2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects

2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects

The National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA) identifies the skills, knowledge and capabilities required for the general practice of architecture in Australia.

Embedded within the practice of architecture is the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ ongoing connection and custodianship of Country, and the ethical responsibilities to the physical environment and the transition to a carbon-neutral built environment. These responsibilities are fundamental to architecture practice. 

Architectural design – a creative endeavour combined with the capacity to realise and deliver built projects – is at the core of the profession of architecture. The NSCA sets out a clear roadmap for the development and assessment of competency at key milestones over the course of a career in architecture – from graduation, through the registration process, to ongoing practice after registration. This is inclusive of a range of practice models and career paths.  

Professional competency is the synthesis of professional education, experience in practice, and the career-long maintenance and improvement of professional practice through continuing professional development. The NSCA acknowledges that the path to acquiring competency is not always linear, and that aspects of architecture require both learning in formal education settings and continued learning in architectural practice.

The three main components of the NSCA are Professional Capabilities, Competency Profiles and Units of Competency, which are assessed through associated Performance Criteria. These integrate to form a cohesive system that supports the development of professional competency over time.

The NSCA provides the benchmark for the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia assessment programs. The path to registration as an architect in Australia is reflected in the first two competency profiles, Graduate of Architecture and Candidate for Registration as an Architect. The Architect Post Registration competency profile reflects an architect’s compliance obligations in terms of Codes of Conduct and Continuing Professional Development requirements. These are the responsibility of State and Territory Architect Registration Boards.

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Professional Capabilities

Professional capabilities encapsulate the knowledge, skills and attributes that underpin professional education in architecture and practice as an architect in Australia.

The NSCA groups these into three core areas – Professionalism, Communication and Environmental Practice. These broad capabilities are relevant to all modes of architectural practice and inform the ongoing professional education of architects. They provide the umbrella for the Units of Competency and are reflected across the Performance Criteria as a whole.

Professionalism encompasses the capacity to understand and enact the role and responsibilities of architects within evolving architectural, social, cultural, ethical, legal, technical and business contexts. This includes understanding community values and obligations around equity, diversity, accessibility and inclusion, embedding these within the provision of architectural services, and understanding how they impact Country, colleagues, clients, stakeholders and broader communities. At its core, this capability involves maintaining and developing professional competency over the course of a career in architecture.

Communication capabilities encompass the ability to clearly convey and explain the roles and responsibilities of an architect, to coherently and respectfully communicate within workplace and project contexts, and to articulate the value an architect contributes.

Environmental practice capabilities encompass a holistic approach to creating and caring for living environments. This includes the ability to understand, analyse and assess the impacts of design decisions and delivery processes on the natural and built environment, to care for Country and community, to minimise carbon impact, and to support the transition to a carbon-neutral built environment.

Competency Profiles

The NSCA maps the expectations of professional competency at three levels:

The level of competency required at completion of an accredited program of architecture in Australia or equivalent course of study.

The level of competency required at the point of registration as an architect, following a minimum of two years of broad-based professional practice experience in architecture.

The additional professional competencies required to comply with regulatory obligations, including Codes of Conduct, and to maintain professional competency and disciplinary knowledge commensurate with their practice. (Note: this does not describe specialist activities within the profession of architecture.) 

Units of Competency

Four Units of Competency outline the required knowledge and skills involved in the practice of architecture.

This unit of competency encompasses a holistic understanding of the organisation of the profession, practice and business of architecture, with the objective of providing value through sustainable, timely and effective professional services in accordance with the ethical and legal obligations of an architect to clients, colleagues, employees and to broader communities.

This unit of competency encompasses the intelligent, creative, iterative and culturally responsive processes of initiating a project and the early stages of design. This involves research, analysis and the exploration of approaches, design ideas and alternative solutions. It leads to a design concept that meets the client’s brief, respects Country and is capable of compliance with planning controls and construction codes.

This unit of competency encompasses the process of developing the design through research, detailed assessment of options and the integration of technical solutions, value and cost control processes to maintain or enhance the design intent. The final design proposal is cohesive, fully described and resolved to achieve value and cost objectives, and compliance with planning controls and construction codes.  

This unit of competency encompasses the provision of services to support project delivery through construction. This may occur through a variety of building procurement methods and construction contracts. The form of construction contract may establish different expectations and obligations upon the architect and may include contract administration services. Typically, all contract types include the timely and cost-effective management of design delivery, review and inspection processes.

Performance Criteria

Performance Criteria describe discrete aspects of architectural practice and are organised under the Units of Competency. Each Unit has a corresponding set of criteria for each of the three competency profiles.

The NSCA does not prioritise any unit or performance criteria. The ordering of the performance criteria does not suppose a particular mode of practice or project type, nor is there any weighting applied to individual performance criteria in the NSCA.

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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.