Architects’ new national competency standard prioritises First Nations peoples, sustainability

The Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) is today releasing the new National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA).

The 2021 NSCA is the result of the regular five-yearly review and underpins all assessment processes including the accreditation of architecture programs leading to registration as an architect in Australia.

Registration is one requirement for practising as an architect in Australia. The NSCA provides the framework for the Architects Registration Board in every state and territory that enables this assessment. It also guides tertiary institutions and other providers on the pathways to registration.

The 2021 NSCA has been developed through an 18-month-long process involving in-depth research and close engagement with stakeholders. It will be implemented progressively in three stages over 12 months.

The staged rollout will start in January 2022 for the National Program of Assessment, July 2022 for the Experienced Practitioner and Overseas Qualification Assessment, and January 2023 for Accreditation and the Architectural Practice Exam.

AACA CEO Kathlyn Loseby said this iteration of the NSCA heralded some important developments for a profession that is constantly evolving.

“The practice of architecture is inherently dynamic,” Ms Loseby said.

“It is incumbent upon us to ensure standards of competency not only keep pace with changes across the profession but also serve as a driver for further improvement.

“We are proud that the 2021 NSCA enshrines a greater focus on more meaningful engagement with our First Nations peoples. As this year’s NAIDOC Week theme – Heal Country! – so clearly highlights, we have a long way to go in achieving real reform and reconciliation.

“We recognise that fundamental change is needed in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We also acknowledge that we have so much to learn from the rich history and oldest continuing cultures on earth, not least when it comes to how we care for Country.

“As Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon so famously said, ‘There can be no Plan B because there is no planet B.’ That’s why sustainability forms the other key reform contained in this update to the NSCA.

“With our climate in crisis and the built environment accounting for 36% of energy consumption, 38% of energy- related carbon emissions and 50% of resource consumption globally – and expected to double in total footprint by 2060[i] – urgent action is required.

“Architects are at the forefront of our capacity to transform the built environment’s impact on our climate into a carbon-neutral one. The NSCA is a critical tool in this change.

“We have also taken the opportunity to streamline the NSCA while also strengthening it, moving from 70 to 60 competencies.

“On behalf of the AACA, I would like to thank all stakeholders for engaging so closely with us in the NSCA review, your efforts were instrumental in delivering the best possible product to guide the profession and its contribution to a better future for all Australian communities.”

Australian Institute of Architects CEO Julia Cambage welcomed the new NSCA saying it will ensure architects remain at the forefront of best practice.

“Safety, sustainability and human-centric design are the driving factors shaping this latest iteration of the NSCA,” Ms Cambage said. “Architects are the most highly-qualified, closely regulated profession in the building and construction sector and the 2021 NSCA provides the framework to ensure they continue to best serve Australian communities.

“I commend the AACA on their collaborative approach and thank the Institute’s First Nations Advisory Working Group and Cultural Reference Panel and the Climate Action and Sustainability Taskforce for their expert input into the review process.”

ACT Government Architect Catherine Townsend commended the AACA on producing a framework that incorporates stakeholder feedback and best serves their needs, now and into the future.

“The NSCA underpins an internationally respected professional standard applied to all architects in Australia,” Ms Townsend said.

“Through consultative review the standard is aligned with issues of concern to regulators, consumers and the profession; including requirements around construction codes and standards, design responses to climate change impacts and meaningful engagement with First Nations peoples.”

Australian Institute of Architects Past President and UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Lochhead said “ the new national standards of competency for architects acknowledge that decarbonising our built environment is critical and will ensure architects have the skills to address this pressing urban challenge.”

[i] https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/WorldGBC%20ANZ%20Status%20Report%202021_FINAL.pdf

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Architects Accreditation Council of Australia
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Located on Gadigal Country, the AACA acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.