Australian Financial Review
Fighting bad design: NSW regulator fines architect $20,000 over apartments
The NSW architectural registrar is cracking down on practitioners to ensure developments comply with design standards. Ben Rushton
The NSW architectural regulator has fined a western Sydney architect almost $20,000 and barred him from practising for five years in the first step of a battle against substandard apartment buildings.
The NSW Architects Registration Board last week suspended Alex Sibir after finding he had signed off as the architect on projects for three different developers without having designed them and for breaching the state's Architects Act by failing to ensure the developers' contracts included necessary consumer safeguards.
The state's so-called SEPP65 guidelines for apartment design require a registered architect to design a project and sign off that it complies with the guidelines, which aim to ensure better-quality apartments, but which critics say push up costs. Mr Sibir worked as the nominated architect for three different developers, Urban Link, Bechara Chan & Associates and Design Cubicle and in effect just lent his name to their development applications, the board found.
"The board found he signed off as the designer of a building there was no evidence he had in fact designed," said Tim Horton, registrar of the board. "There were a number of development applications these developers were making with names all over them but none of them were the names of their nominated architect."
Sydney is leading the country's housing construction boom and recorded a 33.6 per cent increase in tall-tower apartments between 2011 and last year, census figures this week showed. As Sydney – the only city on the east coast not at risk of an oversupply of apartments – seeks to meet its own housing shortage, the regulator wants to crack down on those who breach the act. The board has also teamed up with Parramatta Council and the Government Architect's Office to find ways of assessing the quality of apartments already built.
Building industry regulators across the country are under scrutiny to up their game in the wake of London's fatal Grenfell Tower. Victoria's Building Practitioners Board will only hear complaints against the builder of Melbourne's Lacrosse tower – which in November 2014 suffered a potentially fatal fire due to unsafe cladding – in August, nearly three years after the fire.
Last year, the Architects Registration Board of Victoria ruled architect ElenbergFraser could not be responsible for the potentially fatal fire that engulfed Melbourne's Lacrosse building, even though it did not have all the information needed about the architect's level of responsibility on site.
Deborah Dearing, president of the NSW board, said the ruling against Mr Sibir put "everyone" on notice.
"Whether it's a developer or a builder, the person who is developing an apartment building … has an obligation to meet SEPP65," Ms Dearing said. "It's important that as the city densifies, the quality of construction and housing and quality of apartments is as good as it can be. There are a range of different means by which we mean to ensure that."
Mr Horton said the same act that allowed the board to take action against Mr Sibir could potentially be used against developers and was seeking legal advice on that.
"If a developer contravenes, whether they mean to or not, any provision of the Architects Act, then each person who's a director of that development company is liable for the breach of their architect," he said.
Mr Sibir could not be contacted through any of the three developers.
Farah Georges, the director of Design Cubicle, said Mr Sibir was suspended.
"We didn't get involved," Mr Georges said. "That was between him and the board."
Urban Link director Tony Jreige said Mr Sibir had moved on.
"Alex was one of the architects working with us and he's no longer with us," Mr Jreige said.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/real-estate/fighting-bad-design-nsw-regulator-fines-architect-20000-over-apartments-20170628-gx0ak1#ixzz4lRmjAvsv
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