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Coronavirus hits the architectural profession hard

Wednesday, 29 April 2020  
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Coronavirus hits the architectural profession hard


On the 15th of March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak, and this comes shortly after the declaration of the coronavirus as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in South Africa, the government has instituted strict lockdown measures in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus. This has had negative impact on the architectural profession. 


The built environment is experiencing devastating financial distress due to the economic downturn and the effects of Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the state of affairs in the built environment.  Furthermore, tendering for professional work which started more than ten years ago has impacted negatively on the sustainability of the architectural profession. South African Council for Architectural Profession (SACAP) is engaging the National Department of Public Works & Infrastructure, Council for the Built Environment, Built Environment Councils and National Treasury to review the procurement policies for built environment professionals. 


Despite the devastating impact of the economic downturn, tendering system and covid-19, in supporting the government’s efforts and heeding the President’s call, as SACAP we acknowledge that we have a more significant role to play in ensuring that we stop the spread of the coronavirus by keeping our profession safe. While we note the impact, this has had on our profession as a critical sector in the built environment and an economic driver, we must do everything we can to preserve lives.


“SACAP, has explored several interventions to ease the pressure on the profession, taking into consideration the financial stress that Registered Persons are experiencing due to the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic, SACAP has suspended the portion of 2020/2021 annual fee increase for period of 6 months. Furthermore, SACAP will not be cancelling any registration of registered person for failure to pay annual fees until December 2020. These interventions are to ensure as many architectural businesses and jobs are saved post this pandemic.” Said Mr Charles Nduku, President of SACAP 


We also encourage architectural practices to utilise the relief funds created by the government, such as the Covid-19 relief from the UIF


Some of the severe consequences on the architectural profession includes:


  • Meeting with suppliers for samples is prohibited and the purchase of materials is prohibited as a non-essential service, resulting in inability to construct emergency projects.


  • Meeting face to face is better for client architectural engagements and currently clients are scared.


  • Clients are hesitant to commit to new projects and are withdrawing from already commissioned projects resulting in a substantial loss in income for professionals. The impact of which may be felt well into 2021.


  • Non-payment of fees for work executed due to cancellation or delay by clients. Clients are holding on to cash as a precautionary measure.


  • There's a need to publish/gazette the 2019 or 2020 fees guideline in order to help mitigate more financial loss when the sector is operational again.


  • Municipalities need to open as soon as possible to process and fast track approvals and develop an option for online submissions and approvals.


  • Any prospective design jobs have been halted, due to economic uncertainty.


  • Inability to go on sites lead to clients not paying, loss of jobs and risk work clients have put a hold to projects.


  • Sole proprietors, contract workers and freelancers also need debt relief.


  • New projects are needed for the profession to remain sustainable.


  • News channels need to advertise funding and debt relief websites.


  • Gratis covid19 dispute resolution or arbitration council could be established to mediate covid19 related problems between contractors and architectural profession.


Ends