On March 7, the South Africa Department of Public Works (DPW) issued a document outlining proposed amendments to the legislation that regulates the building professions.

Currently, professional councils of architects, engineers, and other similar professionals have the power to govern themselves and to maintain their own finances. The new legislation would strip these independent councils of their authority and create an overarching organization called the South African Council for the Built Environment. All building professionals working in South Africa would need to register with this entity.

In a preamble, minister of public works A.T. Didiza said the proposed policy was a response to "shortcomings in the present regulatory model" and was meant to "stimulate debate." After a period of public comment, Didiza said, the government would vote on the proposed policy.

The DPW got its wish. The news drew quick responses from the architecture community, which raised concerns about the changes and the speedy timeline with which the government aimed to implement them. Many professional organizations, including the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), were unaware of the pending legislation, learning about it through third parties. This has raised concerns that the process is not transparent enough.

SAIA president Hassan Asmal echoed the sentiments of many architects when he wrote an open letter to the DPW agreeing with the need for better organization in the construction industry in general but expressing concern over the drastic measures.

Karen Eicher, who serves on the nonprofit Architects' Collective of South Africa, has been following the story. Noting that she could not speak for the architecture community or comment on the legislation's background, she wrote to Architect that she believes "the intention ... is good-furthering communication between the built environment professions and Government. ... [U]nfortunately, the process has not been handled with sufficient transparency ... , resulting in a degree of trepidation and speculation."

At press time, the DPW had not yet responded to Asmal's letter, and the vote on the new policy was pending. Architect will continue to track developments.