Architectural Institute of B.C. divided over representing nonarchitects

Recent resignations from the governing council of the Architectural Institute of B.C. underline a festering conflict within the regulatory body.

At the core of this fight is the question of whether or not there is a place within the AIBC for nonarchitects—architectural technologists, building designers, and residential designers, who are currently associate members of the institute.

The AIBC has traditionally represented full-fledged architects, with intern architects as associate members. But over the years, other professionals who perform work covered by exemptions provided by Section 60 of the Architects Act have gained status as associates.

As an example, the law doesn’t prevent a nonarchitect from designing and supervising the construction of a residential building containing less than five dwelling units.

An open letter dated October 25 by AIBC president David Yustin referred to the resignations of three of the four provincial-government choices—known as lieutenant-governor appointees—for the council. They are Owen Pawson, Richard Peddie, and Tim Spiegel.

Yustin’s letter didn’t indicate where Pawson, Peddie, and Spiegel stood regarding nonarchitects having associate membership in the institute. However, Yustin wrote that the associates issue is “undoubtedly at the forefront” of their resignations.

Pawson declined to comment when the Georgia Straight called him.

“Is there a message in this current climate of conflict and frustration?” Yustin asked in his letter. “Certainly there is.”

He also noted that although a final decision has not yet been made about the status of associates, the AIBC is seeking an “external legal opinion as to what options are available” to the body. Yustin did not grant the Straight an interview.

Results of an internal survey commissioned by the AIBC and released in July 2012 show a house divided.

Among architects, 53 percent indicated that they want the AIBC to represent only architects. Intern architects are divided, with 47 percent saying the institute should represent architects exclusively, while 39 percent said it should cover architects as well as associates. An overwhelming 91 percent of associates answered that the AIBC should represent both architects and nonarchitects.

The AIBC has created a working group to look into how the associates issue can be resolved. A paper released by the group reads: “The licensing of AIBC ‘titles’ (official marks) for non-architects undermines the profession of architecture — a pre-eminent asset and benefit to society.”

Aboriginal-housing advocate Patrick Stewart served as AIBC president for two terms, from 2005 to 2007.

“AIBC was attempting to combine the different disciplines,” Stewart said in a phone interview with the Straight of how nonarchitects got a place in the institute, “because it just seems to make sense that, in one way, everybody is concerned with design and building, so why are we all in our separate little worlds?”

However, the granting of associate status to nonarchitects triggered an “in-house fight”, according to Stewart. As president, he had wanted an open discussion about the matter. But this went nowhere, and the conflict continues to divide the AIBC.