Architects are responsible for designing safe living and working spaces and supervising their construction to make sure that they go from plan to reality – illegal architecture practitioners pose a huge threat to clients’ wellbeing and the industry.

When you contract with an architect to turn your dreams of the ideal home into a physical reality, you need to know that you’re dealing with a capable, responsible professional.

But what if I told you that almost half of the architects providing services to clients across South Africa today are not registered and legally compliant?


What Are Illegal Architecture Practitioners?

There are various forms of illegal architectural practitioners. For example, individuals who have not completed their master’s degree in architecture, may not call themselves or advertise themselves as architects. Draughtsmen who have completed only the first few years of their architectural studies, may not legally sign off on the building plans they’ve created. Individuals, especially in the building industry, tend to hire draughtsmen to draw up their building plans as they are not willing to pay professional architect fees.


So What’s The Big Deal If A Few People Are Practising Architecture ‘Illegally’?

Doesn’t sound like such a big deal does it? Well, unlicensed architectural practitioners do not receive the proper, formal training required to legally sign off on projects nor do they have the 2 – 3 years of required practical experience working under the guidance of professional architects.

To put things into perspective, it takes professional architects 6 to 8 years to become professionally registered. For example, at TUT it takes a total of 6 years of study, 2 years of mandatory practical work in the form of an internship under the guidance of a professional architect and a professional exam. At TUKS, 5 years of study must be completed with 3 years of practical work in the form of an internship.

Now you can argue that unlicensed architectural practitioners may eventually make up for lack of training with experience and that licensed architects are totally capable of making mistakes too.

True, but let’s put it this way, there’s no telling how expensive their lack of skills and experience might be – especially if something serious goes wrong. Illegal practitioners’ experience may not be up to the required standards laid out by governing bodies of authority that professional architects must adhere to. And, if a licensed architect commits malpractice in some way it’s easy to report them to the necessary governing bodies, but, if an unlicensed architect commits mal-practice, the process for reporting them is vague.

Another issue of concern is the fact that many illegal practitioners often make up for their lack of experience and proper training by undercutting the market. They tend to sell house plans at significantly lower rates, in bulk. This undermines professional architects who 1. have spent years in (probably literal) blood, sweat and tears in order to practise professionally and, may I add, legally, and 2. who spend months working on a single project from concept to completion, consequently charging professional fees, unable to pump out house plans at the rate of illegal practitioners.


Illegal Architecture Practitioners Are Becoming More Common

The rise of illegal architectural practitioners in South Africa is forcing professional architects to lower their fees in order to compete with the influx of mass-produced house plans.

With the state of the economy and the threat of illegal practitioners, the professional industry of architects is taking a devastating knock and larger firms are scaling down significantly depending on the industry they serve.

An architect who can’t produce a practice number should be a serious red flag for you as a client – here’s how to make sure that the architect you’re dealing with is legit.


How To Tell If Your Architect Is The Real Deal

Fortunately, there are ways of ensuring that your architect is above board – and that your home will be designed and built by experienced professionals. The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) is the official regulatory body that assesses architects and ensures that they are fit to practice.

Here at UpStudio, we display our architectural practice number proudly. In case you missed it, it’s 41356594. If you’d like to check whether an architect is registered or not, you can do a quick online search of their name on the SACAP website.

A registered architect will appear in the search results and you’ll be able to view their SACAP membership profile – and in case you’re wondering, here’s mine.


Keeping It Legit – Dealing With Registered Architects Is Good For Everyone

You wouldn’t feel comfortable being treated or operated on by a doctor who was practicing medicine illegally – so why take the risk with your architect? The consequences could be just as serious.

The more illegal practitioners operate in South Africa, the more difficult things become for honest professionals who strive to serve their clients and produce beautiful living and working spaces.

By using a legitimate architect, you’ll be sure that you’re dealing with a professional who puts 100% of their creativity and skill set into your project.

I’d like to invite you to join me and become part of the solution. If you’d like to make your dream home a reality, contact UpStudio today.

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