In June 2019, the AIBC initiated legal action against the City of Langford arising out of an illegal practice matter – a decision by the City’s Chief Building Inspector to issue a building permit, without an architect engaged, for a residential/commercial building that required an architect under the Architects Act. The AIBC brought a ‘judicial review’ and sought a declaration from the BC Supreme Court that the local government must consider the Architects Act in its permitting decisions, and that failure to do so was unreasonable.
On May 29, 2020, the judgment in the City of Langford judicial review was released, and the AIBC was successful in having the declaration issued by the courts. The full decision can be read here.
As a public interest regulator, the AIBC’s position has been that the Architects Act is a public health and safety law that must be appropriately considered by local governments. Some authorities have taken the stance that as long as the BC Building Code is complied with, there is no additional duty to ‘enforce’ or consider the Architects Act. The Langford judicial review was an opportunity to clarify the legal strength of these positions, and, as stated by Mr. Justice Stephen Kelleher in the decision, the AIBC had clear “public interest standing” to bring the case to court.
Several highlights from the decision are summarized below:
- The Architects Act is clearly a law relating to “health and safety”, with architects’ involvement in projects designed to minimize public risk through their specialized training, regulation by the AIBC, insurance coverage and continuing education [paragraphs 88-92];
- In order for a decision-maker’s decision to be reasonable, all relevant factors must be taken into account, and the requirements of the Architects Act were not considered by the local government in this case [paragraphs 106-107];
- The Building Code is a regulation under the Building Act, and cannot take precedence over the Architects Act (in terms of a local government deciding which ‘laws’ to follow or consider) [paragraphs 110-112];
- Langford’s decision to issue the permit without considering the Architects Act was unreasonable, and “Intervention by this court is required to safeguard legality and rationality” [paragraphs 114-115]; and
- The remedy of a “declaration” was appropriate to “provide guidance to municipal officials exercising their permitting powers.” [paragraphs 116-120].
This decision from the BC Supreme Court is a positive outcome that provides much-needed clarity regarding the intersection of the Architects Act and the municipal building permitting process in British Columbia. The case was advanced by the AIBC as a matter of public interest. The judicial confirmation of the status of the Architects Act is of benefit to building officials, owners, local governments across the province, and ultimately, the public.
While the AIBC was successful in this litigation, we will continue to work with local governments to achieve compliance through education and discussion, as ‘partners in the public interest’.
The AIBC is committed to providing guidance to the public, architects and other professionals, and local governments about the public protection role of the Institute through its mandate under the Architects Act. We encourage anybody with a professional practice question to contact one of our Practice Advisors at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any questions related to the Langford judgment can be directed to Thomas Lutes at email@example.com.