Construction companies in the Philippines are big teams mainly lead by two professionals: one designated to design the building and make it as user-friendly as possible and one designated to carry out the design while ensuring it is structurally sound. Architects and Civil Engineers have been the duo that we can trust when it comes to building structures, but in this 3rd part of our interview, we find out that it’s not exactly a smooth sailing relationship.
And it all starts with a signature.
Our resource for this research, Architect Alister James Tabuso, graduated from the University of Santo Tomas where he went through all the rudiments of becoming an architect for seven years as a working student. Even then, there was a not-so-secret course war between architecture and civil engineering. From experience, Ar. Tabuso says that there were no incidents that escalated beyond casual petty jeering between the two group of students.
This acculturated dislike would be less apparent but more affective later in in Ar. Tabuso’s career. His first work was for a small architectural firm and construction company in the Philippines that catered commercial mall establishments as well as upscale home design. Competition wasn’t a problem because their commercial clients sign up with them for nationwide projects for branches and the civil engineers they work with are completely professionally composed. After leaving his previous company to venture into freelance work, he’d discover a world of difference. Not only is Ar. Tabuso in competition with fellow architects to get clients, he is also in competition with civil engineers.
You might have chanced upon a poster campaign that seeks to encourage people to hire an architect. The campaign’s slogan is “Arkitekto Sigurado” and it’s from United Architects of the Philippines or UAP from which Ar. Tabuso is also a member. They seek to empower soon-to-be homeowners to hire licensed architects to work on their project instead of doing the design themselves or have an engineer do it for them. See, two signatories are required for a building permit to pass legal Philippines standard: one from the architect and another from civil engineer who are working on the project.
Both fields of requirement can be signed and executed by a civil engineer.
Which brings us to our question of where this all began. In the state of affairs that the Philippines was as World War II came to a close, the ratio between architects and civil engineers was 1 for every 6 respectively. This gap in number only grew bigger and eventually, Former President Ferdinand Marcos would sign the National Building Code of the Philippines wherein, in some version of Section 302 of the said law, it is stated that civil engineers may sign & seal architectural documents; a caveat that they tried to justify back then as a solution to the lack of architects and over population of civil engineers.
Today, some civil engineers are taking double degree to become both architect and civil engineer which is actually good in itself; still, there are civil engineers that do the signing and sealing of architectural documents for the purpose of convenience. How far gone this practice has seeped into the industry, Ar. Tabuso cannot tell, but regardless of the size of any construction company in the Philippines, there are those who do it to cut cost at the expense of the livelihood of licensed professional architects.
Currently, bills are being pushed by architects unto senate (House Bill 5127 and Senate Bill 2623) to delineate between the functions of the two professions in the hope of providing both, not just the architects, a fair share of industry security.
Clientele, especially in the low- to mid-range cost of housing (the great majority of the market), is still very rare to come by, but Ar. Tabuso hopes and expects that passing the bill will surely help in this regard.