Major changes to architecture regulation in Western Australia should be delayed and considered as part of a broader process of review of recommendations from the Shergold Weir report into building compliance, a four-year review of architecture regulation in that state has concluded.

In its report following a review of the Architects Act 2004, the Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) in Western Australia said consideration of major changes to the regulation of architects along with possible regulation of building designers should be delayed and considered as part of comprehensive three-part review into the Shergold Weir recommendations.

Undertaken as part of a statutory process, the review considered critical areas of architecture regulation along with administrative matters relating to improving the operation and effectiveness of the Act.

Of its 24 recommendations, four related to questions about how architects and building designers should be regulated.

In these areas, the report recommended that:

  • Further consideration of the regulatory model for architects and architectural corporations be included in the relevant review of the Shergold and Weir Report recommendations (see below)
  • Further consideration of the registration of building designers be included in the relevant review of the Shergold and Weir report recommendation
  • Subject to agreement by other jurisdictions and the resolution of enforcement issues, Western Australia implements a National Recognition Model for architectural qualifications proposed by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA).
  • No further action be taken to either define or remove some of the restricted terms under the Act.

As is the case in other states and territories, architects in Western Australia are subject to registration under state based legislation.

In WA, registration is performed by the Architects Board of Western Australia.

To be registered, architects must undergo an accredited five-year tertiary qualification, have two years’ practical experience and pass the three-part Architectural Practice Examination.

By contrast, ‘building designers’ do not need to be registered or to meet qualification and experience requirements – though in practice many will complete courses in building design or drafting.

Whilst building designers are able to complete building design work, only registered architects can hold themselves out as being an architect. As well, only registered architects can use restricted words such as ‘architect’, ‘architects’, ‘architecture’ and ‘architectural’ in their promotion.

These rules are designed to promote confidence in the architecture profession by ensuring that anyone who represents that they are an architect has a demonstrated level of knowledge, expertise and experience.

Under consideration in the review were questions about whether:

  • the Act should in fact be retained and that architects should continue to be registered
  • building designers should also be regulated
  • a National Regulation Model proposed by the AACA should be implemented in WA
  • further analysis be carried out on the aforementioned restricted terms to determine whether or not some should be more clearly defined or whether the terms ‘architectural’ and ‘architecture’ should be removed from the list of restricted terms whilst maintaining restrictions on the words ‘architect’ and ‘architects’.

Whilst the review was in progress, significant recommendations for building practitioner regulation were made in the Shergold and Weir report into building compliance ordered at a national level by the Building Ministers Forum (BMF).

Of 24 recommendations made in that report, one would see each jurisdiction implement mandatory registration for architects, builders, building inspectors, building surveyors, designers/draftspeople, engineers, fire safety practitioners, plumbers and site or project managers.

Further recommendation would see each jurisdiction implement consistent requirements for registration and requirements for all practitioners to undertake Continuing Professional Development on the National Construction Code.

The Shergold Weir proposals are being reviewed by the BMF and by each jurisdiction.

In Western Australia, this review is being undertaken by DMIRS and is being conducted in three stages.

This will involve a review of the residential building approval process (stage one), the commercial building approval process (stage 2) and registration requirements for the building industry (stage three).

Separate papers to discuss reform proposals from each of the stages are expected in August, during the fourth quarter and in December respectively.

During this third stage of review, detailed consideration will be given to options in regard to Shergold and Weir recommendations 1-3, 6 and 13 – the primary recommendations from Shergold and Weir which deal with building practitioner regulation.

For this reason, the report recommended that consideration of the regulation of architects and any new regulation of building designers be deferred and conducted as part of the Shergold and Weir review process.

This would enable any proposed changes to be considered as part of a broader reform process for building regulation and building practitioner regulation.

“The Shergold and Weir Report has proposed significant new reforms in this area and therefore it is not appropriate to make a finding on the preferred regulation model or role of the Board at this stage,” the report said.

“The consultation undertaken during this review process will inform the new review process as the Shergold and Weir Report recommendations are examined.”

The report also recommended that no further action on restricted terms be undertaken at this time.

It did, however, recommend the implementation of the proposed National Regulation Model subject to agreement on this model by other jurisdictions.

This, it said, would provide greater opportunities for architects to operate across jurisdictional boundaries, improve labour mobility within the architecture profession, reduce registration costs for architects who operate across jurisdictional boundaries and enable architects Western Australia and elsewhere to promote themselves overseas as ‘Australian architects’.

The report also recommended a number of clarifications and amendments to improve the operation and functioning of the Act (refer recommendations 5-24 on pages 1-4 at the report linked to above).

The review had been scheduled to commence in November 2010 five years after the commencement of the Act.

It’s commencement was delayed for five years, however, whilst the Building Act 2011 and other Building Services legislation was implemented and more urgent priorities were addressed.