Friday, June 19, 2015

WHO SHOULD SIGN?


Developments in recent years witness how the practice of architecture has been appropriated by many entities who are not academically trained or professionally qualified to engage in the practice of the profession.  This situation had eroded the local and international professional standing of the Filipino architect and has resulted in the architectural planning and design of buildings by unqualified entities who have no professional competence for the erected structures. 

It is high time that the Filipino public be assured that only individuals who have been properly educated, qualified and trained will undertake the architectural planning and design of buildings and be held responsible for such acts.

More than half a century ago just after World War II, RA 545 or the old Architecture law allowed non-architects to participate in the preparation of plans and specifications of buildings, which is the primary function of an architect to assist in the immediate rebuilding of the country. At that time, there were only about 350 architects in the Philippines. In 2004, there were about 17,000 registered and licensed architects representing an almost 500% increase spread out over a half century. And since the devastation brought about by the 2nd World War has been properly addressed already, it is but necessary to give unto the architects the performance of a function for which they were specifically trained.

Thus in 2004, RA 9266 or the Architecture Act of 2004 was purposely enacted to, among others, curtail the practice of non-architects signing architectural documents, which are not within their area of competence or expertise. 

R.A. 9266 is clear and categorical — only architects can prepare and sign architectural documents.  There are no ifs or buts about it.  The law does not provide for any exception. Only architects.  No one else can prepare or sign architectural documents.

This exclusivity is clear from the plain language of the said law.  Section 20(5) of the said law provides that “[a]ll architectural plans, designs, specifications, drawings and architectural documents relative to the construction of a building shall bear the seal and signature ONLY of an architect.” 
Further, to ensure that the exclusivity given to architects is actually implemented, Section 20[2] provides that building officials cannot accept or approve “any architectural plans or specifications which have not been prepared and submitted in full accord with” it, i.e., architectural plans which are not signed by architects.

A decade after the passage of RA 9266, not much has been achieved. Non-architects have continued to prepare, sign and seal architectural plans and documents and the real intent of RA 9266 in protecting and assuring the public that only Architects can offer and provide architectural services has not been realized. 

As professionals, architects have a primary duty of care to the communities they serve. Architects bring to society unique skills and aptitudes essential to the sustainable development of the built environment and the welfare of their societies and cultures. Given the public interest in a quality, sustainable built environment and the dangers and consequences associated with the development of that environment, it is important that architectural services are provided by properly qualified professionals for the adequate protection of the public. This need is further amplified by the recent natural calamities that the country has experienced. Resilient, sustainable and well-planned communities will greatly mitigate the effects of natural calamities in the lives of the Filipinos. Undoubtedly, architects will play a crucial role in the development new and existing communities to be resilient, sustainable and well planned. 

Moreover, the impending ASEAN integration has also manifested the need to prepare the Filipino architect’s qualifications to practice architecture in other jurisdictions. There is also a need to ensure that our laws on professionals are aligned with international and regional standards, as well as attuned to global best practices, if we are to preserve our competitiveness and foothold in the regional market. Based on international standards, architectural design, plans and documents properly belong to and are the domain of the architects.  

With an increasing number of architects totalling around 35,000 as of this year, the enactment of HB 5127 and SB 2623 will be a significant step in protecting and assuring the public that only Architects who possess the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise can offer and provide architectural services, as well as comply with the provisions of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement signed by the Government.

The provisions in the proposed bills are rooted on the training, competencies and functions of architects. In terms of academic requirements, architects are academically competent to practice architecture, and to prepare and certify architectural documents.  A typical architecture course has ten semesters of mainstream architecture (10 architectural design subjects, site planning, urban design and community planning, tropical design, graphics, visual techniques, etc.), and units in building technology and building utilities (mechanical and electrical systems, sanitary and plumbing systems, lighting and acoustics) and even structural systems.

Moreover, in order to qualify for the architectural licensing exam, an architectural degree holder must act as apprentice under a practicing architect for two (2) years. The board exam itself covers the same major subjects in a mainstream architecture course. All of these prove that architects are specifically qualified, through the proper education and training, to prepare and sign architectural documents.

In RA 545, architects were allowed to do structural designing for structures up to 4-storeys high. Under RA 9266, that scope was removed from the practice of architects as the specialization on that subject and practice belongs to other professionals.

And so, if you are going to ask "Who will Sign?", the answer is plain and simple. Architects signing for architectural plans and documents, engineers signing for engineering plans and documents which include structural, mechanical, electrical, sanitary, plumbing, electronics and auxiliary systems. And if you read the minutes in the congressional readings for RA9266, somebody remarked, "Ang para kay Pedro ay kay Pedro, at ang para kay Juan ay kay Juan".

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