THE Philippines is a signatory to the World Trade Organization and the General Agreements on Trades in Services (GATS), which was signed in January 1995 and to be implemented in 2020.
As such, the Philippines will be a major beneficiary to this agreement worldwide, as there are a lot of Filipinos occupying blue-collar jobs in the world today. That means the Filipinos abroad will be remitting billions of dollars to their families here, keeping the Philippine economy afloat and robust. In the recent newspaper reports on our economy, our country is doing just great, especially at this time of the year. Trade deficits have been trimmed down or the gaps have been narrowed down.
In the exchange of professional practice, the intention is to have a vision of a single market for goods, capital, skilled labor, investments and services. This has already been started in different professional fields such as architecture, accounting, medicine, law and engineering. In fact, we are seeing the influx of foreign professionals in our country doing consultancy services and the like, partnering with our local counterpart, benefiting the Filipino professionals in terms of transfer of technologies, foreign materials or commodity adaptability and techniques.
This is the current trend. It is intended to be seen as healthy for the global economy. As it looks today, it is very promising. While the world looks positively look forward on the rising developments and addresses pressing concerns of this integration, there are definitely external factors affecting the various professions. One of them is in the field of architecture.
Some of the external factors changing the practice of architecture worldwide involve competitions, regulations, technologies and demographics. It is quite challenging as these external influences changes the practices of the profession worldwide.
The first concern is competition. We have non-traditional service providers coming into our countries changing the norms of ethics, bordering on integration and on worldwide business practice of services. They change the landscape of the practice because technology is already at our doorstep. We have now the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Architects Registry of 16 APEC member-countries in the Asia-Pacific region coming up with bilateral and multilateral agreements between countries to practice their professions.
Then there is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Architects Registry which is a government initiative of the ten Asean member-countries allowing the practice of the architectural profession in each others’ country based on a mutual recognition agreement signed by these Asean members. Here, the services are spelled out clearly so that Southeast Asia will become one dominant economic community in the world arena.
GATS is another concern as it literally opens up the borderless practice worldwide. The start of its implementation will be in 2020 and we will see a lot of alignment of government policies worldwide on the matter.
The second external factor changing architecture is technology. We see an influx of technologies that disrupts traditional business models. We see new trends in the design and build services for architects such as building information modelings, pre-cast construction works in concrete, assembled fit-on site requirements, pre-fabricated steelworks shipped to site and erected as quickly as possible as though it was made with Lego. Green building materials adapting to country requirements and even low-cost shelters made by equipment as though they were photocopies or assembled in plant factories ready for delivery. In short, design and construction follow now the mantra “NEWER, BETTER, FASTER, and SAFER” methods.
The third external factor is demographic. The world is becoming a smaller to live in due to information technology. What can be sourced worldwide can also be delivered quicker. I was in Bangladesh a few weeks ago and we were discussing professional practice. And an architectural company in Europe had farmed out work in South Africa who came out cheaper than the Philippines, but to their regret, was not as comprehensive as their Philippine counterparts. Even in some Middle Eastern countries, the outsourcing of work is also done in the Philippines and other Asian countries. In the shift in demographics, outsourcing is a reality. International architectural offices face the loss of personnel or offices, and mobile communications becomes the norm.
Lastly is the changes in regulatory regimes. International Building Codes are now creeping into the system of Asian countries. Standards in international systems influenced by international banks or finance corporations dictate the use of products and commodities in the interest of furthering not only safety, environmental and health concerns, but also on business ventures and economics. On the local front, our national and local governments including the Professional Regulatory Commission policies and new building codes, changes the scenario for green building initiatives and more new local government policies. Even national government policies such as that of the Department of Trade and Industry on provisional bonds as against safeguard duty taxes affect business strategies and fair business practices.
As expected, the practice of architecture is evolving. And rightfully so because of the global practice is also affected. It is not anymore what it used to be. No wonder those who have been living in the Jurassic period are now up in arms on the changing trends of the practice. The architect should adapt and face the reality that being visionaries and creative thinkers, collaboration is a key factor since they are in the forefront of globalization.
The next news article will deal with what the solutions are on the changing practices of the architectural profession. Merry Christmas to all!
Registration starts at March 12, 2018, Monday, 1:00 p.m.