Independent oversight, commitment to quality, and nationwide reforms are some of the key initiatives needed in the Australian construction industry to protect the interests of people and rebuild their trust.

The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has been calling for greater independent oversight of development and building processes to embed quality in construction as well as properly protect people’s homes, financial security and personal safety.

The Four Corners investigation into the state of Australia’s construction industry recently aired by ABC highlighted many of the issues identified by the Institute over the years.

National president professor Helen Lochhead said that the Institute has been leading the campaign to encourage nationwide reform and improve regulation of Australia’s building and construction industry.

Lochhead identified insufficient regulation, a lack of proper oversight by independent, appropriately qualified professionals, and failure to put quality and safety above time and cost savings as some of the leading factors that have contributed to the current crisis. The human impact of these regulatory, compliance and construction failures has been huge, with the safety of end users under threat from poor quality buildings, she noted.

“The Four Corners report clearly demonstrates the perils of inadequate documentation, non-conforming and unsafe product substitution, and the rise of design and construct contracts that either cut out or fundamentally compromise the ability of architects to oversee quality.

“The Institute has been calling out these issues for years. As part of our code of conduct, architects have a clearly defined duty of care to the community, not just the immediate client. It’s past time this was extended to all professionals in the building and construction industry,” Lochhead said.

The Institute has provided evidence and made submissions to several inquiries at national, state and territory levels, highlighting the issues and breakdowns in process and regulation. They had even testified very recently at the NSW Public Accountability Committee’s parliamentary inquiry into regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes.

According to Lochhead, the Institute has consistently presented several practical solutions that governments can adopt to help restore quality, enhance consumer protection and, eventually, rebuild public trust.

Reiterating their commitment to ensuring governments implement every one of the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report’s recommendations, she called for the reintroduction of independent oversight into the building process. This would mean having a dedicated person physically present on the building site to check that the right materials are being used, the correct processes are being followed, and no corners are being cut. This person would be completely independent of the builder both financially and in terms of reporting lines, she says.

“Our priority is to see legislation passed expeditiously in each jurisdiction that requires the registration of a broad range of building professionals, in the same way architects have been for almost a century.

“We want to see clear accountability assigned to every single person who works on a major construction project for their work,” Lochhead concluded.