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Consumers and architects benefit from new rules

29 June 2006

Consumers and architects benefit from new rules

Building Issues Minister Clayton has announced that new rules governing the registration, ongoing training and discipline of architects come into force this Saturday, bringing significant benefits both to the profession and consumers.

From July 1 2006, there will be a new public register of registered architects overseen by a new board, as established under the Registered Architects Act 2005.

Mr Cosgrove said the Act aims to maintain high standards in the profession, improve consumer protection, and raise the status of registered architects by differentiating them from other design professionals, such as architectural designers.

“Architects spend about eight years studying to qualify and the Act recognises this," said Mr Cosgrove. “If you design buildings, prepare plans and specifications for buildings, or supervise the construction of buildings, you won’t be able to use the title ‘registered architect’ or 'architect' unless you are registered."

The annual practicing certificate issued by the Architects Education and Registration Board (AERB), will be phased out over the next six months and replaced by an annual certificate of registration, issued by the recently established New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB). The AERB ceases to exist after tomorrow.

Under the new system, all registered architects will need to undertake ongoing professional development to remain registered, in keeping with the direction of related industries, such as building and engineering.

"Good buildings start with good design. These changes ensure architects are competent at their job, and undergo regular training to keep up to date with the latest innovative design solutions and any industry changes," Mr Cosgrove said.

The register will be held by the NZRAB, and be publicly available online from early July 2006. The Act also offers greater consumer protection with an improved disciplinary process to deal with incompetence, negligence and unethical behaviour.

“Previously complaints could only be made on the grounds of gross incompetence or gross negligence" said Mr Cosgrove. "The Board will be able to impose fines of up to $10,000, require supervision or retraining, or in particularly serious cases, suspend or cancel an architect’s registration. The government is again raising the bar. "

The architect reforms are the latest in a suite of building sector improvements by government including building practitioner licensing, the Building Code review, product certification and enhancements to the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service.

Media Backgrounder

What is changing?

The Registered Architects Act 2005 repeals the Architects Act 1963, and introduces a modern regulatory framework to help ensure buildings are designed right the first time. The Act introduces both initial and ongoing competency testing for registered architects to ensure standards are maintained and that the profession is up-to-date with any changes in design methods over time. The New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB) manages the registration system, complaints and disciplinary matters. The new registration regime is voluntary and takes effect from 1 July 2006. Architects should register before 1 April 2007.

Why have these changes been made?

The government wants to ensure people can engage professionals with the right skills and qualifications to do certain work. This Act helps people who are building and renovating to differentiate between registered architects (who have proven minimum standards of competence) and any other professionals who work in the architecture and design field. It also aims to modernise the regulation of architects, consistent with related occupational groups such as engineers and builders.

Who will it affect?
Registered architects, design professionals, and anyone who engages a design professional when building and renovating.

What will the new regime mean for architects?

It will protect the use of the title ‘registered architect’ and 'architect' (in relation to building design). The new Act does not prevent anyone from designing buildings. However if a person wants to use the title ‘registered architect’, or ‘architect’ in relation to building design, that person must be registered with the NZRAB.

Non-building related professions can still use the title 'architect' – such as landscape architect or software architect.

How do consumers benefit?

The initial and ongoing competency testing requirements will give consumers the assurance that registered architects have a demonstrated knowledge of good design and are up-to-date with new technology and products. The new public register will include details of disciplinary action taken by the NZRAB against any registered person over the preceding three years. This will be useful for consumers when choosing a registered architect. Its website address will be www.nzrab.org.nz

The new Act also increases consumer rights. The Board can receive complaints across a range of matters, including plans that are incorrect, outside the brief, or drawn over budget. This is backed by disciplinary provisions including financial penalties, or being suspended or struck-off the register. Protection is further extended by the introduction of a code of ethics for registered architects.

Can experienced designers gain recognition under this new scheme?
Yes. Experienced designers without a formal architectural qualification can achieve registration if they can provide evidence that they meet the minimum standards.

How does this legislation link in with the licensing of building practitioners?
Registered architects automatically qualify for Category three design licences that enable them to design any category of building.

ENDS

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