AIRAH says professional certification for practitioners is the key to building confidence 

Thursday, April 3, 2019

The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has welcomed the Building Minister’s Forum’s (BMF) call for a nationally harmonised registration scheme for building practitioners, including engineers. 

At a time when Australia’s building and construction industry is suffering a crisis of public confidence, the BMF has developed a roadmap for reform. One of the key changes it has signalled is the need for a nationally harmonised registration scheme for building practitioners, including engineers.

The roadmap is a product of the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report, commissioned by the BMF in 2017 and published in 2018. It aims to “restore community confidence in Australia’s building and construction industry”. 

AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH, says that after recent incidents such as the Opal Tower structural failures in Sydney and the Neo200 façade fire in Melbourne, there is a clear and urgent need for such a plan.

“It is a considerable anomaly that engineering is one of the few professions not to have a mandatory licensing scheme,” Gleeson says. “Despite the fundamental role played by engineers in the economy, the complex and important work they perform, and their pivotal part in ensuring public safety, most are not required to hold any kind of formal registration. 

“This stands in stark contrast to other leading professions such as law, medicine, nursing and teaching, as well as many trades.”

The BMF has prioritised six recommendations from the Building Confidence report that it says will benefit from a consistent national approach. The number one recommendation is that each jurisdiction requires the registration of building practitioners involved in the design, construction and maintenance of buildings. This includes builders, engineers and designers. The BMF has set a target of three years for this and other reforms to be implemented.

In addition to these measures, AIRAH is advocating for the inclusion of an explicit requirement and mandatory high-level process for whole-building commissioning within state and territory regulations. The Institute has also called on state and federal governments to harmonise regulations in the HVAC&R sector.

“We should have national licence schemes for all refrigerants; minimum standards of competency for building services designers; and standardised regulatory requirements for system maintenance,” Gleeson says. 

“On top of that, government and industry need to work together to improve training. If we truly want to build confidence, it is vital that we have a competent professional workforce that can provide safe and efficient infrastructure.”