Architect revives concerns

| 23/06/2009

(CNS): Local architects are not able to compete on a level playing field in their own country, according to a member of the profession who has said that the Planning Department is not stopping developers and builders from using overseas architects who don’t have licences or work permits and don’t know the local law. Eddie Thompson said that locals in the industry are getting a raw deal, as anyone from anywhere is allowed to draw plans and designs for buildings to be erected in Cayman, despite not knowing the local physical, legal or social geography of the islands.

“We have a situation with the electronic age where a developer can simply e-mail an architect who is on-line and order plans,” said Thompson. “That architect may come for a quick visit but he is free to do the work and supply the designs which planning will accept, despite that they have been drawn up by someone with no knowledge of our regulations or geography.”

Thompson who has been in the business for several years here and who also recently ran for a seat in the Legislative Assembly in the 20 May elections, noted that in all other professions those coming from outside have to meet certain standards to practice here and that throughout the US architects are not even allowed to practice from state to state without meeting certain criteria.

“An architect working out of California can’t just pick up and go practice in Florida because of the obvious geographical and environmental differences they would have to make an application to change their practice region and demonstrate their capabilities,” he explained.

Thompson said, however, that Kenneth Ebanks the Director of Planning is accepting plans drawn up by designers who may never have even been here which often results in major problems and the whole project being started over, because the plans may get past the first stage of planning but won’t pass building control.

“It is very disappointing that the director says he is not able to prevent this when he could,” said Thompson, adding that it was very disappointing that Cayman’s own Planning Department won’t protect local professionals and consumers from the problems arising when people are using overseas architects that are simply not qualified to work here.

Thompson said that on occasion firms based in Cayman looking at designing new officers, for example, have imported and employed temporary architects to work here when they have a trade and business license for an entirely different industry. He lamented the fact that Cayman was simply not protecting its own people who are forced to meet the local business criteria but if they are going to have to continue competing with architects that are not having to meet local overheads the professional will not be ale to flourish and develop young talent.

Moreover, consumers will continue to be lulled down the cheap plans route only to have to pay again when everything goes wrong, he said. Thompson said that when former leader of government business was elected in 2005 he had promised to address this and other issues that have concerned the profession for many years, but nothing happened.

“Kurt Tibbetts promised when he came in office last to address this but nothing has happened,” he said. “Consultants came and produced the Zucker Report, most of which planning has still not implemented. The rest of Builders Law is almost dead in the water and our profession still has no register of professional architects or formal standards.”

Thompson said he and others in the profession believe that it is time to address the situation to create a level playing field for the profession and improve standards.

“At the moment it is like taxation without representation,” said Thompson. “We all meet the local business criteria and pay our license. We are expected to train the next generation of architects and we are knowledgeable about the regulations and needs of the local landscape. Yet our own government is not protecting us from overseas competitors that have no licences and an unfair advantage.”

Thompson said he was happy to see overseas professionals working here, especially for the larger developments, but he said it would be beneficial to all parties if they were expected to partner with local firms if they are to practice here. He said that often occurs with major projects but he lamented the circumstances where foreign made plans that do not adhere to local regulations are slipping through the net and seriously undermining the local profession.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If only local architects would be allowed to draw and submit plans, the caymanians would be the ones that suffer.

    Many people can afford a mortgage, but can NOT afford the greedy fees of local architects.

    Resulting in only the rich owning houses.

    It is the same old story, local companies want a monopoly, to satisfy their greed.

    It should stay a right of everybody to draw their own plans. There are many amateur, non-licensed architects that do a good job and keep it affordable for the locals to get their own house.

    Shouldn’t we more worry about the lack of healthcare, minimum wage, crime etc.

    I am getting sick of this island.

  2. Ricard Davido says:

    "Professionals (whether accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers of architects, must be accountable by the laws of the jurisdiction in respect of which they are practising their profession."

    That is simply not true in Cayman – there is no accountability of lawyers in Cayman.  The accountability of accountants is probably theoretical.

    More importantly if the purchaser of services is happy with the allocation of risks and professional responsibilities of the service provider then it is the market, not the self-interested protectionist, who most efficiently determines what is needed.

    If architects here cannot compete they have four options – 1) lower prices 2) provide better services 3) move elsewhere or 4) do something else that they are more efficient at.  Cayman architects (and most of the posters on this board) need to understand the concept of comparative advantage.  The only people who will benefit from protectionism advocated by the architects are, guess who, the architects, who will be able exploit market distortions.  The people of Cayman would be worse off, ask David Ricardo.

    • Anonymous says:

      "That is simply not true in Cayman – there is no accountability of lawyers in Cayman.  The accountability of accountants is probably theoretical".

      Actually there is accountability for lawyers via the AG, the Chief Justice and the courts generally. Lawyers have in the past actually been suspended from practice for a period. However, it is correct to state that thereshould be a more effective and comprehensive regime. That is promised in the proposed changes to the Legal Practitioners Law.  The point is that it ought to be the case.

    • Anonymous says:

      "More importantly if the purchaser of services is happy with the allocation of risks and professional responsibilities of the service provider then it is the market, not the self-interested protectionist, who most efficiently determines what is needed".

      Everyone is happy with the risk until something goes wrong. What happens when your building is mal-constructed and the contractor blames the architect? The issue may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Where would you resolve your dispute?    

      • Anonymous says:

        Resolve the dispute with the building control – the plans are given to them as PROFESSIONALS in the field and they scrutinize what the architects have drawn and approve these plans (floor plans/site plans/structural plans/electrical plans/plumbing plans/mechanical plans and the list goes on and on and the fees go on and on). The buildings are then built according to the plans and the planning laws and inspected and passed at different stages – so whats the problem where the bloody architect comes from.

        • Anonymous says:

          "so whats the problem where the bloody architect comes from".

          This has already been explained. If you think that approval by building control necessarily resolves all the issues you could have vis-a-vis an architect’s plans you have got another guess coming. Building control’s function is not to resolve disputes between builders, owners and architects.   

  3. Caymanluvr says:

    I agree.  The architectural fees in Cayman are astronomical in comparison with other jurisdictions.  Moreover, is Cayman’s building code not based on Florida code?  Why is everything at a premium in Cayman?

  4. Thankful says:

    "The market has determined that the local product is not good enough"

    What a spoilt-behind market!   Da market always seem to think that local ANYTHING is not good enough!  Da one statement just irks me.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Someone used the example of bringing in overseas goods. You can – but only if you pay customs fees, freight charges and import duty. Likewise, you can bring in a foreign architect, if you pay work permit fees and a T&B.  These are simply the equivalent of import duties. It is how our small countrey raises revenue and regulates industry. WTF is so objectionable in that? That is all Eddy is suggesting and almost every local person is firmly on his side.

  6. A. Smith says:

    If the local architects could produce comparable products and reaosnable comparable prices they would not have this problem.  If foreign architects did produce unsafe designed then banks would not loan on those properties.  But banks do loan, and so the safety argument is obviously scaremongering.  The market has determined that the local product is not good enough. 

    Cut your fees Eddie.  Build some new business relationships.  Stop trying to get monopolistic profits through ill-conceived legislation.

  7. Richard Wadd says:


    You are correct, and this is precisely why I used the word ‘Local’ and NOT Caymanian.

    Being Caymanian has NOTHING to do with it. Being a Locally established and Articled firm does.

    No, the Architectural Engineering does not have to be prepared either in Cayman or by Caymanians (that would be a stupid argument), but a Locally accredited firm or Architect should be requiered to check, inspect, and verify the Plans to ensure that the unique requierments of our islands and planning Laws are conformed with.

    If nothing else, it simply makes good sense. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Why the hell should a local firm have to check anything with these plans. We have the building control who are qualified to do this and that is why the plans are submitted to them for approval. If the government has a body of persons in place to do this and they are being paid a fee then why should we have to pay a local company to do this. Just another way of putting building fees up. Let the local architects put their fees down to a more reasonable figure and then maybe they would be used. It also doesnt take a rocket scientist to draw up single dwelling house plans.

  8. Wy-agra says:

    Have to agree, the Walkers building and the Captains Bakery, amongst others, do seem to be suffering from rather severe cases of erectile dysfunction!

  9. noname says:

    If I come to Cayman to build a home, select a builder and give him my plans (no matter if drawn by me or by an architect), the builder will submit the plans to the Planning Department and, upon approval, build my house.

    Conversely, if I leave Cayman with house plans in hand (no matter if drawn by me or a Caymanian architect) and want to build in Where ever, I select a builder, get planning approval and build my house.


  10. Anonymous says:

    This is a real issue in the country. Should everyone who arrives here have the ability to bring products with them to sell, set up a legal practice without a local Trade & Business, our come on their own boat and start to take folks out to sting ray city, our just walk into the offices and get hired without a permit, or bring their tools and start to build that afternoon. This has nothing to do with Expats. This has to do with the right to do business in the country–clearly the laws are being broken.

    No local architect would (or could) expect to get on a flight and go to practice in Miami tomorrow. If someone wants to use an overseas architect that is okay but they should have the proper license to operate here. And they should pay fees to the Government to help defray the cost of our deficit.

    Registration and the proper qualifications is critical for this country to move forward. And it will help the “little man” as well who will less likely get ripped off by some one calling themselves and architect when they are not.
    What I understand is that there are only about 15 fully qualified architects on the Island and only 3 or 4 of them Caymanian however most registration acts do not require a registered architect to submit houses and small buildings. Registration therefore would not add any cost to the majority the submissions to the Planning Department. Even some of the most “backward” Caribbean Islands have professional registration laws. What is wrong with Cayman?
    Protect the local businesses or soonyou might be without a job too.

  11. Annoymous says:


    Doesn’t surprise me this pandora box wasn’t opened before.  Those who think this is a Caymanian vs Expat thing, we hell it is!!!   Why must we keep suffering to get ahead in life if we can’t get preferrential treatment when it comes to doing business locally.  Can any of our Architects produce a set of plans for a client in New York, Canada or the UK?  Hell NO!!  Why must we put our people out of business to satisfy a few foreigners who feel that we are not good enough to enjoy some of the pie.

    I am glad Eddie Thompson brought this up, and don’t stop until something is done about it to regulate it so that all local Architects can benefit fully.  Our Governments need to stop fleecing our own people, the same ones who voted them into office.

    It’s bad enough having to compete with the new Caymanians and their business practices, but now we have to compete with outside overseas businesses as well, with no legal rights to practices business in the Cayman Islands.  There is no regulatory body walking around ensuring that everyone who is doing business in this country is licensed to do so and has paid their fees to practice same.  THis is why anyone and everyone can walk upon our shores and engage in FRONTING, and impose their business rights because NO ONE IS REGULATING anything.

    Yet, when my T&B License was expired for 6 months hanging on my wall in my business waiting on the renewal to arrive an RCIP Officer challenged me on it and I had to produce my receipt to show that I had paid for the renewal.  I am Caymanian to the bone.  We have no rights in this country non whatsoever, because those of us Caymanians in power abuse this power and keep the rest of us down.  Shame on the whole lot of you who do this and I hope you receive your repercussions for your actions very soon.

    We have to survive, and if plans must be imported from overseas businesses then they should have to retain the services of a local Architectural Firm to formulate these plans to meet all the requirements of the local laws in this country.  It is absolute and utter rubbish, that this is happening, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Mr. Thompson, keep this out there, do not stop from raising the issue, the people will support you on this and if you have to go as far as a petition do so and get all the signatures you need to petition and lobby the Government to fix this problem in your sector and any other sector that is being affected too.

    TIme to stop fleecing the Caymanian business owner out of his rightful share.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe we should just stop importing stuff alltogether and just use locally produced items. This is ridiculous. If you cant use overseas plans then we should not be permitted to wear overseas clothes. The people who made these clothes are not licenced to operate in the Cayman islands and are not paying any fees so why are we allowed to import clothing? I say all our clothes MUST be made locally by local seamstresses. How about that!!! Stupid Stupid Stupid. Locals just have to learn to be more competitive with their prices.

      • Anon says:

        "Maybe we should just stop importing stuff alltogether and just use locally produced items".

        Not the same issue. Silly analogy. While protectionism may be one of the motives for this complaint it is by no means the only or indeed the most important issue. Professionals (whether accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers of architects, must be accountable by the laws of the jurisdiction in respect of which they are practising their profession.

  12. Anonymous says:

    These comments are just widening the Expat Caymanian divide.  The point is simple.

    People require Trade and Business Licences to operate here. They pay a fee every year to Government.If employees are not  Caymanian they need  a work permit. Local businesses provide revenue for this community – Caymanians AND Expats. If someone walks off a plane, lies and says they are a tourist, walks to the local Fedex office and collects the plans they couriered ahead to avoid getting caught by Immigration or Customs at the airport, and walks into planning and submits them for planning permission they are breaking the laws of these Islands and they are screwing a bunch of very competent and internationally trained Caymanians and Expatriates (together "locals") who make their living here.  

    The developers who are using the services of foreigners in this way are operating illegally – including employing persons withoout work permits.

    If Government charges you fees to ply your trade then you deserve protection from competition that owes fees but does not pay them. If Government is encouraging you to train local people and you are, you deserve protection from persons who will not.

    As for the suggestion that foreign is better – ask any Walkers Partner whether they would be better off if they had gone through a local architect (one that understood planning laws here, construction methods, skills, materials, local costings, feet and inches … and stuff like that and they are likely to have several million (CI) reasons why they would have rather done it another way.

    Nothing wrong with using foreign architects … but all would save a lot of money and hassle if there was a qualified local team involved from the start.


  13. Frequent Flyer says:

    Sure, get a local architect to charge $$$$ for authorization before it goes to Planning!???!!  That’s the way to increase the economy, eh!  How many more fees, requirements and regulations can you nuts come up with!!?

    Would this be the same Planning Board that allowed a CIRCUS TENT on SMB road!!? No offense  to the Captain’s Bakery, but that circus top is the biggest, most ridiculous embarrassment on this island! The Walker’s building is far superior to the Big Top!

  14. Travis Ritch says:

    It is more cost-effective to get plans this way.  The problem is the plans invariably fail to account for something topographical, legal or otherwise, which results in overruns, failing inspections etc. all of which ends up costing more at the end.  This has nothing to do with true-blue, green and red, catboats, rollover, nothing – a local architect should always always always design, submit and supervise anything which is going to be built here, and by local I don’t mean 15 generations of daily church attendance, I mean based and operating in this jurisdiction – ie. anyone as long as they are here, comply with our laws, and have experience.  Both governments have gotten this issue wrong, and so it has nothing to do with either of them.

    Please, people: see the distinction.

    • Tanya S. Whittaker says:

      "It is more cost-effective to get plans this way.  The problem is the plans invariably fail to account for something topographical, legal or otherwise, which results in overruns, failing inspections etc. all of which ends up costing more at the end……"

      Your points are excellent Travis and I hope that people would take the time to understand the real jist of this issue and stop looking for an opportunity to start a cat fight on Expat vs Caymanian, Walker building vs Captain’s Bakery etc…total ignorance!


  15. Anonymous says:

    If it makes sense to get you r plans drawn up overseas because it is more cost effective or more accurate then what’s the problem? In these times where the marketplace is global, why should a business or individual building a property be forced to use a sub-standard and very expensive architect from Grand Cayman when they could get a much better deal elsewhere.

    Just because somebody isn’t a born caymanian, doesn’t mean that they can’t read or understand the Cayman Islands planning laws.

    The country has been held back for too long by the protectionist governments that micro-manage every business to ensure they cannot truly grow or prosper in the country. This is what puts people off investing here and it’s this red tape that makes it too expensive for local businesses to compete with international rivals.

  16. Travis Ritch says:

    There are excellent points here.

    It would be a shame to see debate about this issue devolve into mindless mud-slinging because it really is quite simple.  The only accepted argument for displacing Caymanians in the workplace and the market – which is reflected in our laws – is that where the foreign party is more capable.  This capability does not necessarily flow from ‘better’ qualifications.  In this case, and this is not new, there is an inverse correlation.  This is why we have eyesores like Walkers cluttering up George Town.

    This is an issue about which there should be no debate.  Local architects and contractors should be used wherever possible simply because the result is usually superior.  That is the baseline argument.  Everything else about encouraging Caymanians and tackling the double standard as it relates to the cost of doing business here etc. is important but secondary.

    I hope comments on this article don’t descend into formulaic ‘well if Caymanians could do the job we wouldn’t be here’  – ‘go home if you don’t like it!’ – drivel, because they actually don’t have anything to do with this issue, but there we are.

  17. voice of reason says:

    Just how many qualifid Caymanian ‘architects’ are there? And where did they go to study? Where did they qualify? Do Thompsons do architectural work solely for the cayman Islands or do they do work abroad, in countries they’ve never been to? Your argument is unravelling Mr Thompson….

  18. voice of reason says:

    Ok guys, before we get into the whole ‘expats are the spawn of the devil’ routine here, please read this story carefully.

    Firstly, what qualifies a local architect to be prefered for jobs in Cayman, unless Thompson employs exclusively Caymanian architects (unlikely) and secondly, please read again just exactly who it is that is prefering overseas companies, that will be your own Caymanian brothers and sisters, the Planning Department of the CAYMAN Government.

    Are they (the planning dept) all expats? Is it a conspiracy? NO, it is not, maybe the overseas companies offer a better product, maybe they don’t, but before we descend into the expat bashing rhetoric, think of a solution to help the local companies too. Because simply saying ‘give it to Caymanians’ doesn’t cut it anymore.



  19. Wonder Woman says:

    Eddie is so right and unfortunately this type of behaviour is practiced in almost every facet of Caymanian life. The most hurtful fact is that the Cayman Islands Government, in its practice, is the single largest perpetrator of such injustices. Take for example the only major construction projects at this time; i.e the Government Admin Building and the new schools.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Planning is  possibly aiding and abetting in an offence under both the Immigration and Trade & Business Laws if this is true. I understand some of the individuals who have been recently "resigned" from the Planning Board were actually putting pressure that only licensed persons could or should be allowed to submit plans – or at least that plans were submitted through a local authorised agent. They were on the verge of making a real difference … and now Caymanians get screwed again.


    Come on guys!  $#@#$&%^%&^&*!

  21. Big D says:

    Some folks are finally figuring out what everybody already knows that this islands is being overwhelm in every corner of our society. Welcome aboard Mr Thompson Ex chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. I hope the rest of Cayman finally wakes up.

  22. Protectionism says:

    Are builders complaining about this – No.  Are home buyers complaining about this – No.  This is an obvious and pathetic attempt to promote protectionism at the expense of the Cayman consumer. What he wants is to dramatically increase the costs of building in Cayman and to fend of competition.  If architects locally improved the costs or service efficiencies they would be used more. 

  23. Richard Wadd says:

     This is a serious problem that has existed here for decades.  Eddie’s points are not only valid, they reveal a very serious safety issue. 

    The planet we live on is made up of a multitude of geological variations, and unique environments, which may vary, not just from country to country, but even with a single district. There are several examples of this right here in our very small islands.

    It is not just an issue that Architects ‘should’, but rather MUST be accredited and Licensed to operate here in Cayman.

    While I will not rule out Collaberation between Local and Overseas Architects (it would be impossible even entertain certain projects without access to overseas experience and technology), it should be a matter of Building Law, that all plans have to be signed-off by a Local Architect, who must ensure that ALL building codes, regulations, and matters of safety have been addressed.

    No Plans should be accepted by Planning unless this is satisfactory.

    This is only common sense …… but that dosn’t seem to be as ‘common’ around here as it should be.