Fighting bad design: NSW regulator ﬁnes architect $20,000 over apartments
The Australian Financial Review
by Michael Bleby
28 June 2017
The NSW architectural regulator has fined a western Sydney architect
almost $20,000 and barred him from practising for five years in the
first step of a battle against substandard apartment buildings.
The NSW Architects Registration Board last week suspended Alex Sibir
after finding he had signed off as the architect on projects for three
different developers without having designed them and for breaching the
state's Architects Act by failing to ensure the developers' contracts
included necessary consumer safeguards.
The state's so-called SEPP65 guidelines for apartment design require a
registered architect to design a project and sign off that it complies
with the guidelines, which aim to ensure better-quality apartments, but
which critics say push up costs. Mr Sibir worked as the nominated
architect for three different developers, Urban Link, Bechara Chan
& Associates and Design Cubicle and in effect just lent his name to
their development applications, the board found.
he signed off as the designer of a building there was
no evidence he had in fact designed
"The board found he signed off as the designer of a building there was
no evidence he had in fact designed," said Tim Horton, registrar of the
board. "There were a number of development applications these
developers were making with names all over them but none of them were
the names of their nominated architect."
Sydney is leading the country's housing construction boom and recorded
a 33.6 per cent increase in tall-tower apartments between 2011 and last
year, census figures this week showed. As Sydney – the only city on the
east coast not at risk of an oversupply of apartments – seeks to meet
its own housing shortage, the regulator wants to crack down on those
who breach the act. The board has also teamed up with Parramatta
Council and the Government Architect's Office to find ways of assessing
the quality of apartments already built.
Building industry regulators across the country are under scrutiny to
up their game in the wake of London's fatal Grenfell Tower. Victoria's
Building Practitioners Board will only hear complaints against the
builder of Melbourne's Lacrosse tower – which in November 2014 suffered
a potentially fatal fire due to unsafe cladding – in August, nearly
three years after the fire.
Last year, the Architects Registration Board of Victoria ruled
architect ElenbergFraser could not be responsible for the potentially
fatal fire that engulfed Melbourne's Lacrosse building, even though it
did not have all the information needed about the architect's level of
responsibility on site.
Deborah Dearing, president of the NSW board, said the ruling against Mr Sibir put "everyone" on notice.
"Whether it's a developer or a builder, the person who is developing an
apartment building … has an obligation to meet SEPP65," Ms Dearing
said. "It's important that as the city densifies, the quality of
construction and housing and quality of apartments is as good as it can
be. There are a range of different means by which we mean to ensure
Mr Horton said the same act that allowed the board to take action
against Mr Sibir could potentially be used against developers and was
seeking legal advice on that.
"If a developer contravenes, whether they mean to or not, any provision
of the Architects Act, then each person who's a director of that
development company is liable for the breach of their architect," he
Mr Sibir could not be contacted through any of the three developers.
Farah Georges, the director of Design Cubicle, said Mr Sibir was suspended.
"We didn't get involved," Mr Georges said. "That was between him and the board."
Urban Link director Tony Jreige said Mr Sibir had moved on.
"Alex was one of the architects working with us and he's no longer with us," Mr Jreige said.
chapter previous next