Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Registration of Architects
I am delighted to have this opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment and thank my colleagues for not availing of the opportunity too often, which lets me in by default much of the time.
This issue relates to the proposal for a so-called grandfather clause with regard to people who can practise as architects. What is the Government doing on this issue? This has been an issue for some time, but the current registration process is time limited and concerns people who are not members of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland but who effectively do the same job and get the same recognition. I understand this has become more of an issue as banks have tightened up with regard to who can certify planning permission applications, certificates of compliance with building regulations and other general structural assessments of property. It is only right that banks tighten up on this, as there has been too much laxity in recent years. However, there are many people who can do the same job as an officially qualified architect and who have been recognised as qualified until now. What is the Government position on this situation, because there are many practitioners who do not have the official qualifications who are finding the current situation very difficult?
I thank Senator Byrne for raising this issue.
There are no plans to amend the arrangements in place for the registration of architects along the lines suggested. Part 3 of the Building Control Act 2007 provides for the registration of persons permitted to use the title of architect. The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, RIAI, has been designated as the registration body.
Section 22 of the Act makes specific provision for a category of practically trained persons who for a period of ten years, at the time the Act became law, had been providing architectural services in Ireland commensurate with those understood as being provided by architects for the purpose of the Building Control Act. This provision is transitional in nature and enables this category of persons to become registered once they have been assessed as eligible for registration by the technical assessment board in accordance with the practical experience assessment procedure. This process assesses work submitted by the applicant and does not involve or rely on any examination or any formal academic requirements. In effect, this route to registration may be regarded as a grandfather clause along the lines suggested. There is and can be no question, however, of any individual being allowed to use the title of architect without having first demonstrated in a fair and objective manner that the services he or she has been providing are commensurate with those of persons who are registered to use the title of architect.
There has been some disquiet with regard to the fee specified for candidates who apply for registration, which has been set at ¤4,500. This is a significant reduction on the figure originally proposed. The costs involved are considerable and the scale of the fee necessarily reflects this. Section 62 deals with the specification of registration fees and, importantly, requires that the fee specified must not in any case exceed the total of the costs in providing the services for which the fee is paid and the reasonable costs incurred by the registration body. I understand that the registration body has confirmed that the recommended fees are in line with the requirements of section 62.
In addition to the technical assessment route, which is limited to certain persons already providing architectural services in Ireland prior to the 2007 Act, section 14(f) provides a permanent route to registration for practically trained persons who have seven years appropriate practical experience and who have passed the prescribed register examination. Taken in their totality, the various routes to registration provided for under Part 3 of the Act represent a registration process that is open, fair and transparent. The factual position is that specific provisions have been put in place to ensure that practically trained architects can be included on the register.
I understand that 14 candidates have sought to undergo the technical assessment procedure two date. Of these, eight candidates have been successful, three candidates have been unsuccessful and the remaining three candidates are currently under consideration. Candidates who are unsuccessful have a right of appeal. In addition, the inaugural register admission examination resulted in 26 practically trained persons being deemed eligible for inclusion on the register of architects. It is anticipated that a regular throughput of practically trained persons will come through the register admission route each year.
I would encourage all practically trained persons to pursue the routes to registration which are currently open to them, with a view to joining the small but significant and growing numbers of practically trained architects already on the register.
I thank the Minister of State for that clarification, but I intend to pursue the issue. The registration fee is very high and only a small number of people have gone through the process. Making the process more accessible would not just help those who would qualify under the process but would also help consumers.
Many of the people who are doing this type of work should never be anywhere near this type of work.
I would like to protect those who are really good at doing the same job as an architect while getting rid of some of those who are charging people a great deal of money even though they make serious mistakes and are often not insured. I recently encountered a case in which a major mistake was made by someone who did not have any insurance. If we could get more people to be professionally qualified as architects, it would help everyone involved, including the consumer. I would like the Government to give more consideration to this. I am not making a political issue of it. I think it is worth highlighting. Perhaps the Government can give it some further thought.