No replacement for professional body

The Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA) is South Africa’s professional body for the timber construction sector and has worked tirelessly in service of both the trade it represents and South African consumers for 45 years.

As a professional body for the engineered timber construction industry, the ITC-SA’s vision is to create and maintain the highest standards in the engineered timber construction industry by monitoring its membership, continuously improving standards, promoting and marketing engineered timber structures, and overseeing the training and development of its members.

What is a professional body?

In 2013, the ITC-SA became a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) accredited professional body, holding professional membership. In this capacity, the Institute must comply with the requirements set out by the National Qualifications Framework Act (NQF Act 67 of 2008) as amended.

A SAQA-accredited professional body must be a legally constituted entity with the necessary human and financial resources to undertake its functions, governed either by a statute, charter or a constitution and be compliant with and adhere to good corporate governance practices.

The role of the Voluntary Association (VA)

The ITC-SA has recently been recognised by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) as a Voluntary Association in line with the newly-gazetted Voluntary Associations Recognition Framework, which came into effect in 2018.

According to Amanda Obbes, ITC-SA General Manager, “The amendments to the Recognition Framework are welcomed by the Institute. The changes necessitate that VAs will have to be more accountable for the responsibilities outlined in the framework, the most important being the promotion of ECSA registration. The update also facilitates a closer working relationship between ECSA and VAs than ever before.”

“Recognised VAs, like the ITC-SA, are benefitted through their association with a reputable and credible regulatory body, through which they may also apply for CPD accreditation,” says Obbes, remarking, “The ITC-SA’s now-enhanced association with ECSA will be passed on to its membership, and has great potential to influence an upswing in its reputational profile through dynamic collaboration in programmes and on projects. ITC-SA members also qualify for discounts with ECSA due to their recognised VA membership status. This not only bodes well for the ITC-SA membership, but serves the greater construction industry and the ever-important consumer at the end of the value chain.”

According to Advocate Jacqui Grove of Grove Governance Consultants, in her article, titled, The role of associations in the regulation and promotion of professional conduct standards1, published in Directorship (Q1 2019), “While membership is not a condition of practice in a specific field, these associations strive to advance the profession, advocate for their industry, and elevate the professionalism of their members as a competitive advantage.”

“The fundamental difference between the so-called statutory or regulatory associations and a voluntary association lies in the fact that the former is empowered by legislation, while the latter relies on the principles of contract between association and its members. These voluntary associations generally set standards in two areas, namely qualification and conduct, with conduct regulation being the topic of interest here.”

“Self-regulated professionalism, underpinned by peer review of member conduct, is a hallmark of practicing a profession.” ~ Advocate Jacqui Grove

“Self-regulated professionalism, underpinned by peer review of member conduct, is a hallmark of practicing a profession. While it is understood that membership is voluntary, by accepting the terms of membership members undertake to conduct themselves in a manner which supports the aim and objectives of their association and they agree that their conduct will be subject to peer review.”

The importance of the ITC-SA for the industry

It is essential that an accredited professional body like the ITC-SA regulate and monitor its members’ individual profiles and performance with regards to training undertaken and completed for professional recognition. This training is in line with the criteria set by the ITC-SA and is approved by SAQA, and is key for the promotion and monitoring of continuous professional development (CPD) for members to meet the relevant professional designation requirements.

All professional members recognised by the ITC-SA must abide by the Institute’s published Code of Conduct as well as its mechanism for reporting and investigating members who are alleged to have contravened this Code.

The ITC-SA works to ensure that the industry’s viewpoints are accommodated and protected in the compilation of all documents on grading specifications, design codes and matters affecting National Building Regulations. The Institute’s Timber Engineering Advisory Committee (TEAC) maintains its status as the official drafting committee for the code of practice for the Design of Timber Structures.

The ITC-SA ensures the continued existence of the Standards, Inspections and Audits Committee, in order to regulate and control safe and consistent standards within the industry. The Institute will pursue and assist in the enforcement of the ‘A19’ process of the National Building Regulations through all local authorities by offering the ITC-SA Accredited Engineers and appointed Inspectors to fulfil the role of Approved Members of the structural system in order to comply with statutory requirements.

The ITC-SA carries out random inspections of truss manufacturing plants to uplift and maintain desired quality standards in the industry, and Erectors and Timber Frame Builder Members also undergo annual audits to ensure compliance. The Institute works to ensure close liaison with the education sector and training authorities in the development of unit standards for the manufacture of nail-plated timber roof trusses, for the erection of timber roof trusses, and to facilitate training in these disciplines, in compliance with the Skills Development Act.

The ITC-SA works to establish a Certificate of Competence for truss estimators/designers, to promote a code of ethics for roof truss fabricators, to monitor the contractual obligations of systems and licensees and ensure adherence to agreed procedures, and to continuously update bracing and erection manuals in order to disseminate correct procedures to members and to the industry at large.

Adding value to industry through industry

As a SAQA-accredited professional body and VA, the ITC-SA has well-established partnerships throughout the industry to support not only its membership, but to elevate the standards of the trade for a better industry overall. The Institute actively collaborates with a host of government organisations, such as the Department of Trade & Industry (dti) on the promotion of a wood culture in South Africa, the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) on specialist training in timber design and erection, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), particularly with the Disaster Prevention Department, and presents dynamic workshops to industry professionals, like engineers and architects, who impact tremendously on the timber construction value chain. The ITC-SA has cultivated these partnerships over decades and has fostered an exclusive rapport with these entities, the advantages of which are far-reaching.

How does the ITC-SA protect the consumer?

A professional body like the ITC-SA has the intent to protect the public interest in relation to the services provided by its members and the associated risks. Recognised and accredited professional bodies like the ITC-SA are mandated to develop, award, monitor and revoke its professional designations in terms of its own rules, legislation and/or international conventions.

The role of the ITC-SA is to ensure consumer protection in the use of timber engineered products in contracts entered into with the ITC-SA membership and to regulate the professional conduct of its members. Where prima facie evidence confirms professional misconduct, in order to protect the consumer and the reputation of the industry, the ITC-SA shall apply proper sanctions.

How can consumers protect themselves against poor workmanship?

While many people try to save on the construction of their roof, timber home or deck, they often end up spending more remedying the problems that arise from using sub-standard materials and workmanship.

For a professional and long-lasting end result, it is essential to engage the services of a professional, knowledgeable and experienced individual. This will, no doubt, cost more initially than engaging the services of an unqualified individual, but will save a great deal of money and stress down the line.

Educate yourself as far as possible on the dos and don’ts of timber construction and whether you are a homeowner or property developer looking to have any type of timber structure built, do the right thing and enlist the services of an ITC-SA accredited member. Doing otherwise puts you at risk of having to accept poor quality materials and shoddy workmanship, and with little or no recourse to recover losses.

In short:

  • Cheaper is never better
  • Saving costs on a timber construction project will most likely cost you more down the line
  • Hiring a builder that is not registered puts you at risk of having no method of recourse should things go wrong
  • For complete peace of mind, hire an ITC-SA accredited professional who is an expert in the field of timber construction to assist you with your construction project

With the ITC-SA, both the trade and consumer can enjoy the peace of mind and protection that come with a safely erected and inspected timber frame home, roof or deck structure. The Institute encourages queries and engagement from both the trade and the public and will assist where possible to help inform and educate the market on timber construction best practice.

For more information, visit www.itc-sa.org.

Reference:

  1. Grove, Jacqui. Adv. The role of associations in the regulation and promotion of professional conduct standards. Directorship. (Q1 2019). https://ipaper.ipapercms.dk/Iodsa/directorship-q1/?page=1 Accessed: 5 February 2019.

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