Friday, 17 September 2010

“Architects are happy…”

It’s reported this morning that “architects are happy” about a decision by the Real Estate Agents Authority to “name and shame” a real estate agent who advertised a house as being “architect designed” when it was not.

Well, not every architect is happy.

As the real estate agent argued, the complaint against him

_Quote was not based around whether or not the building had been designed by a registered architect, but "who was the architect."
    "I maintain that the building was designed by an architect, and I quote Webster's Concise English Dictionary, "a person who designs buildings and supervises (their) erection."

Unfortunately, the architects who are happy about this do not rely on dictionary definitions but legal definitions—in particular that of the Architects Act 2003, which disallows anyone from calling themselves either “architect,” “registered architect,” or from doing anything in any way that “may reasonably cause” any person to believe that he or she is an “architect” unless he or she is a member of the old boys club NZ Institute of Architects.

Yes Virginia, this is protectionism.

The argument of the Real Estate Agents Authority however (which is naturally on all fours with that of the NZ Institute of Architects) is that

_QuoteThere is a general perception that houses designed by architects are very well designed and of a higher than average quality, or desirability, and that these houses command a premium price in the market place because of these factors.

This is pure cant.

In an open market anyone should be free to call themselves an architect “who designs buildings and supervises (their) erection,” any buyer of houses should be free to decide whether or not their work has earned a premium.

The guild protectionism of the Architects Act 2003 makes this impossible however.

During the consultation over the Architects Act 2003, a number of us argued, as I did, that the only title that should be protected by the Act is that of “registered architect,” leaving it to advertisers to market houses designed by “registered architects” and to the open market to decide whether or not the work of Institute members was demonstrably better than that of those who weren’t—and to registered architects themselves to demonstrate that the title “registered architect” is one to be earned and respected on its merits.

That members of the NZIA instead lobbied vigorously to support the anti-competitive protectionism of the wording we now have suggests that they themselves harbour doubts as to the worth of their own members on an open market. 

This is not just history. Because the NZIA, in conjunction with the Master Builders Federation and a succession of know-nothing Ministers of Building, is now about to impose on everyone in the building industry that they either be licensed or registered or they can get the hell out of the industry.

The argument for this is that licensing and registration of every man and his drawing board will somehow protect against the construction of future leaky homes. 

That the vast majority of high-profile leaky projects were designed by registered architects and built by master builders might tell you otherwise. And that the real reason for the move is that the guild protectionists have won.  And so they have.

So not every architect is happy this morning.  Just the registered ones and their guild.


  1. Let them have their word.

    "The building had been designed by a highly experienced designer"

    I always took "Architecturally designed" as an excuse to charge a premium over and above the real worth of a property. Never bothered to even look at such properties.

    (I am finally reading fountainhead so this is a timely post)

  2. Yes Peter, they did lobby very vigorously indeed! I flew to Wellington especially to put my similar argument directly to the Select Committee, which was able to understand the difference between protecting the English language word "architect" and the term "registered architect" since that committee unanimously agreed that on the basis of the submissions put before them that only the term "registered architect" should be protected under the Architects Act 2003. sadly the powerful lobby group swayed the vote in the House otherwise

  3. I agree completely. An architect should have the same broad meaning that 'engineer' has. An engineer can be someone that fabricates steel components with their own hands, or it can be someone that designs ingenious systems for protecting buildings from earthquakes. For those like myself who have a bachelors degree I can simply call myself a 'qualified engineer'. Those who have taken the additional step of becoming registered are 'registered engineers'. Why should it be any different for architects?

    There is a certain house in Christchurch currently in for consent that hasn't been touched by a registere architect, but in reality is more 'architectutally designed' than what typically comes from members of the Institute. :-)

  4. This definitely is blatant protectionism isn't it. Shocking. Section 2-7-2 of the Registered Architects Act 2005 states: "No person who designs buildings, prepares plans and specifications for buildings, or supervises the construction of buildings may use the title “architect” unless he or she is a registered architect." So ... what about using the title "Unregistered-architect" or "Architectural Designer"? (The Act only forbids the unauthorised use of the title "Registered Architect" (or anything that may imply registration as an architect) and the use of the explicit title "architect".

  5. I was lead to believe by someone, Peter(?), that architects no longer manage the erection of buildings as their insurers won't cover them... Is this true?


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