A commitment to safety, quality and putting the consumer first is the only way to restore confidence and ensure the ongoing integrity of Australia’s construction industry, according to the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA).
Responding to the ABC 7.30’s three-part series on defects in the construction industry, which concluded on 23 October 2019, AIA National President, Professor Helen Lochhead, said solutions that address these serious issues need to be urgently implemented in a consistent, nationwide manner.
“The ABC investigation builds on previous coverage to highlight yet again the very serious issues facing Australia’s construction industry, particularly in the multi-residential sector,” Professor Lochhead said.
“For years now the Institute has been at the forefront of calls for all governments to take action and urgently improve how the building construction in this country is regulated.”
“When it comes to the lives and livelihoods of Australians, this is a case where we need more and better regulation.”
Professor Lochhead believes that quality outcomes will not occur, and the consumer will not be protected, if time and cost continue to be the prime drivers in the construction industry.
“There must be increased accountability and that’s why the Institute wants to see a nationwide requirement for the registration of all building practitioners, in the same way architects are.”
For large projects, Professor Lochhead says independent eyes must be on-site the whole way through, and this is why the AIA has been calling for the reinstatement of a Clerk of Works.
These projects must also be supported by more complete documentation and procurement models that deliver better outcomes for consumers in terms of their physical and financial security.
“We’ve seen positive steps towards the implementation of these solutions in various jurisdictions around the country, but more reform is needed faster,” said Professor Lochhead.
She also stressed that despite many of these issues being systemic and widespread, there are also many reputable builders who already have their own checks and balances in place and are delivering high-quality apartments to the market.
“In addressing these challenges it is critical to also acknowledge the many building practitioners who are doing the right thing and creating robust, safe and high-quality houses and apartments.”
“While trust may understandably have been shaken, consumers do still have access to new building stock in which they can have confidence,” Professor Lochhead added.
AIA’s NSW Chapter President, Kathlyn Loseby (who was interviewed by 7.30), has welcomed the recent introduction into the NSW Parliament of the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 as a step forward.
“We have been working to marshal support for reform from other industry bodies here in NSW and engaging closely with Government and regulators, including the new Building Commissioner,” Ms Loseby said.
“It’s very encouraging to see the NSW Government making changes in response to the nationally endorsed recommendations of the Shergold-Weir ‘Building Confidence’ report.”
‘The Institute looks forward to supporting Government to implement the full suite of required reforms,” she said.
While the Andrews Government has taken important measures to start rectifying buildings identified as at-risk from flammable cladding, AIA Victorian Chapter President, Amy Muir, says that more reform is needed to prevent similar problems re-emerging in the future.
“We have recently completed a significant body of work looking into the impact novation is having as an increasingly prevalent contracting method for procuring buildings,” Ms Muir commented.
Novation occurs when an architect’s contractual rights and obligations to the clients are transferred to the building contractor, as is generally the case in Design and Construct contracts.
Ms Muir detailed that severing that direct relationship with the client and making all other building practitioners subordinate to the building contractor can lead to negative outcomes.
“For example, a survey of our members in Victoria revealed that novation can, in the majority of cases, have a negative impact on the finish and durability of projects and architects’ ability to deliver quality outcomes for the general public and end-user.”
“This work adds to a growing evidence base that shows a better legislated, industry-wide novation code is needed if we are serious about putting people first, protecting consumers and ensuring the homes of the future are built for safety and quality,” she concluded.
The Victorian Survey results can be found here.