Monthly Archives: May 2017

Ontario Architects Support Healthy Workplaces

On Wednesday May 24th, 2017, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) gathered together at their annual general meeting and showed their support for ensuring healthier workplace standards. A motion brought forward by John MacDonald called his fellow architects into action by asking them to stand up to solve issues of equity and fairness within the architectural profession. The motion specifically pertains to exemptions in the Employment Standards Act that exclude architects, among other professions, from certain employment standards such as entitlement to minimum wage, overtime pay, and vacation. The motion was received with resounding support from members of the OAA.

John was inspired to spearhead a grassroots movement among architects in Ontario to prove that architects are willing and able to take the lead to ensure better working conditions. “Not everyone in this profession has enjoyed the support and respect from employers that I have, in my journey from student to Intern to Architect and finally Principal of my practice”, says John. “Architects are leaders in our communities, and we need to lead on this issue as well. Ours is a fast-paced deadline-driven environment that may not always support the work-life balance and opportunity that is key to a healthy 21st Century workplace. We can be better.”

John’s motion has quickly gained traction, receiving an astounding approximate 160 votes in favour and only 7 votes against at the OAA Annual General meeting. When asked about the success of his motion John says, “I feel extremely gratified. This is a huge endorsement of the ability of our profession to lead on these important issues.” The motion has sent a strong message to the OAA and to other professions that those who contribute to our success and the public good must be treated fairly, with proper compensation for overtime and recognition of good work-life balance. JMA invites all like-minded professionals to join us in the effort, regardless of profession. While it’s true that the Province and many professions are studying these issues, the time for study is long past. Self-governing professions need not wait for others to act for them. Now is the time and place to move forward. #architectslead

Listen to John discuss healthy workplace standards with CBC’s Craig Norris: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/the-morning-edition-k-w/episode/12745774

Team Working

JMA office, Kitchener Ontario

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#architectslead

architectslead

Architects lead in so many ways: co-ordinating and leading complex projects on the journey from idea to performing facility, advocating for healthy communities and planet, and caring for the built environment. It seems fitting that our industry should step forward to lead once again, by advocating for ever-healthier workplace and employment standards.

For some months our firm has been looking into issues of equity and fairness in how architecture is practiced. Employment standards, respect for everyone’s efforts and contributions, and healthy workplaces are key to our success. As professionals, we want to lead in these areas, and where better to start than with our own industry? Good can always be better, and less than good should never be acceptable.

Exemptions to Minimum Employment Standards in the Professions

It’s not generally well-known that some professionals are exempt from certain employment standards: entitlement to minimum wage, entitlement to overtime pay, or even vacation. Practitioners of architecture are one of this group, which includes practitioners of law, medicine, engineering, and others.

Why is that? Well, I’d say that’s because the practicing architect owes a duty of care to the public good, and has professional obligation to society and clients. This can’t be inhibited by how hard it is, or how long it takes, to get the job done right. Fair enough. We are a self-regulating profession that must meet the standards of the Architects Act, to preserve and protect the public interest.

That doesn’t mean this exemption should apply to everyone in the office though.

Unfortunately, the interpretation of employment standards in our profession seems to be that all architects, even the Interns, are not deserving of protections regarding hours, pay, and conditions. To my view, this is unfair. While I understand the reasoning that the practicing professional who is responsible for a design is exempt, the intern, the non-practicing architect, and the remainder of the staff, are performing their duties under the direct supervision of that practicing architect. They do not bear the same responsibility, and in our industry they are vulnerable to long hours, poor work-life balance, and sometimes little or no pay for extraordinary hours and efforts.

So we are aiming to change this situation, in the interest of fairness and equity.

#architectslead

I have submitted a motion to the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Association of Architects for consideration by the membership, in Ottawa on May 24th. We hope that architects can make a strong statement to our Council and to the public that as a self-governing profession we are capable of higher standards, and do not fear to be measured by them.

We invite all like-minded professionals to join us in the effort, regardless of profession. Ours is a fast-paced, deadline driven environment, but that is true of many other industries and workplaces in the 21st Century. We can all benefit from healthier workplaces and respect for everyone’s contributions.

For many years we’ve carried the following quotation from Jane Jacobs on our website, from her book Canadian Cities and Sovereignty-Association:

“All of us, if we are reasonably comfortable, healthy and safe, owe immense debt to the past. There is no way, of course, to repay the past. We can only pay those debts by making gifts to the future.”

In our own practice we strive to uphold principles of fairness and equity. We reach beyond a carefully contrived minimum duty within or below the law, to a more equitable place for all of us. We don’t believe that all who work in the profession of architecture are so lucky. There are and will continue to be pockets of activity and behaviour in the professions that must be improved. Jane’s message resonates with us as a goal for everyone. So we’ve set our sights on a gift to the future, to build upon the Healthy Workplace initiative that the Ontario Association of Architects is already considering.

The Motion

Click to view Equity and Fairness in Our Profession for specific discussion of the issues and the motion I am bringing forward for the consideration of my colleagues in architecture, and some personal points of view on the Employment Standards Act.

Visit http://www.oaa.on.ca/ and https://www.raic.org/ for more information about what a practicing architect does.

Your comments and discussion are most welcome, about how best to make this gift to the future. It’s a gift that is timely and needed.

– John MacDonald, OAA, MRAIC

#architectslead

 

Exploring our Cities: Jane’s Walk 2017

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” – Jane Jacobs

Last weekend groups of citizens in cities across the globe gathered to participate in organized walking tours in honour of Jane Jacobs. Jane was an activist and writer who introduced the world to ground-breaking ideas about community-based approaches to city building. She believed that is it important for local residents to become familiar with their neighbourhoods and have input on how their neighbourhood develops. Jane’s Walks are hosted each year on the first weekend of May and focus on a variety of themes relevant to the local planning, history, people and culture of the city in which the walks take place.

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Tour of the history of the Math and Computer Science Department at the University of Waterloo

John and Margaret set out to join our neighbours in Kitchener and Waterloo to experience two of the many Jane’s Walks our region had to offer.  The first tour explored the history of the Math and Computer Science Department at the University of Waterloo. This indoor tour of the campus buildings was a welcome retreat from the rain for the group of math and technology enthusiasts who had gathered to learn and walk together. John and Margaret returned with a number of fun facts to share with the office, including that the original computer used by the Math and Computer Science Department cost more than the building it was housed in and yet it was less powerful than a cell phone!

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Made in Berlin. Matured in Kitchener. The Central Frederick Neighbourhood Tour. Crowd gathers outside of the Staebler House.

The following day John & Margaret went on a tour of Kitchener’s historic Central Frederick Neighbourhood. As they walked through the neighbourhood their guide James Howe, a local resident, wove in tales of past community members and how they shaped Kitchener as we now know it.  The narratives of three different women, all born when Kitchener was still the City of Berlin, hold a particularly strong grasp on the Central Frederick Neighbourhood. Anna Kaljas, once a refugee herself, devoted her life to providing shelter to vulnerable populations within her community. Her legacy is one that remains strong in Kitchener today. Another notable Frederick resident is none other than Edna Staebler. Staebler won many awards including the Order of Canada for her books, which provide a colourful record of the Mennonite-inspired local KW cuisine. Finally, the legacy of another author B. Mabel Dunham was explored. Dunham pursued an education in library science and became the first trained librarian to be in charge of a public library in Ontario. She held the post of librarian of the Kitchener Public Library from 1908 until her retirement in 1944. The impact that each of these women had on enriching the quality of their community perfectly embodies the values of Jane Jacobs.

JMA would like to extend our sincere thanks to all organizers and participants of the 2017 Jane’s Walks. If you would like to participate or host a Jane’s Walk tour next year, or learn more about Jane’s Walk, please visit http://janeswalk.org/

For KW residents still looking for Jane’s Walk events this year – a “Jane’s Ride” family friendly bike ride has been rescheduled to May 13, 2017 at 9:00 am at the St. Jacob’s Farmer Market. More information here: http://janeswalk.org/canada/waterloo-region/canada-will-celebrate-150-years-2017-join-me-janes-ride-st-jacobs-market-uptown-waterloo-we-will-be-riding-transcanada-trail-and/

#janeswalkwr