SA State of the Profession - the research is in

19 April 2016

The ACA – SA State of the Profession research project has been completed. We now know a great deal more about architectural practice in South Australia – three reports provide a comprehensive account of the state of the profession and the opportunities and challenges for the future. 

The research, funded by a grant from the Architectural Practice Board of SA, has resulted in three reports. These provide a wealth of information about architectural practice in South Australia, and form a comprehensive base for developing strategy, policy and action. 

We were very pleased with the level of interest shown in the research, and the strong participation rates. This suggests that the SA architectural community is keen to understand current conditions, and to actively shape its future.

Comments made by many survey respondents make it clear that a greater sense of combined action is needed. This research is a beginning of that collective work. 

Three reports, three views of the profession

ACA – SA State of the Architectural Profession survey report

This comprensive survey attracted a very strong response from architectural practices in South Australia. The results provide a very detailed account of the size and shape of practices in the state. The survey also generated a great deal of knowledge about shifts in practice over time, and the challenges faced. These relate to two main areas – fees and relevance. 

There is a wide range of findings within this report, and we encourage you to explore these. Key points include:

  • Procurement of architectural services remains largely traditional. Nonetheless many comments indicate an ongoing move away from full service, with full service work concentrated in particular sectors such as education and single residential work.  
  • Procurement of buildings via traditional tender is still the most popular strategy.
  • A significant number of practices describe themselves as multidisciplinary, but this work is mostly being conducted by those with architectural training, and only a very small proportion of staff members are involved in non-traditional architectural services.
  • Only a small number of SA practices are operating interstate or affiliated with interstate practices and even smaller numbers operating overseas.
  • Collaboration between practices is common.
  • The establishment of new practices appears to peak during economic recessions.
  • A significant number of practices undertake unpaid work, predominantly as speculative work for either existing clients or potential new clients. 
  • Nett fee income levels appear low, particularly for sole practitioners and small practices.
  • There are very few women at Director level, and men dominating employment numbers in all levels of practice. There is a surprisingly low level of women graduates employed. 
  • Traditional work practices dominate the profession, with the majority of people employed as full-time and only very low numbers in a part-time capacity or with flexible hours. 
  • Fee shrinkage is the greatest challenge facing the profession, closely followed by greater risk architects are expected to bear and competition from other sectors.

In addition to the hard data collected the survey attracted significant discursive responses. These provide a useful insight into the profession and identify areas for future action. Themes that emerged include:

  • While sole practitioners and small practice are the dominant forms of practice in South Australia, they do not feel that their needs are well met by existing professional organisations.
  • The profession needs to address fee shrinkage caused by a competitive ‘race to the bottom’.
  • Low fees are undermining an ability for staff to be well paid and for the profession to attract the ‘best and the brightest’.
  • BIM and 3D documentation are seen as an opportunity for the profession to regain a leadership role.
  • The importance of design must be promoted for architects to have continuing relevance. 

See the overall findings and download the full report here. 

Architects in SA – the view from the Census

This significant report charts changes in the SA architecture via customised data from the 2001, 2006 and 2011 Censuses. The Census data includes all those who self-identify as architects, and as such covers a larger number of people than the data on registered architects obtained through the ABPSA (see below).

This is the first time such a longitudinal study has been undertaken and reveals that overall, South Australia’s architecture profession is growing but is not in as strong a position as that in some of the larger states. Other trends identified are: 

  • Architects are increasing their presence in the community in relative numbers. However, on a per capita basis, the number of architects is SA is less than Australia as a whole. 
  • As a group, architects are getting both older and younger, with mid-career/aged architects seeming to not keep pace with the other age groups. 
  • Architects are increasingly employees and employers rather than independent workers.
  • In 2011 architects seemed to be working less long hours than previously. We will be interested to see what the 2016 census will reveal about working hours.
  • South Australia lags behind the rest of the country in terms of the representation of women architects.
  • Unsurprisingly. the Census data strongly indicates that architecture is very dependent on the economy. 

The ACA has commissioned similar reports using Census data for the other states, which will be available in mid–2016.

Download the full report here

Architects in SA – a view from the APBSA data

This report provides and overview of the demographics of registered architects in South Australia. Findings include:

  • Overall, the numbers of individuals on the register has increased over the years in the state, but there appears to be a recent dropping off in both numbers and the number of registeredarchitects per head of population.
  • The number of registered companies is more stable.
  • Women are an increasing proportion of the register but the state as a whole lags behind the rest of Australia in terms of numbers of registered women.

Download the full report here

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