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Last edited 01 Feb 2018
The Europe Centre
Simon Coggins-Hill MCIAT, Centre Chairman reports on what the Europe Centre is doing and the members involved.
The Europe Centre has more than 90 members across 19 different countries representing the profession, and covers a wide range of specialisms within the Architectural Technology discipline. Nearly 70% of the members are students and 30% are Associate or Chartered members.
The Europe Centre covers a large area, with different approaches to Architectural Technology — we therefore have an invaluable and diverse resource of talent, knowledge and experience, that can enrich not only the Institute, but our profession as a whole.
Over half of the Centre’s members are based in Denmark, where Architectural Technologists are a well-regarded and important part of the design and built environment sector. However, the Centre Committee is well aware of the fact that the role of the Europe Centre is not always as easily understood, or appreciated in other countries.
 The Centre’s aims
The main aim of the Centre is to develop initiatives that will not only increase the profile and visibility of all our members in Europe, but also create an active member network where members can connect and exchange knowledge and experiences.
 Developing a European aspirATion Group
The Europe Centre wants to promote an active member base, and the aspirATion Group has already generated interest within the student members in Denmark. The Centre is keen for this to ultimately be a Group set up for and organised by the members themselves.
We want to give the members a voice and a platform on which to actively engage with one another, not just within the world of Architectural Technology, but across cultures. We have set up Facebook and LinkedIn groups which all members are free to join and contribute to as they wish. They are both at early stages of development, at the moment, but it is hoped that they will become a source of networking, advice and knowledge specific to the needs of our members, and help us to build a strong voice for Architectural Technologists in Europe.
We have also been keen to promote the profession and membership to CIAT at an educational level and have promoted membership of the Institute to students at VIA University College, Aarhus, Denmark, and hope to and hope to continue to do this elsewhere in Europe.
The Centre only has a committee of three at the moment and we are eager for other members to play a proactive part in the development and running of the Centre. It is only with an active membership can we begin to truly reap the benefits of the wealth of experience, knowledge, expertise and cultural mix across the membership within Europe.
 Development of a European showcase for all members
The Centre is seeking to create an invaluable resource for all members of CIAT, not just those based in Europe, and to promote what European members have to offer to the discipline of Architectural Technology.
 The benefits
By playing an active part in the Europe Centre members will:
- Have a say in how they want their Centre to develop and grow.
- Help build a platform for members within Europe to exchange experience, expertise and cultures.
- Provide a collective voice for all members based within Europe.
- Help build the profile of CIAT and the discipline of Architectural Technology within Europe.
- Help create a resource for all CIAT members looking for opportunities within Europe.
I caught up with Edward Lowes ACIAT, also based in Germany, and learnt about his experiences as an Architectural Technologist:
"I moved to Austria and then to Germany under the freedom of movement enabled by the UK’s membership of the EU, which made things very easy — no work permit or visa necessary. I just needed to register with the local authorities in the same way that Austrian and German nationals do. I could even be paid into my UK bank account at the beginning. It remains to be seen what kind of status British citizens working in EU countries will have following Brexit, but I would urge anyone considering working on the continent not to be put off by upcoming bureaucracy — it will be worth the paperwork!
"In my case, I really wanted to learn more about Passivhaus, so I wrote to the Passivhaus Institut to ask them about mid-career internship opportunities. As it happened, their team in Innsbruck was involved in an EU-funded project to do with low-energy refurbishment (Sinfonia Smart Cities), which matched my experience. I moved there in mid-2015 to do a six month placement and at the end of the year, an opportunity came up in the component certification department in Darmstadt (close to Frankfurt), so I applied and moved there at the start of 2016. In my opinion, if you want to expand your horizons and can manage it financially, doing an internship is a good way to ‘steer’ your career in a new direction.
"The type of projects that I work on include Passivhaus component certification: working with manufacturers of window frames and construction systems, I examine the thermal performance of their products (U-value, Psi-value, Chi-value and fRsi/condensation risk assessment calculations) using finite element method (FEM) numerical modelling software against the Passivhaus Institut-defined criteria for the relevant climate zone.
"Essentially, I take CAD designs and convert them to mathematical models. Passivhaussuitable products are then certified and included in our online component database and software products — PHPP and designPH. The manufacturers we work with are for the most part located in German-speaking countries, but as I have English as my first language I tend to be assigned to international projects, e.g. UK, USA, Canada and China, as well as continental neighbours — France, Belgium, Spain and Poland.
"Although most of my projects are carried out in English, the working language at the institute is German. I arrived with my A-Level German and what I had learned from a year out in Berlin, which was sufficient at the beginning, but getting to grips with the necessary technical language (and CAD commands!) has been the biggest challenge by far. I realised I must have made progress recently when I was asked to do some German to English translation on a tour around passive house buildings after our conference in Vienna; I was very nervous as Viennese German is spoken with a very strong accent, but thankfully those I worked with were kind enough to speak slowly and clearly, and everything went fine.
"The positive experiences encountered are vastly expanding my knowledge of low energy building/component design; learning how to use numerical modelling software; working with manufacturers from all over the world; being able to attend two Passivhaus conferences; working with some of the most passionate individuals I’ve ever met."
 About me
I started my career in the built environment at the end of 1987, working as an Architectural Technician with a small practice in Northamptonshire, completing both my ONC and HNC in Building Studies on a part time basis. I became a Chartered Member in 2000 and relocated to Germany in 2003, since then I have worked freelance providing architectural services to the UK.
Over the years, I have had the good fortune to work on many projects of various sizes and complexity and in a range of sectors. These have included residential developments, conversion and conservation of listed buildings, a specialist surgery unit, nursery schools, a multi-storey car park, a flagship DIY store development, and even an equestrian training and welfare facility to name just a few.
Since moving to Germany, I have experienced at first hand the issues that members can face regarding the limited recognition of our profession outside the UK. As our profession is neither recognised nor regulated in the country, I am only permitted to work on projects within Germany as an employee of a German registered company or architectural practice. I cannot run my own practice offering services within Germany. I can work as a freelancer, but I am only permitted to work for UK registered companies and architects, and only on projects constructed within the UK.
To add to the complication, I am only able to obtain my professional indemnity insurance through a UK based insurer and, as I live in Germany, I pay a significantly increased premium compared to UK based members.
The main challenges of being a freelancer are obtaining work, maintaining cash flow and the timely payment of my invoices. The other significant challenge, of course, is the juggling of the all-important work/life balance. Working freelance outside the UK has its many challenges; however, it does provide the flexibility and indeed the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and for a range of clients. Thus keeping the daily work challenging, interesting and ultimately rewarding.
As a freelancer, I also have complete control of the standards to which I work and have the flexibility to customise workflows to suit individual client requirements and budgets. There is no such thing as ‘one solution fits all’.
Living and working in Germany, also provides the ideal opportunity to gain knowledge of Architectural Technology and design outside of the UK industry and see the different approaches to very similar design challenges. Should any member be thinking of relocating to and finding work within Germany, the first thing to remember is that the role of the Architectural Technologist, as we know it in the UK, does not exist within the built environment sector in German.
The role of the Architectural Technologist is pretty much absorbed within the roles of the architect and building engineer. However, that does not mean that a member could not gain employment within an architectural practice or with the likes of the Passivhaus Institut.
Within Germany there is the Association of German Architects (Bund Deutscher Architekten [BDA]) which is the equivalent of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in the UK. As Germany is a federal republic, each state has its own chapter of architects and each chapter has a slightly different set of criteria with regard to becoming a member.
Before looking for a job in Germany, you will obviously first decide in which state you wish to work and live, then you would need to approach the Association of German Architects and the chapter of architects for that state. They will then guide you on requirements and may also be able to assist you with contact details of architects within the area you wish to move to.
Another valuable source is the Bundesagentur für Arbeit which is the equivalent of the employment office in the UK. Not only will it assist you with finding employment, it can also provide details in regards to visas and all the information you will need to be able to live and work in Germany. It should also be borne in mind that things may become more complex over the coming months with regards to the UK leaving the EU.
 Joining the Europe Centre Committee
If you are a member based in the Europe Centre and would like to get involved with the Centre Committee or work with the International Department to develop the discipline in Europe, please contact the Editor of AT at [email protected]ciat.org.uk
This article was originally published in AT ed. 122. It was written by Simon Coggins-Hill MCIAT, Centre Chairman.
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