Maintaining education and training standards for future building designers

Artibus Innovation is commissioned by the Australian Government to support the Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) for Construction, Plumbing and Services and Property Services in their work reviewing, renewing and developing vocational education and training (VET) within their sectors. They identify skills and knowledge needs, and in consultation with industry, update and maintain training package qualifications for current and future job roles.

Four new national qualifications relating to building design have been proposed by Artibus:

– Certificate IV in Residential Drafting
– Diploma of Building Design
– Advanced Diploma of Building Design
– Graduate Diploma of Building Design

As part of the Artibus’ development process, Design Matters has provided feedback on the proposed qualification and used this opportunity to raise a number of concerns around the proposed introduction of a National Advanced Diploma of Building Design.

Subject Matters

Design Matters does not believe the proposed core units capture the underpinning skills and knowledge needed for a graduate. In particular, the subject areas not adequately covered include:

  • the safety in a building lifecycle, including risk assessment and risk controls
    performance solutions (only briefly covered in two units)
  • critical analysis of recognised works
  • history of design, architectural styles/theories
  • relationship between art, architecture and nature
  • symbolism
  • presenting design to client and obtaining feedback (only covered briefly in one of the units)
  • digital security, copyright, trade practices
  • managing architectural project administration (even though this was addressed in more than one recommendation in the Shergold and Weir Report.)
  • conducting a bushfire attack level assessment. (only briefly mentioned as knowledge in one of the units, without any real application during the design process.
  • Designing safe buildings – The unit CPPBDN8102 Advise on compliance requirements for large and complex building design projects does cover areas of compliance but these are not directly aligned to the actual design of safe buildings.Given the well-publicised cases of the Opal Tower and Mascot Tower in Sydney and the Lacrosse apartment building fire in Melbourne, and the recommendations in the Shergold and Weir Report, this is a crucial skill for building designers
  • environmental principles and considerations
  • specification writing and schedule preparation
  • engaging and coordinating sub-consultants
  • designing safe buildings
  • material and legislation are only researched, evaluated and reported on, there is no application of this information in the design process.

There are only two core units which address the design of buildings and these are limited to Class 2-9 Type A construction.

Skills pathway

Many of the building design specific units in the Certificate IV and Diploma are elective units which leaves potential entrants into the Advanced Diploma with varying levels of skills and knowledge, providing no guarantees that they have the background to easily advance into this higher qualification, including areas such as sustainability and energy efficiency.

The Artibus Environmental Scan highlights how consumer demand is ’helping drive the increase in smart and green buildings’ yet this knowledge is not a mandatory part of this

Licensing matters

Victorian students or interstate students who wish to become a registered building practitioner in Victoria are already being misled (even though written disclaimers are provided) in undertaking the national Diploma of Building Design, with the understanding that they can transition to the Victorian Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural) to then obtain registration in Victoria.

Design Matters commissioned a paper titled “A review of qualifications available to Building Designers in Australia” that was published in March 2015, which concluded that:

  • The two qualifications do not map; meaning very little, if any credits can be given if a student/graduate transfers from the Diploma of Building Design to the Victorian Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural);
  • By being more prescriptive regarding the specific skills and knowledge required, the Victorian Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural) results in predictable, uniform learning outcomes across the graduate cohort;
  • In contrast, the national Diploma of Building Design allows greater flexibility in the units chosen, which can result in significant variation in the skill sets of graduates at completion of the course.

If this national Advanced Diploma of Building Design is introduced, this confusion will be even more prevalent given the courses have almost identical qualification names with completely different outcomes.

Our position, as confirmed by industry and educators alike in Victoria, is that the proposed structure will reduce the skills and abilities of our industry practitioners even further than the media and governments are currently promoting. It is disappointing and a concern that we are going backwards by offering lesser qualified graduates than lifting them in a time when it is so clearly needed by our industry.

Similar to the issues we find with Mutual Recognition Act across states, the current proposed standards for a national training and education pathway for Building Designers does not reflect the high standards of skills and training we have worked hard to establish in the Victorian programs and subsequent licensing requirements once graduated.

The above feedback was provided to Artibus as part of a July public consultation. A revised set of qualifications was released in late August for final contribution. Our September submission will be shared in next month’s Intersect.

Design Matters will continue to lobby the Victorian Government to support the Victorian Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural) to ensure that registration and scope of services currently available to Victorian building designers continue into the future at the high level and calibre it is today.