The RIAI has expressed concern that many of the recommendations contained in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht’s report on Registration of the title of Architect, seem to have little or no basis in the report’s well-researched and coherently presented findings and do not adequately address consumer protection and the need for standards.
In addition, the Institute says that some of the recommendations are in themselves contradictory and others are factually incorrect.
The Registrar for Architects, John Graby, said that the RIAI is pleased that the preface to the report confirmed that “the State has a duty of care to ensure that the buildings and structures erected in Ireland are of a high standard and meet the needs of the Irish people in terms of quality, safety, suitability and adaptability”.
He said: “The RIAI also welcomes the emphasis placed in the preface on the State being confident that those practising in the architectural profession and using the title Architect are fully competent in the knowledge and skills required’ as well as having processes in place through which practitioners can prove that they have such competence. Unfortunately, the Committee’s recommendations do not adequately address these issues.”
John Graby welcomed the fact that the Committee’s report confirms that the processes put in place by the Building Control Act 2007 for registering those who have acquired the necessary standard of knowledge, skill and competence through practical means – Technical Assessment and the Register Admission Examination – are working well.
“As the report shows, since the Register of Architects was set up in 2009, at least 54 individuals in this category have successfully used these processes and have either been registered as architects or deemed eligible to be registered. In fact, over 10% of new registrants since 2009 have come through the two practical experience assessment methods.”
John Graby also said that he is pleased that the Committee has emphasised the importance of finding ways to encourage and facilitate applicants to use Technical Assessment and the Register Admission Examination.
“In this context, the report’s analysis of the perceived barriers preventing some people from using these processes is helpful. The RIAI is committed to establishing further means to facilitate and encourage those who could apply to do so, including exploration of a ‘candidate status’ not unlike the existing ‘graduate’ membership which provides access to RIAI newsletters and bulletins, seminars, publications and continuous professional development (CPD) programme.”
However, Mr Graby expressed the RIAI’s concern that the Committee – having acknowledged that Technical Assessment and the Register Admission Examination are working well and having proposed mechanisms to further improve engagement with these processes – decided to recommend that the Minister for the Environment should consider making major amendments to the legislation that would have the effect of undermining the very provisions they say are working well.
“The RIAI knows from direct experience that the Committee’s recommendation that Minister Hogan should consider introducing a so-called ‘grandfather’ clause into the 2007 Act will mean that many people who have been thinking about applying for Technical Assessment or the Register Admission Examination will not now do so. Instead they will hold off regularising their position while they see what may or may not happen in the legislative process. The creation of this uncertainty will undermine the integrity of the regulatory system for architects and will only be to the disadvantage of potential applicants and consumers.”
John Graby said that in other important respects the Committee’s recommendation to introduce a ‘grandfather’ clause was baffling.
“It’s not clear at all what the Committee is actually recommending here. The body of the report itself would seem to indicate that in these Islands the most recent provision of the type recommended goes back to 1931 in the UK. It’s also worth noting that the phrase ‘grandfather’ was included in an early draft of what became the 2007 Building Control Act but this was left out by the parliamentary draftsman because it’s not a precise or appropriate term for legislation.”
John Graby explained that the RIAI takes issue with the Committee’s recommendation in relation to what standard should apply to people seeking entry to the Register.
“The Committee has called for the Minimum EU Standard to apply in Ireland. It’s important that people realise that this standard is a minimum undergraduate academic standard. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of EU States – including Ireland – apply a standard for architects providing services to the public which includes defined periods of supervised postgraduate professional experience followed by an examination and including case study, written papers and interview. Professional standards are fundamental to consumer protection, they are central to competence to serve the consumer properly, they are not ‘gold plated’. In addition, watering down Ireland’s standards below that which is commonly required in Europe – regardless of the ‘minimum standard’ – will not be good for Ireland’s international reputation.”