A house designer by any other name …
As you might have seen, the Architects Registration Board has been going off recently at real estate agents who describe houses as having been designed by architects when instead those houses have just been designed by, well, by people who design houses.
The difference is immense, and it amounts to this: One group of people have paid a lot of money to join the Boys Club with the name “Architects” on the door, and the other haven’t.
That’s about the size of it.
It’s therefore quite appropriate then that those who have paid the money to join the club (which club, as anyone knows, has been set up to protect its members) should be entitled to exclude the riff raff who haven’t. (Because if paying a lot money and knowing the right people doesn’t entitle you to set barriers to entering your profession, I don’t know what would!)
And it’s quite appropriate that they should be able to throw around threats of fines and jail time should anyone, especially real estate agents, confuse the low life riff raff who design houses with the real toffs who have paid to join the Boys Club.
And the Real Estate Institute’s members are now running scared. So much so that an Advisory Note sent out yesterday to members warns to tread very carefully indeed “if you are intending to describe a building in terms involving use of the word ‘architect’ in any form.”
This all just protectionist nonsense.
There is no justification for laws protecting the use of the word “architect” in any form except with the word “registered” in front of it.
House-buyers are buying houses, not names. They visit houses and walk around them—they judge them for themselves, by their own standards—they don’t just rely on an agents’ blurb. And having inspected them, if buyers decide that houses designed by registered architects are so much better than those designed by others, then those houses will attract a premium.
And if they don’t, they won’t.
No more protection is needed then than to allow buyers to see what they’re buying before they buy it. And which buyer wouldn’t?
There is no argument in justice for law protecting the members of this particular cartel.
If the houses they design do attract a premium that will be because, on the judgement of those who buy them, they deserve to—and if so the members of the Boys Club won’t need a special piece of protectionist law to protect them.
If however they don’t attract a premium that will be because, on the judgement of those who buy them, they don’t deserve to—and if so there is no justification in law for protecting people who the market has decided are no better than their competitors.
And that fact is, whatever nonsense the various heads of the Boys Club over the years have maintained—former NZRAB chairman Ron Pynenburg for example, who says claiming a property was designed by an architect can push up its price—or his successor Paul Jackman who claims “these false references add lustre and market value to the properties being sold”—there are no figures in existence indicating that the mere claim that an architect has designed a house is enough to push up its price. This is just self-serving nonsense.
Indeed, when challenged by Mary Wilson the other evening, Mr Jackman couldn’t even produce figures showing that houses designed by his members attracted any premium at all.
Damning evidence, I would have thought, that not even the barriers to entry created by Mr Jackman and his organisation are enough to jack up the prices the market is prepared to pay for what his members produce.
The fact is, there is no honest argument to protect the word “architect,” and five years ago when the Architects Act was rewritten the Select Committee agreed unanimously with the half-dozen of us who pointed that out.
We pointed out that all that needs protection are the words “registered architect,” since to say one is registered when one isn’t would be fraud—and if registered architects transpire to be so much better than unregistered ones, why then the market would beat a path to their door.
Our half-dozen did our best--we had persuaded every one on the Select Committee--but when it came to the final vote in Parliament, it transpired the Boys Club under Gordon Moller had paid Mai Chen thousands of dollars to whisper protectionist nonsense in the MPs’ shell-like. And I’m afraid, my friends, that that was that.
Which is why we end up where we are today with threats of fines and jail time hanging around folk for the inadvertent use of the words “architect,” and Advice Notes being sent around the country to real estate agents about the use of the aforementioned word—and about future meetings on the matter thereon.
Be aware however that words and phrases like "architecture," "architectural," and "architecturally designed" are still legal...
PS: Here’s an interesting and related fact for you to ponder: One in four Americans now needs the state’s permission to work, either in the form of a state license or being on some sort of register—which means one out of every four workers is not permitted to work without begging permission from a bureaucrat.
What proportion do you think we might “enjoy” here in NZ?