THE way government departments review their shortcomings and the solutions they devise to address them invariably defy logic. Someone at the Capital Development Authority (CDA) observed the cumbersome, time-consuming, multi-step, arbitrary building approval process that yields irrational objections from CDA staff, and the only solution that the said ‘someone’ could propose was to eliminate the architect, who happened to be the only professional in the whole process who was not part of the problem.
The cumbersome processes at the CDA that frustrate architects and building owners are designed to force them to succumb to the corruption that runs rife in such institutions. This is the case with most building control departments in the country.
The cause of transparency, honesty and efficiency would be better served by thoroughly reviewing the approval process, simplifying it and eliminating all opportunities for corruption and extortion; not by firing the architect.
Assuming the role and responsibilities of the architect will not eliminate the corrupt and byzantine practices nor will it improve the quality of building construction.
In fact, by offering architectural services, the CDA may run afoul of the relevant rules and regulations that govern the practice of architecture in Pakistan.
An architect, duly licensed by the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) is the only professional authorised by law in Pakistan to design buildings and supervise the construction of building works. The CDA by-laws acknowledge as much, even though they erroneously use ‘architect’ and ‘engineer’ interchangeably. Chapter 3 of the Building Control Regulations 2020 requires every person intending to construct a building to employ a licensed architect who will supervise the construction.
Any architect so employed will submit in writing ‘of having undertaken to supervise such work.’ The architect assumes the responsibility to design a building, meeting the needs, aspirations and budget of the client, responding to the specifics of the site and the context. An architect further ensures that the contractor builds the work as per the design and specifications.
Incidentally, the CDA by-laws have a clause that contradicts the above stipulations, and exempts designs prepared by the CDA from the legal requirement of employing an architect. The CDA probably intends to employ this contradictory clause to provide a limited set of cookie cutter designs that will apply to all sites, irrespective of location, site conditions, owners’ needs, aspirations or budgets.
The decision has clearly not been thought through carefully in the light of existing laws and ethical professional practices. The CDA would be well advised to focus on ‘internal cleansing’ rather than indulging in activities beyond its scope.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2023