Singapore Institute of Architects Launches Blueprint to Uplift Architecture Profession

Singapore Institute of Architects Launches Blueprint
Singapore Institute of Architects Launches Blueprint to Uplift Architecture Profession.

On May 16, 2024, the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) officially launched a Value Articulation Framework (VAF) in a bid to stem fee-diving, low wages, and a brain drain plaguing the architecture profession.

Aptly called Blueprint, the framework is designed to give architects and clients a clearer understanding of the liabilities and responsibilities an architect undertakes on a project. The Blueprint will be an evolving document that will stay relevant to market demands and will set the foundation for a commensurate fee structure for the built environment, SIA president Melvin Tan said at SIA’s Annual Dinner at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre on the same day. The dinner was part of the Singapore Archifest 2024.

Speaking at the annual dinner, which was graced by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development Ms. Indranee Rajah, Ar. Tan said: “Blueprint is an important step forward towards ensuring that architects and clients have greater clarity of the value architects bring to the built environment.”

“In illustrating the breadth of responsibilities and liabilities that architects take on in every project, we hope to imbue a clearer understanding and appreciation for the profession, which will then result in commensurate compensation.”

Outlining The Value An Architect Contributes to a Project

First mooted in 2022, SIA sought input from architecture firms of various sizes to shape the framework.

Blueprint outlines the value an architect brings to a project in three main areas: compliance and liabilities, design expertise, and administration. It also provides architects and clients with case studies. For example, if a client feels that an architect is charging too high for a project, the architect can demonstrate, through Blueprint, the liabilities and scope he has considered, which could then be adjusted according to the client’s requirements.

In her speech, Minister Indranee acknowledged the architecture sector’s concerns about unhealthy industry practices such as fee-diving and said that the Government is also doing its part to deter such behaviour.

She said: “As a major buyer of construction and consultancy services, the Government continually reviews our procurement policies to ensure that our approach remains fair, progressive and promotes transformation outcomes.”

“The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has recently made further enhancements to our tender evaluation framework, also known as the Quality Fee Method, to increase emphasis on quality and further deter fee-diving behaviour. These changes have come into effect from 1 March 2024.”

“We have also been encouraging private developers and service buyers to adopt fair and more progressive contracting practices.”


Salaries of Architects Have Increased by 10-15 percent

Ar. Tan said that the industry’s push for a brighter future has shown signs of green shoots.

SIA’s latest salary survey by the Young Architects League polled about 300 practitioners and revealed that there was a 10-15 percent increase in median starting salaries of architecture graduates. Compared to 2021, median salaries increased from SGD 43,200 to SGD 48,000. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 to 6,000 architects and architectural assistants in Singapore.

It was only in 2022, that another SIA survey showed a not-so-rosy picture of the architecture industry. The survey revealed that only seven in 100 architecture graduates said they would stay in the profession for the long haul. Those who quit cited low wages and long hours, a lack of work-life balance, and high stress as push factors for leaving the profession.

Other factors that have negatively affected the sector include fee-diving by firms and poor work culture.

Said Ar. Tan: “The results of the 2022 survey were a rude awakening for many in the industry. And since then, SIA has been actively pursuing various stakeholders, including clients and employers, to find a better way forward.”

“We’re taking positive steps towards writing a bright future for the profession. The launch of Blueprint will further strengthen the push for more transparency and professionalism in the industry and refocus the emphasis back on the merits an architect brings rather than how much he charges.”

Mr. Tan Chee Kiat, the BCA’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Industry Development, welcomed the launch of Blueprint.

He said: “Architects play a pivotal role in a project, undertaking critical responsibilities, especially as projects become more complex. We commend SIA for proactively developing the Value Articulation Framework to empower architects to gain a deeper understanding of their diverse roles, effectively communicate their value to clients, and ultimately elevate the profession. In turn, the clients will hopefully come to better understand the value architects bring to them.”

The Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) also supports the launch of Blueprint.

Said Mr. Tan Swee Yiow, REDAS’ President: “REDAS is heartened that SIA has taken the initiative to produce Blueprint v.1, an evolving document that serves to articulate the scope of work that architects undertake in a typical project.”

“REDAS supports the efforts towards a more transparent professional practice landscape that will encourage commensurate fees and advocate as well as recognise professionalism in architecture and design excellence in Singapore.”

Top Awards Given Out

The evening also saw the unveiling of the winners of Singapore’s top architectural awards. WOHA Architects Pte Ltd took home the coveted Design of the Year award as well as the Hotels category award at the SIA Architectural Design Awards 2024 for their work on 21 Carpenter, a boutique hotel, and Pan Pacific Orchard respectively.

Ar. Melvin Kheng of Kaizen Architecture took home the inaugural SIA-Young Architects Award 2024.

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Singapore Institute of Architects Launches Blueprint to Uplift Architecture Profession
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Singapore Institute of Architects Launches Blueprint to Uplift Architecture Profession
Singapore Institute of Architects’ blueprint spells out the value architects bring and advocates for the creation of a commensurate fee structure.

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