AT Survey Opinion | Vivian Cummins MRIAI


24 November 2016

As a former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Statistics are often gleaned from surveys and it will be interesting to see what the results will be from the latest attempt by the RIAI to assess how its members will react to proposals to incorporate Architectural Technologists within a Statutory Register of Architectural Technologists with the possibility to undertake the role of Assigned Certifiers.

Many industry observers are surprised that the RIAI seems reluctant to support the admission of Architectural Technologists to this august group of Assigned Certifiers when the RIAI seemed to have no problem with Building Surveyors or any kind of engineer including telephone engineers being admitted. Is it that many architects remain threatened by the advances being made by many architectural technologists with many being leaders in the areas of sustainability and BIM?

As someone who is qualified as both an Architectural Technologist and as an Architect I have never grasped the confusion about the respective qualifications. During my career, I have met some outstanding professionals and some less so with either of these qualifications. I have tended to assess individuals on their merits and their contributions to a project or company.

A view could be taken that the survey is skewed towards an agenda and result. It covers areas not within the remit of the RIAI. Whether this is by accident or design is unclear as it is not known whether the survey was prepared by an outside company or by staff members at the architects’ institute.

The answers suggested for Question No. 4 appear to expose an unconscious bias:


Question 4: “If registration proceeds, what functions should registered Architectural Technologists be entitled to fulfil?”

 Ancillary Certifier?

The RIAI does not seem to realise that Architectural Technologists are already acting as Ancillary Certifiers.  Indeed, there is no qualification requirement for an ancillary certifier and no standardised forms. Many ancillary certificates are required from say boiler installers and suppliers, many of which are aware only that payment may be contingent on producing “a piece of paper”. A dog warden could sign an Ancillary Certificate as there is no Statutory basis for who can sign these documents and this choice in the question is misleading respondents. And as there is no contractual link between ancillary certifiers and clients (or assigned / design certifiers), ancillary certifiers are unlikely to be joined in any action for negligence should a defect arise in future.

Contract Administrators?

Whoever prepared the survey question choices does not seem to realise that Architectural Technologists are already acting as Contract Administrators. The RIAI does not control the commercial market or any contractual arrangements. Such an attempt would be illegal and the RIAI must know this although whoever drew up the survey clearly does not.

Authority to provide design services without limitation / within specified limits?

There is no protection of the function’ of architects e.g. designing buildings. There is merely a protection of the use of the title ‘Architect’ and the maintenance of a Register of those permitted to use the title. Protection of function is a ‘red herring’ and not relevant to this discussion. It could be interpreted as protectionist and scare-mongering to members however, and the optics are not positive. If intended the question suggests a lack of professionalism, self-awareness and vision.

The survey omits the choice that there is an alternative body, the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) that could act as the registration body and that this has been an option on the table for many years. It is also my understanding that the CIAT and RIAI are co-operating with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and are working together on a joint endeavour to create a single CIAT/ RIAI statutory register for approval by their respective boards and members.

Vivian Cummins is an architect in private practice in Athy and President of the North Kildare Chamber of Commerce. He was an RIAI Council member in 2014. He has addressed national conferences and commented extensively in print and broadcast media on housing, planning and building regulatory matters.

Other posts of Interest:

RIAI SURVEY | Architectural Technologists’ Register

ALERT | RIAI Architectural Technologist Register? 

RIAI NEWS ALERT: Architectural Technologist Register

BC(A)R SI.9 Submission Series No 5 | Architectural Technologists: CIAT

Architectural Technologists to be engaged as Certifiers? | Minister Alan Kelly

The Future for Architectural Technologists – CIAT or RIAI ? | Pat Kirwan

CIAT + Architectural Technologists | Michael Quirke

RIAI + Architectural Technologists | Malachy Mathews

Is Building Control a threat to Christmas completion of modular homes? | Vivian Cummins

The above post is an opinion piece only and is not intended as an advice note or substitute for independent legal advice. Readers should obtain professional advice in relation to any matter raised from their professional bodies or consultants before relying on any information contained therein.

4 thoughts on “AT Survey Opinion | Vivian Cummins MRIAI

  1. Paul Lee

    Vivian I agree with you wholeheartedly on the excellent points you made here. ATs have always been the ones with the more expert knowledge of the BRegs and therefore surely even more qualified to deal with Compliance. In the age of the internet surely we can all demonstrate professionalism based on verified work carried out, verified reviews from clients as well as required qualifications. This goes for all professionals, including architects, technicians, surveyors and engineers.

    The market has a tremendous role to play in keeping the professions/ professionals in line. If a profession is isolated from market forces (ie the ability for a client to choose who to employ for a job), the resulting monopoly will lead to outcomes that, in the long run benefit no-one.

    I’m guessing that there are many architects who wish they could hand the role of certifying off to their colleagues but can’t.

  2. Malachy Mathews

    Hi Vivian, for me the real disappointment here is the failure of the RIAI to acknowledge the contribution that architectural technology has made to architecture in Ireland and abroad. There is an AT stamp on nearly every building of quality here in Ireland. This survey is biased, which is a reflection on the author, but it is welcome as a means of clarifying the ambiguous stance of the RIAI Council and executive over many years. Should the voting members decide to not support a statutory register for AT it will create a long lasting resentment between the two architectural communities on this island. This problem was addressed 10 years ago when IATGN produced a blueprint document “Architectural Technology Ireland” A report on the future of professional representation of AT in Ireland. This is still an excellent document.
    In this time of digital transformation of the design and construction where every profession in the AECO industry is challenged it is those who are most able to adapt who will survive and thrive. It strikes me as irony of irony’s that the RIAI are potentially about to cut loose a community who are leading the country in technical architecture expressed through digital technologies and process. The statutory register is about recognising the 60 year journey of Architectural Technology in Ireland and giving its people a professional standing in the industry and society and an equitable standing with the other professions. This will be done with or without the support of the RIAI.

  3. Michael O'Neill

    The writer states: –

    “And as there is no contractual link between ancillary certifiers and clients (or assigned / design certifiers), ancillary certifiers are unlikely to be joined in any action for negligence should a defect arise in future.”

    My understanding of the law suggests that being sued in tort and negligence is more likely, not less likely, in the absence of any contractual link between the parties.

  4. Brian O' Hanlon

    I could write a lot on this. But some major headline items.

    There are a lot of things that don’t actually make that much sense to me any longer about the Architectural Technology role in the whole thing. Back in the drawing board days, there certainly was a profession that was the Architectural technologist. In later day however, with advent of computerization – the whole area has become invaded by all kinds of tribes of various sorts. Like, folk who wouldn’t have skill with a pen and paper, who can know the rundiments of AutoCAD and come from a building technology background, get re-invented as AT’s. It happens.

    The other side of it, is there is no equivalent on the structural and MEP, or civil engineering side of it – equivalent to the Architectural Technician. None. They have zero representation, whatever about the Architectural Technician. And the problem is, a good technician, full stop is a technician who isn’t only an architectural one – or is wedded to a concept of being an ‘kind’ of architect, or certifier or whatever – but is a technician who can work across different boundaries. Especially as projects now, seem to combine together elements of architecture, civil, structural, MEP and so on.

    There’s also another point to all of this – schools who used to train Architectural Technicians for yonks – got out of that game, and they now train CM’s instead. CM, and that whole profession in north America, would blow you away, in terms of the length, breath and depth of their skill and competence. Effectively, what a Construction Management Graduate is like, is a Contractor’s Architectural Technician. In the same vein, as one has an Employer’s Quantity Surveyor, and a Contractor’s Quantity Surveyor (otherwise called ‘an Estimator’), we’ve began to produce from the construction departments in Ireland – this new beast known as the CM – who is trained a lot like a QS, has some of the rundiments of the same skills as an Architectural Technician had years ago – and who is generally headed into an employment/career route with Main Contractors.

    This follows through, from the changes to procurement in the modern age – we’ve got things like Design Build contracts. I.e. The pressure of demand for the kind of skill that the Architectural Technician had in yesteryear – is not coming from the Employer’s consultant side any longer – instead it comes from the Contracting end. Where the Main Contractors are taking on more a role of a consultant, just like the other team members, and they need personnel who can help them to fulfill that role. I.e. The Construction Management graduate as a kind of Contractor’s Architectural Technician.

    There’s one other important strand in all of this – that Employer’s consultant structural engineers can’t hold on to their engineering CAD technicians any longer. There’s a whole new career avenue opened up for them too, with better prospects and salaries – working for, you’ve got it – the Main Contractor. So, the Contractors are actually sucking an awful lot of the talent from that ‘pool’ that was referred to in the past, as the Architectural Technician resource pool. Employer’s consultants can’t depend upon having that available to them – either consulting architects or engineering firms – not by a long shot. At best, consultants will have to bid roughly the same kind of salaries and benefits as MC’s are willing to, to gain a hold of the right talent.

    Summary, even if you take the whole ‘Assigned Certifier’ career progress avenue out of it – there are a whole load of other ones available – for the relatively meager population of good Technicians in Ireland, that our education system will produce, or has produced.


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