the trade', a year on 'Law and Practice Management' and two years 'design studio' would appear to omit: History, aesthetics, surveying, conservation, structures, sustainability, project management, cost estimating, environmental services, construction methods, brief-taking and development etc.
The current RIBA curriculum is, in my opinion, a minimum to be achieved not an excessive requirement.
I've witnessed 'Part Ones' with First Class Honours degrees who have been unable to read drawings correctly!
Architecture as a profession is becoming more complex to embrace holistically, to cut course lengths would be seriously misguided. A greater concentration on the important issues and greater efficiency in the educational process would be useful.
Besides, with the profession in the state it's in, it will be years before any graduate is in a job, let alone earning over £21,000!
Commodification of architecture?
I think Mark Brearley may be missing the accepted definition of architecture: 'firmness', 'commodity' and 'delight'; with all 3 being equal. To specialise in 'delight' produces buildings as sculpture, to specialise in 'firmness' produces just buildings.
To my mind a building is only a work of architecture if it is buildable, meets the brief and looks good.
I remain to be convinced that Zaha Haidid's work meets each Vitruvian principle in equal measure. It's very sculptural but does it function any the better for it?
If the practices going under are those that favour unsustainable bids and employ cheap labour then I am not too concerned.
Those of us who have never been glorified graphic designers and exterior decorators can get a look in again! I, for one, have never not 'embraced' project management, planning applications and production information etc as well as having continually 'upped' my skills in all areas.
There will only be a 'double-dip' recession for the profession if the media talk us into one. There is more than enough architectural design to be done, we just need to ensure that it is architects doing it, not politicians or 'consultants'! I am fed up with architects getting the blame for badly designed buildings that were designed by non-architects and committees. To make ends meet I have often had to 'draw up' dreadful schemes designed by non-architects!
In my opinion the numerous new small practices, including my own, can only be sustainably successful by growing into larger multi-disciplinary practices and the sooner mine gets there the better.