Karin Sillmann: Estonia has qualification levels for architects

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Karin Sillmann: Estonia has qualification levels for architects
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How construction and construction materials production problems are solved in the Baltic country

Karin SILLMAN, Head of Construction and Housing Policy Department of the Ministry of Economy and Communications of the Republic of Estonia, answers questions from the Construction.RU online journal.


Which agency or department of the Estonian Government is the construction industry regulator? What is it responsible for? In particular, are the issues of legislation and standard technical documents’ development and price setting in the construction industry included in the scope of its activity?

— In Estonia the Ministry of Economy and Communications, or more particularly the Department of Construction and Housing Policy, is responsible for the construction industry. Its mission is to take part in working out the governmental plan of the construction and utilities’ development and to provide for their implementation; to participate in the standardisation in the construction sphere and the conformance evaluation of the construction companies.

Additionally, the Department deals with the construction market control coordination and state surveillance in this sphere, plus it develops and maintains the registration of buildings. The Department has the right to take statutory and regulatory decisions on enterprises involved in construction and utilities.

The ministry is focused on the preparation and standardisation of bill drafts, excluding financial management and its control.


In Russia, self-regulation in the construction industry fails to prove its efficiency. As such, what is the state of things with regard to self-regulation in your country? Are there any trade unions for builders, construction material producers and other such public organisations in Estonia? What are their main tasks, from your point of view?


— There are either no trade unions in the sphere of construction in Estonia, or their influence is very weak.

The most influential are self-regulating professional associations, which coordinate their members’ activity and the work of organisations and also give advice to governmental structures and develop standards.


According to the latest data of the Department of statistics of Estonia, in the third quarter of 2016 the Estonian construction enterprises built real estate objects totalling 612 mln euro, which approximately corresponds to the results of the same period of 2015. Following these data can we assert that the crisis in the construction industry of Estonia is over and positive dynamics are setting in again?

Actually, the growth of construction activisation has been noted, and this points to the fact there has been a lightening of economic pressure.


What are the terms for issuing residential construction permits (for multi-family and individual houses) in your country? In Russia, one must collect 119 official documents. How many documents are needed in Estonia?

— The terms of issuing residential construction and commissioning permits are determined by the construction law of the Republic of Estonia. Условия выдачи разрешений на строительство и ввод в эксплуатацию предусмотрены строительным законодательством Эстонской Республики.

The usual response time is 30 days from the date of registration. Establishments and interested parties are given 10 days for the documents’ approval. Unless the documents meet all the requirements the administrative authority will demand to fill the gaps and the term of the procedure is then prolonged.


How long does the procedure take on the average?

— We do not have average statistical data concerning the terms of issuing permission in Estonia, but it is likely to be within 30 days. The number of documents to be presented depends on the location of objects and their peculiarities.


Is there any excessive bureaucracy in this sphere and if there is, how are you coping with it?

— To decrease bureaucracy we have introduced a digital procedure for considering permits since 2016. Recently, the system of getting permits for the construction of objects of low risk and of no public interest was simplified.


— The Estonian construction industry is mainly export oriented: some of your companies supply up to 90% of its production abroad. What are the advantages of the Estonian manufacturer with respect to price, quality, proximity to the market outlets or everything taken together?

— Estonian construction companies successfully export prefabricated modular wooden houses, concrete elements and facades. Construction materials and wooden structures are very competitive on the markets of neighbouring countries due to their price and quality.

I want to remark that western consumers’ credit for the quality of Estonian products and services is higher than to those from other countries of the former Eastern block. Estonian businessmen are entrusted with complicated tasks, such as design, engineering and main contracting works.


Once, Estonian producers of crushed stone, kerbs and other construction materials faced the problem of the requirements strictly in compliance with the European standard. What is the situation now when it comes to the work according to the European standards? Did they have to add anything to enhance the quality and competitiveness?

— Estonian products are among the most competitive on the European market as they correspond to all the criteria of the European standards developed and admitted by the EU. There is no statistical data on quality increase but the quality control is undoubtedly high.


— Finland is one of the world's leaders and trendsetters in the field of modern wooden housing. How about Estonia? Do you use your neighbours’ experience?

— There is a chain of enterprises in Estonia dealing with the production and construction of wooden houses. Our country is one of the chief exporters of wooden structures all over Europe: the export turnover of wooden buildings totals about 300 m euro and is growing rapidly. The advantages of Estonian production are in its quality, the feasibility of the producers’ policy and a competitive price. For example, a year ago an Estonian enterprise took part in the construction of the highest wooden building in Bergen (Norway).


How does the housing utilities system work in Estonia? Are there any complaints from citizens about the activities of the managing companies?

Enterprises render municipal services in accordance with the law.


— What is the status of the chief architect in Estonia? How independent and autonomous is this official in making decisions?

— The Estonian Ministry of Culture is going to organise a round table discussion in the nearest future to consider the idea of creating the position of a state architect. And, presently, architects of the municipal authorities are responsible for spatial planning.


How is an architect’s qualification appraised? Is there any ranking?

The Architects’ Union of Estonia created a qualification committee which is responsible for the granting of corresponding levels of qualification to architects: a licensed architect being level 7, an authorised architect at level 7 and an authorised architect-expert, level 8.

Alexander GUSEV