Truth in advertising?

What’s true and what’s fake news? Does it even matter? I think it does, so when I saw a NSW builder advertising “architecturally designed homes” - without an architect in their design team - I asked them to please explain.

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Basically, it’s not ok to call yourself an Architect (because the term is protected by law) if you haven’t:

  • completed the undergraduate and masters degrees (five years of university qualifications);

  • registered with a log book and by sitting an exam; and

  • got the right insurance in place to protect consumers and clients.

Why is it important to make this distinction between architects and other types of building designers?

For a couple of reasons:

  • the term architect used to be a catch-all for all kinds of designers, but about 20 years ago, Australian states and territories enacted legislation to protect the word, to distinguish it from people who held lesser qualifications; and

  • Architects have a unique set of skills and they can’t promote these qualification and attributes, unless they can accurately describe them and distinguish themselves from other types of designers working in the same space.

So, what happened when I called attention to the breach?

In response to my tweet, Rawson Homes amended its ads, and now they are not claiming any affiliations with an architect, which is a great outcome.

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So, what’s the difference between a home designed by an architect and a non-architect (a builder designer, draftsperson or even a builder)?

A lot, as it happens, and it’s not just about money.  An architect will unpack the client’s needs and wants and come up with a design that takes into account many factors, such as:

  • solar orientation to maximise winter sun and keep our summer sun (to reduce heating and cooling costs);

  • prevailing breezes for passive cooling (perhaps negating the need for air conditioning altogether);

  • materials that are local / durable / low maintenance and in keeping with the neighbourhood;

  • the health and well-being of future residents;

  • the cost of running the house - energy and water bills, and ongoing maintenance - over time (especially important as energy prices keep rising); and much much more.

The initial investment in design may be higher, but the built result will be more functional, efficient and offer better performance for its residents over a century or more.

This is of critical importance as we try and collectively deal with the effects of the climate crisis: more heatwaves, floods, bushfires, higher energy costs, etc.

What can consumers do?

If a building company advertises to its customers that builds “architecturally designed” homes, or has an architect on the team, it pays to ask these questions:

  • Who is the registered architect?

  • Can you meet with them to discuss your design needs?

  • Can the company adapt its existing plans to best suit your site and brief?

If you find out the company doesn’t have an architect on board, let us know, and we will ask them the difficult questions.

Otherwise, it’s like trying to compare apples to oranges.

What can architects do to tackle the problem of misleading advertising?

Basically, if you are not an Architect under the terms of the various Acts - and you can read about those here - you can’t call yourself an architect. However, there are plenty of misleading ads on Google, Facebook and elsewhere at the moment - from building and design companies - that claim to have architects on their team.

It’s obviously a very compelling and useful term to attract potential customers!

At Sounds Like Design, we will address this confusion in the marketplace by helping architects explain their value, and grow their share of the market pie. Other communications firms share our objectives, so we plan to work together to stamp out misleading use of the protected term ‘Architect’.

We’ll use a combination of social media campaigning to seek clarity and amendments to advertising where necessary, and also report any companies that breach the law to the relevant state Architects Registration Boards.

The way I see it, there’s never been a better time in which to be an architect. We face almost overwhelming challenges in the form of the climate emergency and population growth in our cities, but the profession holds many possible solutions and consumers are more ready to hear about these than ever before.

That means there is awareness raising needed within the profession itself, about the opportunities and responsibilities that exist for architects, and in the consumer marketplace. This is likely to be a long campaign!.