Australian architects are pleading with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help the construction sector, calling on the Federal Government to keep projects running, bring forward infrastructure, support manufacturers and suspend design competitions.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) called on the government to support the industry through the COVID-19 crisis.

“The Australian Institute of Architects (the Institute) commends you on the leadership your government is showing in support of businesses and importantly the most vulnerable members of the community whose jobs and livelihoods are under threat,” the AIA wrote.

“The Institute believes that stimulus measures that are aimed at the development sector, and all its components, from planning and design consulting services through to construction trades, supply chains and delivery, are needed more than ever.  Given that this sector makes up 13% of the Australian GDP in normal times, we see the following as key actions for Australia to weather this storm …”

In its letter, the AIA called for support in four areas.

Where possible, it says building sites should remain open.

Building and construction, the AIA says, is critical for the economy through keeping local consultants and tradespeople in work as well as driving demand for materials and equipment from local manufacturers.

It says maintaining this is important in ensuring that the economy continues to tick over and that people can remain in work.

Next, the AIA would like infrastructure spending brought forward to boost an economic recovery.

Areas of priority, it says, include rebuilding communities after the bushfires and areas which support future foundations such as transport, infrastructure, health, education and housing.

Third, Australian materials and jobs should be favoured where possible.

Whilst the AIA acknowledges that value which overseas companies deliver, it says there is concern about the volume of work being directed to international companies in Australian cities and local capabilities not being given sufficient opportunity to develop.

Finally, the AIA has called for a suspension of government  design competitions.

These, it says, place an unnecessary burden upon firms which are competing for work.

The AIA’s letter comes at a time of uncertainty within construction and other sectors amid the ongoing developments with the coronavirus.

Whilst there had been fears over the weekend that building sites could be shut down as states such as Victoria and New South Wales pushed for stricter measures to battle the virus, construction was subsequently confirmed to be an essential service and will remain open for now.

The government has also adopted numerous measures to support small business .

These include temporary cash flow support, wage subsidies for apprentices, support for casual workers, a loan guarantee scheme for small businesses, early access to superannuation and relief for tax obligations.

The calls also come as architects prepare for the virus’ impact on their business.

All up, 57 percent of architecture firms say they have either had or expect to have projects cancelled or delayed because of the coronavirus.

As well, architecture firms expect challenges in reliance on other consultants, impacts of care duties upon their workforce, immovable deadlines, being forced to stand  down staff or issue redundancies and technology challenges associated with working from home.