The Australian Institute of Architects’ latest consumer engagement campaign has raised hackles amongst building designers by denigrating their qualifications.

An advertising campaign launched by the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has incurred the wrath of building designers in Victoria, as well as prompted the submission of a complaint by their state professional body to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

AIA first unveiled its “Ask An Architect” campaign in September 2014, with the goal of better apprising the public about the ins-and-outs of the architecture profession, as well as providing advice about working with architects during the purchase, renovation or maintenance of homes.

Building designers in Victoria have complained that the campaign engages in a “misleading” for of elitism.

One of the campaign advertisements denigrates the qualifications of building designers relative to architects by implying that their level of expertise is akin to that of an untrained layperson.

“You wouldn’t ask a hairdresser about heart surgery,” reads another. “So when it comes to renovating, ask an architect.”

ask an architect - steve rose

The Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) has taken its complaint to the ACCC and engage in correspondence with AIA, calling for it to suspend the advertising campaign immediately.

BDAV president Alistair McDonald said that publicity campaign is misleading and constitutes an attempt on the part of the AIA to compromise the livelihoods of the state’s building designers.

“We’re concerned that the AIA are misleading the public or the consumers saying that we’re not qualified, basically trying to restrict trade for our members or registered draughtspeople generally, just to try and monpolise the market, “ said McDonald to Fairfax. “I think it’s a form of elitism.”

Peter Malatt, president of the AIA Victorian chapter, has responded by pointing to the need for greater consumer safeguards when it comes to the design of the state’s multi-storey buildings.

“We believe there is insufficient protection of the public where building designers are designing multi-storey buildings without architecture qualifications, said Malatt.

  • Gutter politics at its worst. There is ample design control at local authority level through design review panels, design guidelines, furthermore, Australian Standards and the Building Code of Australia. You could also add the large number of consultants required such as: acoustic, traffic, landscape, structural, hydraulics, interiors etc required of these projects. I have degrees – planning, urban design, heritage masters level and the like, furthermore I belong to institutes and associations plus carry professional indemnity – business forty years.

    • Only a building designer would think that design is about compliance with the combination of things you list here. All the more reason why the difference between an architect and a building designer should be amplified!

    • And only an elitist like Sam would say that.

    • Hey Ben, the many architects that I work with as development manager would get a real giggle out of hearing you call me elitist!

    • Glad to hear I provided you guys with some entertainment.

  • I was a qualified architectural draughtsman and member of the building designers association in NSW before going on to become an architect. Put simply, the difference between being building designer and a registered architect is about 7 years of university education and industry training, plus passing a set of examinations that test one's competency and professionalism. It is open to any building designer to obtain such qualifications and pass such examination hurdles. When they do, they'll be able to claim equivalence.

    • This is incorrect in Victoria. In Victoria Building Designers currently do twenty one core units and then to be registered as an Architectural Drafter in Victoria to be able to get a building permit you need at least two years experience and then sit an exam, also be covered by professional indemnity insurance. This brings the total at a minimum to around five years.

  • I'm not a qualified hairdresser but I sure do cut hair better than most of them! Don't ask an architect about building a home then, because they're not builders!

  • In basic form there are 3 elements to building design that can be assigned to various professionals. First is aesthetics, the realm of the architect. Second is structural integrity, the realm of the engineer. Third is getting the plan on paper, the realm of the design draftsperson. Practical experience will develop overlaps of capability, especially when working to material and structural codes previously established by engineers.

    Architectural firms will generally employ or subcontract the other elements of design, but that does not make them equivalent to engineering firms or consultants, so perhaps it's a bit of a stretch to use the structural integrity as a lead in their campaign. With some artistic flair, an interest in following architectural trends and an understanding of energy efficiency and building methodology, I have found it quite practical to develop my own unique house design, using a design drafter, compliance engineer and builder to complete the detailed plans for submission and approval.

    Such promotional campaigns do have some merit in guiding professional outcomes but it is risky to turn it into an exaggerated scare campaign which can be easily challenged.

  • I understand the Concern of the Building Designers but some of them are using the name 'Architect' to impress clientele especially in Project Housing Companies where they are employed. It is not elitism. It is to do the right thing – honesty.

  • In my state, a building designer is limited to designing a domestic building of no more than two storeys, so the worry of one of us designing a multi storey building simply becomes a non event.

  • In Victoria Building Designers currently do twenty one core units and then to be registered as an Architectural drafter in Victoria to be able to get a building permit you need at least two years experience and then sit an exam, also be covered by professional indemnity insurance. This brings the total at a minimum to around five years.

    Of course the AIA suggests locking down the market, they should be competing on quality. Considering a majority of multiple apartment buildings currently being designed and built and that they are highlighting are being designed by Architects they have failed in this regard by their own admission by criticizing the present apartment designs.

    This aim of the Architects to lock out registered practitioners will bring up prices as Alistair mentions and end up in an anti competitive market. This is an issue highlighted by the Building Designers Association of Victoria in the state of Victoria. and many of the other comments do not understand registration of Building designer requirements in this state.

  • Yeah, look I'm an archi masters grad from melb uni with 92 for thesis and 3200 hours experience as a grad architect at the best firms in melbourne, have my own design firm and am about to become a building designer because i'm sick to death of jumping through AIA which seem like a barrier i'm too exhausted to climb right now. Where do I fit in this? I'm pretty confident I could pass the registration exam but I'm just keen to get on with the job and stop pandering to the a system which comes across as all too keen to help enslave a generation of revit gurus and help foster such a culture. Some of us just want (and have ample qualifications) want to get out there and build.

    • i.e. I have the required 7 years archi experience and I'm about to become a registered building designer. Why would I do that if there wasn't something wrong with our archi profession guys? I know there's nothing wrong with me and my knowledge, skills and performance.

      PS, the next guy that states that architects are about aesthetics will only show their ignorance, I'm sitting on both sides of the fence atm so I'm honestly telling you that you don't know what you don't know, so please listen to me when I tell you that's just a cheap reply. We don't even use this word 'aesthetics' at uni anymore, sorry!

    • M. Arch, outside of corporate firms and universities, 'qualifications' really don't mean sh!t. Nobody will give your letters a second glance. As for hours of experience, many architects don't pass the exams/interview on the basis of just 3,000 hours, many people actually need closer to 10,000 hrs+ in order to have the range of experience to fill the log book (assuming you fill it correctly), unless you run your own firm for those 3,000 hours. I've worked with graduate architects with 10,15,20 yrs post-grad, and still didn't have enough experience to register.
      I am supportive of the AIA working to defend the architect's title and value, but in the end, it's about the job you have and do each day, not the title on your cards — some of the best architects out there are not legally able to use the title, and its easy to find draftspeople earning more than an architect at the same age. If you work in a firm with like-minded creatives you will get adequate opportunity to use your aesthetic, your ideas, and explore you creative talents, no matter what your title is. And as for 'building', if you are keen to get out there and 'build' you probably shouldn't be in an office.

    • Ahhh Raymond darling. Such a cute argument that one about the value of degrees. Having one is clearly not an advantage at all aye? Stop listening to your mum console you mate, it's about as tired as 'p's get degrees' then can't get a decent job. Mantras only understood by those who know no better and don't tend to have one themselves. Says more about them than the value of degrees.

      Yes, I've 3200h in practice, about 4000h in my own sole proprietorship. I know what the log book is and what I have to do, its just that the architects aren't teaching me enough and I daren't ask because I know the response I'll get and that'll be to keep my eyes on Revit. The AIA puts an emphasis on how the grad has to do the heavy lifting and pressure the employers to help them get there. Yeah right! lucky for those pretty or A1 personalities that are heralded the chosen one's more like it.

      Why don't you see the point I was making wasn't about all this stuff, it was about that some architects ARE building designers as well (lightbulb!)

    • …thanks to my degrees (more specifically not the piece of paper you bang on about but the experience behind it (lightbulb!) I actually had the ability to go learn and put into practice my business. Unfortunately, I had to do quite a huge amount of self-teaching. I only wish I'd had some kind of Architect mentor who might have helped. "You're making things more complicated than they need to be" was one Directors simple response to a one-time attempt to glean some info out of him. With that, our profession and my generation sit disgruntled and feeling conned.

Autodesk – 300 X 250 (expire December 31 2017)