Self-certification, as architects
professionals to declare buildings fit for occupation will lead to
improved efficiency in the delivery process
Certain views have been expressed of late, in the press
and at various public forums, on the issuance of Certificates of Fitness
for Occupation (CF) by professionals, both architects and engineers. This
was also the focus of an article by the National House Buyers Association
(HBA) in Property Times on Jan 8.
What actually is the position of Persatuan Akitek
Malaysia (PAM)? Are professional architects competent enough to issue CFs?
Can the house-buying public trust architects to perform this task without
prejudice , or are they just agents of developers, as made out by the HBA?
Role of architects in the design of buildings
Under the Street, Drainage and Building Act, architects
and engineers are the "qualified persons" responsible for the design and
safety of buildings.
They prepare and submit building plans to the
local authorities, declaring that the buildings are designed in compliance
with the Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL), and subsequently supervise the
construction to ensure UBBL compliance in this area as well. Architects
and engineers have to submit prescribed forms to notify the local
authorities upon the completion of the various stages of work, and certify
that the works have been duly completed.
When a building is completed, the architect's
certification is submitted together with letters of support from technical
departments, such as Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Sewerage Services Department and
Waterworks Department, to the local authorities. The role of the
authorities is thereafter merely administrative , to issue the CFs upon
receipt of all those documents.
The existing laws and regulations cite the architect or
engineer as the person who is best qualified to vouch for fitness and
safety of a completed building, having designed it and supervised its
construction from beginning to end.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on June
26 last year called for the issuance of CFs by local authorities to be
replaced with self-certification by professionals. Both the Minister of
Works and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government responded by
initiating meetings and discussions with industry players to seek their
feedback and to prepare proposals for the implementaion of
PAM fully supports the Housing Ministry's proposal to
streamline the process of CF application and issuance. This will reduce
bureaucratic red tape, make the house delivery process more efficient and
ultimately, it will work to the benefit of purchasers.
Does self-certification work?
The proposal for self-certification is nothing new. PAM
has been working closely with the Housing Ministry on this matter. The
Certification of Completion and Compliance (CCC)( issued by architects for
completed bungalow units, which has replaced the CFs issued by the local
authorities, has been in place for a few years now, and there have been no
complaints about it.
Many meetings have been held with the Housing Ministry
to extend this self-certification to industrial buildings, and ultimately,
to all types of buildings. The call by the Prime Minister appears aimed at
accelerating the process of self-certification based on the established
The One-Stop Centre (OSC) which serves to expedite the
approval process for building plans, is also a move towards
self-certification. Self-certification by the submitting person is really
an extension of his current role under the OSC. Other infrastructural
works such as utilities, roads and drainage are also certified by the
professionals overseeing them.
The UBBL holds the submitting person fully liable and
responsible for the entire project, whether or not the local authorities
issue the CF. The issuance of CFs by the local authorities does not
guarantee the safety of the building, since the authorities do not carry
Will self-certification benefit house buyers?
Under the Housing Development Act and its regulations,
architects are already entrusted with the responsibility, and held liable,
for certifying the various stages of works. This is also spelt out in the
Sale and Purchase Agreement. It has to be pointed out that architects see
this role of certification as a public service, for which no additional
fee is charged even though there is considerable cost and liability
involved in checking and certifying the completion of the works.
Up to 92 per cent of the purchase price would have been
paid by buyers upon handing over of vacant possession, when the local
authorities accept the CF application, regardless of whether it is issued
House buyers will benefit under self-certification, as
certification by the architect for handing over of vacant possession by
the developer can be concurrent with the issuance of the CCC by the
architect. This eliminates the problem of buyers having to take over their
houses but not being able to occupy them until the CFs are issued by the
local authorities. The delay and uncertainty over the CF issuance has long
been a major grouse of both developers and house buyers.
Are architects competent to issue CFs?
A minimum of five years of tertiary education, followed
by at least two years of internship under a professional architect is
required before a person trained in architecture can qualify to sit for
the professional examination conducted by the Board of Architects
Most architects actually work for a number of years
before setting up their own practice. Ask any graduate how tough the
professional examination is. No amount of money can "buy" a person this
position. So, would an architect risk his life-time education and training
to act unprofessionally and without integrity, with the risk of being
fined or even deregistered? Is a person with this background and training
going to bend rules for money?
Will the quality of houses be affected?
Houses are constructed by building contractors who sign
contracts with developers and undertake to build the works in accordance
with specifications and drawings prepared by architects and engineers.
They physically carry out the building works for delivery to the end uses.
Architects and engineers are appointed to periodically supervise the
construction to ensure that they are acceptable standard and quality.
The quality of finishes is often confused with quality
of works. There are very often projects offered at low prices with lower
quality materials specified. This does not mean that the buildings are of
poor quality, for they comply with minimum standards set by the UBBL.
However, they may not measure up to the better quality of the more
expensive houses due to either misplaced expectations of the buyers or
misrepresentations in marketing brochures. In this instance, the integrity
of the architects or engineers is not the issue.
Currently, developers, architects, engineers and
lawyers, are, in varying degrees, liable for the delivery of of the houses
or buildings under construction. The building contractor is not. The
Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) was set up to ensure
quality in the building and construction industry.
The establishment of a quality benchmark by which all
building works are measured will go some way towards establishing
consensus among all parties in the industry as to the quality of works to
be expected. There will then be no mismatch of expectation and promise.
If two projects are priced differently due to two
different qualities promised (for example, grade A quality or grade B
quality), then buyers can make an informed choice. The building contractor
prices his tender according to the standards specified and in the long
term, variables in quality would be reduced and end users would actually
get what they pay for.
Complaints received from house buyers are often related
to workmanship and the issuance of CFs by the local authorities does not
addressed this problem. The most effective way of improving
workmanship is for contractors to be accountable and responsible for works
they carry out.
In Australia, for example, a builder is a licensed
individual who is regulated by law and a statutory body is held fully
liable for the quality of workmanship. The role and responsibility of the
certifier strictly related to safety aspects such as compliance of codes
and regulations. He is not responsible for the quality of the building.
CIDB has to seriously regulate the performance of
contractors and make them accountable, just as all the other parties in
the whole housing delivery chain are.
Can we trust architects to be independent?
The HBA has expressed concern that the quality and
safety of a building may be compromised if the CF procedure is done away
with, especially so in the housing industry. This is because, it claims,
the professionals may be subjected to pressure from their
developer-clients to certify completion of the various stages of the
We admit that there are errant architects who are
negligent, but the Board of Architects has instituted a new schedule of
penalties, including deregistration, against those found guilty of
wrongful or fraudulent certification. Its actions have resulted in a
reduction in cases of wrongful or fraudulent certification, and statistics
of the last few years confirm this.
Therefore, the HBA's misgivings about professional
architects are misplaced because the number of black sheep is small in
comparison to the number of houses built in Malaysia each year.
In conclusion, we would like to state that:
- PAM supports the introduction of a more transparent
and efficient building approval and CF issuance process and the Prime
Minister's vision for a civil, accountable and trustworthy society.
- PAM fully supports the proposal that architects and
engineers be allowed to issue the CCC in place of the CFs issued by
local authorities, since under the UBBL the qualified person who submits
the application for CF is already held fully liable and responsible for
- The disciplinary framework is already in place, since
architects and engineers are well regulated in Malaysia and face
deregistration if they breach professional integrity and trust.
- The HBA should not take a negative stand on
self-certification but instead support any move to improve the
efficiency of this delivery process. It should also seek to work closely
with the professionals and local authorities to continue improving and
strengthening the housing industry of the benefit of everybody.