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Alliance for High Building Culture Organizes International Conference

"Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"

Challenges Facing Architects and Engineers on the Path to a Harmonious Living Environment in the Focus of Experts from Several European Countries
​The non-profit organization "ALLIANCE FOR HIGH BUILDING CULTURE" (AVSK) organized an international conference on the theme "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment," held on May 8 in the "Vasil Levski" hall of the Hyatt Regency Sofia Hotel. Established experts from Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovenia presented the challenges facing the regulated professions of ‘architect’ and ‘engineer’ in the construction sector on the path to a harmonious living environment.

​What are the professional challenges facing architects and engineers in Europe to ensure the quality of the environment? How do German architects enhance their professional skills? How have countries from the former socialist bloc managed to take leading positions, in terms of high building culture? These are some of the questions discussed at the conference by architects, engineers, and construction law lawyers. After a thorough analysis ... 

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​​After a thorough analysis of the problems that hinder the creation of a quality built environment in Bulgaria, which depend on the work of architects and engineers, three positions/statements were established and highlighted:   
 
- There cannot be quality buildings when architects and engineers are excluded from the building creation process as early as the construction permit phase. Even more detrimental is the case when through "engineering" they are subordinated to builders. In Europe, over 2/3 of the work of architects and engineers is concentrated after the construction permit is obtained, namely in the phases of project detailing, selection of the best builder, and continuous quality control of the implementation until completion.    

- It cannot be relied upon that in today's conditions of rapidly developing construction technologies and an increasing number of new materials, an interdisciplinary profession like architecture can be mastered qualitatively with only 5 years of university education, without it being constantly enhanced through broad-spectrum continuing education.   
 
-Ensuring the Quality of the Built Environment Requires Responsibility- The quality of the built environment cannot be guaranteed if the qualified participants in the process do not assume responsibility for it and if the pernicious practices of collective irresponsibility and redundant checks are not ended. When consumers suffer damages from poorly executed work, there is no effective legal mechanism for them to seek their rights and for professionals to be held accountable for their mistakes. Instead, they repeatedly bear the costs.     

-Challenges in Bulgaria's Legislation and Professional Standards- The quality of the environment is not the goal of the current legislation in Bulgaria. Often, the criteria for selecting contractors are the lowest price and the shortest deadline, while the institute of the "architectural competition" is used very rarely, noted architect Petkana Bakalova, a member of the Board of Directors of AHBC. Academic education is inadequate for the new conditions, with professional titles "architect" and "engineer" being awarded by universities without mandatory continuing education. This does not guarantee the necessary minimum of knowledge and experience for providing quality services.    

Construction legislation changes frequently, creating uncertainty in the process. The requirements are scattered across numerous and diverse regulatory texts. Often, the formulations are unclear and/or contradictory. All this leads to an inability for uniform interpretation and application of the norms, cautiousness of the administration, and excessive bureaucracy in the process of approving project documentation, outlined architect Petkana Bakalova as she highlighted the challenges in creating a quality living environment in Bulgaria.   
 
Contractual Responsibilities and Professional Development of Architects in Germany 
 
 
In Germany, the subject of contracts between clients and architects is the construction of a defect-free building. The architect is tasked with performing all necessary actions to realize the investment plan within the pre-determined budget and timeframe. To achieve the agreed project goals, German architects are granted extensive authority to manage the investment process on behalf of and in the interest of their clients.    

Comparative Analysis of Professional Roles in Bulgaria and Germany   

Despite architectural education in Bulgaria being recognized in the European Union through a Directive, Bulgarian architects are not perceived as generalists with broad knowledge in many areas but are placed on the same level as specialized professionals. This was highlighted in a comparative analysis of the professional tasks of architects and engineers in Bulgaria and Germany by Arch., Dipl. Eng. Stoyan Todorov, a graduate of TU Munich with extensive professional practice in Germany.    

Interdisciplinary Education and Continuous Professional Development    

In Germany, architects are educated in an interdisciplinary manner, which often leads to them being entrusted with the responsibility of being the chief designer. To practice as an architect, continuous professional development and further education are mandatory.    
  
Legal Certainty in the Investment Process    

Legal certainty is essential for all parties involved in the investment process. In Germany, an important foundation for this is the Fee Structure for Architects and Engineers (HOAI). This regulation details the tasks in various activities according to the nature of their work (e.g., buildings and interiors, technical equipment, structural planning, etc.). Each spectrum of activities is divided into phases of realization, ensuring transparent and fair remuneration based on a fixed framework. Both clients and contractors know what needs to be done and the corresponding fees, commented Dipl. Eng. Gabor Takacs, a construction engineer practicing in Hungary and Germany.    

Ensuring Quality-Based Competition    

He added: "The regulation ensures that competition is based on the quality of work, not just price. It is particularly recommended that building owners sign contracts for architectural and engineering services based on HOAI, as the services to be provided are detailed in the development phases of a construction project, avoiding conflicts regarding the scope of activities."    

Optimizing Design Processes  
  
To further optimize design processes, the Building Information Model (BIM) should serve as the foundation for all project participants.   
    
Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a Preferred Method    

"Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a preferred method of work for large projects in Germany, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries, where our company operates," stated Eng. Dieter Vetel, MBA. For large and complex projects, building services engineers work in what is known as the "cloud environment," in teams alongside architects and structural engineers. Without these installations, the building information model would be incomplete and meaningless.   
 
Professional Tasks of Building Services Engineers    

Eng. Dieter Vetel discussed the professional tasks of building services engineers. He explained that in Germany and most European countries, building services engineers have the opportunity to choose between two paths of professional development: becoming an "employee in an installation company" or becoming a "consultant engineer." The professional tasks of consulting engineers are legally regulated and primarily involve independent and impartial consulting and planning in the field of engineering.       

Professional Responsibilities of Consultant Engineers    

In Germany, alongside architects, the "consultant engineer" is a trusted profession. Among the professional tasks of engineers are consulting, assisting, and representing the client on all matters related to planning and construction management, supervision of execution, and realization of investment projects. Experience has shown that engaging a consultant engineer to organize a tender for contractors based on a detailed specification leads to a significantly better cost/quality ratio in favor of the client compared to outsourcing engineering to installation companies before the project is made. 
  
Legal Obligations and Responsibilities   
 
In Germany, architects or engineers are responsible for a well-built structure or damages that the client may suffer if it is not executed according to the concluded contract for design and services. Legislation requires architects and engineers to maintain "sufficient" liability insurance. In Bavaria, for example, the minimum insurance coverage for each separate insured event is 1.5 million euros for bodily injury and 200,000 euros for other damages, as noted by Julia Gerhardter, a lawyer specializing in construction and architectural law from Munich. The classification of the contract with an architect or engineer as a contract for design and services determines the basis of liability, while the understanding of the architect as the client's administrator significantly influences the extent of liability. According to the Civil Code of Germany, the contract for design obliges the architect or engineer to "produce the promised work." Compensation for design becomes due only after this success is achieved and the design is accepted by the client.    

Regulation and Professional Development in Slovenia 
 
The conditions for obtaining professional qualifications for architects and engineers in Slovenia include mandatory continuing professional education, professional supervision, an ethical code of conduct, and professional liability insurance, as defined by the Law on Architectural and Engineering Activities in Slovenia. "In practice, there are still many violations and disorderly conduct in the performance of professional activities. The legal system and sanctions are slow. Daily practice is burdened with low prices and excessive administration," said architect and diploma engineer Vladimir Krajcar, General Secretary of the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia.   
The path of Slovenian architects towards high construction culture involves revising legislation to recognize the importance of the architectural profession, which has a significant impact on the quality of the built environment. Most construction competitions are organized by the Chamber, ensuring high quality of execution and continuous improvement of professional skills.   
A system of mandatory continuous professional education has been introduced, proving to be an extremely successful mechanism for improving the quality of services, and consequently, the living environment for citizens.       

Continuing Education Requirements for Architects in Germany   

Additional training of 112 hours and at least two years of practice in an architectural firm are the additional requirements for students who have completed architecture studies in Germany to obtain the professional title of "architect." Thirty-two of these 112 hours must be devoted to regulatory and legal topics. For this purpose, for example, the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia has established its own academy, which offers an extensive program of continuing education seminars and qualification enhancement. The intensity of the courses offered is on average one per working day. Similar is the intensity of course offerings in the academies of the other 15 provincial chambers. Every day, every architect has the opportunity to choose from dozens of continuing education courses on various topics nationwide and participate in them either in person or online. The model of continuing professional education for architects in Germany was presented by architect and diploma engineer Georg Wintgen, a member of the Chamber of Architects and the Executive Board of the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia.       

Challenges in Legislative Regulation in Bulgaria's Construction Sector  
 
Legislation in Bulgaria transposes European regulatory acts in a rather enigmatic manner, including regulations aimed at direct application in the legislative framework of each member state. The regulations are not directed at the object of planning but rather at the subject, in the form of a poorly regulated number of designers and other entities tasked with preparing various parts of project documentation or performing other activities inherent to architects and engineers. "The regulatory framework in Bulgaria aims to protect the personal interests of the subjects involved in the design and construction process without considering the excessive administrative burden on consumers of architectural and engineering services," said architect Stanimir Savov, a member of the Executive Board of the Chamber of Architects.   The process of building creation, in the phases following construction permits, largely falls outside the authority of architects and engineers, being primarily left "in the hands" of construction supervision and the builder. They perform the legislatively stipulated 73% of the activities of architects and engineers, with the legislator conveniently granting them the opportunity to perform other activities typically carried out by the architect – the author of the implemented project, in Europe.      

  Discussion Panel at the International Conference     

Questions were raised in the discussion panel of the international conference about the boundary between private and public interest in achieving a harmonious living environment, the opinions of consumers in addressing legislative issues to improve the living environment in populated areas, and how the professions of "engineer" and "architect" in Bulgaria can gain public trust and whether trust in them is important for the prosperity of the construction sector.   The conference was attended by over 250 architects, engineers, representatives of local authorities, students, and members of industry and non-governmental organizations, both in person and online.

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​"Challenges in Creating a Quality Living Environment in Bulgaria" – Architect Petkana Bakalova, member of the Board of Directors of the AVSK

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

The non-profit organization "Alliance for High Construction Culture" (AHCC) organized an international conference titled "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment," which took place on May 8 in the "Vasil Levski" hall at the Hyatt Regency Sofia. Esteemed experts from Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovenia presented the challenges faced by the regulated professions of architect and engineer in the construction industry on the path to a harmonious living environment.

Architect Petkana Bakalova presented her lecture "Challenges in Creating a Quality Living Environment in Bulgaria":

​​"The quality of the living environment is not a goal of the current legislation in Bulgaria. Often, the criteria for selecting contractors are the lowest price and the shortest time frame, and the 'architectural competition' institution is used very rarely," noted architect Petkana Bakalova, a member of the AHCC Board of Directors. "Academic education is inadequate for the new conditions, and the professional titles 'architect' and 'engineer' are awarded by universities without mandatory continuing education. This does not guarantee the necessary minimum knowledge and experience to provide quality services. Construction legislation is frequently amended, creating uncertainty in the process. The requirements are scattered across numerous and diverse regulatory texts. Often, the formulations are unclear and/or contradictory. All of this leads to the inability to interpret and apply the regulations uniformly, resulting in administrative caution and excessive bureaucracy in the process of approving project documentation," outlined architect Petkana Bakalova regarding the challenges in creating a quality living environment in Bulgaria

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​"Comparative Analysis of the Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Construction in Bulgaria and Germany and Their Regulation in the Normative Frameworks of Both Countries" – Arch., Dipl. Eng. Stoyan Todorov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of AVSK

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

What are the professional challenges facing architects and engineers in Europe to ensure the quality of the environment? How do German architects enhance their professional skills? How did countries from the former socialist bloc manage to take leading positions in high construction culture? These are some of the questions discussed at the conference by architects, engineers, and construction law attorneys, held on May 8, 2024, at the Hyatt Regency Sofia, in the Vasil Levski hall.

Arch., Dipl. Eng. Stoyan Todorov presented his comparative analysis of the professional tasks of architects and engineers in construction in Bulgaria and Germany and their regulation in the normative frameworks of both countries

​​In Germany, the subject of contracts between the client and the architect is the construction of a defect-free building. The architect is entrusted with performing all actions necessary to realize the investment intent within the predetermined budget and timeframe. To achieve the agreed project goals, the architect in Germany has broad authority to manage the investment process on behalf of and in the interest of their client. Although architectural education in Bulgaria is recognized in the European Union through a Directive, architects here are not seen as generalists with broad knowledge in many areas but are placed on the same level as narrow specialists. This was stated by Arch., Dipl. Eng. Stoyan Todorov, a graduate of TU Munich with long-standing professional practice in Germany, during his comparative analysis of the professional tasks of architects and engineers in Bulgaria and Germany. In the Federal Republic of Germany, architects are educated interdisciplinarily and are often given the responsibility of being the chief designers. To practice as an architect, they are required to continuously develop and enhance their knowledge through ongoing education

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​"Spectrum of Activities and Professional Tasks of Structural Engineers According to the Normative Framework in Germany and Hungary" – Dipl. Eng. Gabor Takacs

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

After a thorough analysis of the issues hindering the creation of a quality built environment in Bulgaria, the following stance was highlighted: There can be no quality construction when architects and engineers are excluded from the building creation process as early as the construction permit phase.

An even more detrimental situation arises when, through "engineering," they are subordinated to the builders. In Europe, over two-thirds of the work of architects and engineers is concentrated after obtaining the construction permit, specifically in the phases of project detailing, selecting the best builder, and continuous quality control of the execution until completion.

Dipl. Eng. Gabor Takacs - Spectrum of Activities and Professional Tasks of Structural Engineers According to the Normative Framework in Germany and Hungary

​​Legal security is necessary for all parties involved in the investment process. An important foundation for this in Germany is the Fee Structure for Architects and Engineers (HOAI), which outlines tasks in various activities in detail according to the nature of their work (e.g., buildings and interiors, technical equipment, structural planning, etc.). Each spectrum of activities is divided into phases of realization. This ensures transparent and fair compensation based on a fixed framework, where both the client and the contractor know what needs to be done and for what remuneration, commented Dipl. Eng. Gabor Takacs, a structural engineer practicing in Hungary and Germany. He added: "The regulation ensures that competition is based on the quality of work, not just the price. It is particularly recommended that building owners conclude contracts for architectural and engineering services based on HOAI, as the services to be provided are detailed in the phases of a construction project's development, avoiding conflicts regarding the scope of activities provided. To further optimize design processes, the Building Information Model (BIM) should serve as the basis for all project participants."

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​"Spectrum of Activities and Professional Tasks of Building Services Engineers in Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavian Countries" – Dipl. Eng. Dieter Wettel**

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

​​Engineer Wettel shared at the AVSK international conference held on May 8 in Sofia how his profession is considered a profession of trust. More details can be learned from the film:

Eur. Eng., Dieter Wettel, MBA - Spectrum of Activities and Professional Tasks of Building Services Engineers in Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavian Countries

​"Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the preferred working method for large projects in Germany, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries, where our company operates," stated Engineer Dieter Wettel, MBA. For large and complex projects, building services designers work in so-called "cloud environments" in teams with architects and structural engineers. Without these installations, the building information model would be incomplete and meaningless.
Engineer Dieter Wettel spoke about the professional tasks of building services engineers. He explained that in Germany and most European countries, a building services engineer can choose between two career paths: becoming an "employee in an installation company" or becoming a "consulting engineer." The professional tasks of consulting engineers are legally regulated and primarily involve independent and impartial consulting and planning in the field of engineering. In Germany, alongside architects, the "consulting engineer" is a profession of trust. The professional tasks of engineers also include advising, supporting, and representing the client on all issues related to planning and managing construction, supervising the execution and implementation of the investment project. Experience shows that engaging a consulting engineer to organize a contractor tender based on a detailed specification leads to a significantly better price/quality ratio for the client compared to assigning engineering to installation companies before the project is completed.

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​"Responsibilities of Architects and Engineers and Professional Liability Insurance in Germany" – Julia Gerhardter, Construction Law Attorney

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

​​Quality in the built environment cannot be guaranteed if the qualified participants in the process do not assume responsibility for it and if the detrimental practices of collective irresponsibility and redundant checks are not eradicated. When consumers suffer damages from poorly executed work, there is no effective legal mechanism for them to seek their rights, and professionals to bear the consequences of their mistakes. Instead, they end up paying the price repeatedly.

The presentation by Attorney Julia Gerhardter highlighted one of the three main positions developed by AVSK following their international conference: 

​​In Germany, an architect or engineer is responsible for the quality of the constructed building or for any damages the client may suffer if the work is not completed according to the contract for work and services. The legislation mandates that architects and engineers maintain "adequate" insurance against liability claims. In Bavaria, for instance, the minimum insurance amount for each individual insurance event is 1.5 million euros for bodily injury and 200,000 euros for other damages, noted Julia Gerhardter, a construction and architectural law attorney from Munich. While the classification of the contract with an architect or engineer as a contract for work and services establishes the basis of liability, the perception of the architect as the client’s administrator significantly influences the extent of responsibility. The contract for work and services, according to the German Civil Code, obliges the architect or engineer to "create the promised work." The payment for the work is due only after this success is achieved and the work is accepted by the client.

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​"The Path of Slovenian Architects to High Construction Culture" – Dipl. Eng., Arch. Vladimir Krajcar, Secretary General of the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

​​Arch. Dipl. Eng. Vladimir Krajcar is the Secretary General of the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia. In his presentation, he revealed interesting details, insights, and advice related to the architectural context (both legal and internal organizational) in Slovenia. More information can be found in the video:

Arch. Dipl. Eng. Vladimir Krajcar – The Path of Slovenian Architects to High Construction Culture

​​The conditions for obtaining qualifications for architects and engineers, mandatory continuing professional education, professional supervision, an ethical code, and professional liability insurance are all defined by the Law on Architectural and Engineering Activities in Slovenia. "In practice, there are still many violations and disorder in carrying out professional activities. The legal system and sanctions are slow. Everyday practice is burdened with low prices and excessive administration," said Arch. Dipl. Eng. Vladimir Krajcar, Secretary General of the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia.
The path of Slovenian architects to high construction culture involves revising legislation to recognize the importance of the architectural profession, which significantly impacts the quality of the built environment. Most construction competitions are organized by the Chamber, ensuring high-quality execution and the continuous improvement of professional skills. A system of mandatory continuous professional education has been introduced, which has proven to be an extremely successful mechanism for improving the quality of services and, consequently, the living environment for citizens.

​download brochure

​"The Model of Continuing Professional Education for Architects in Germany" – Arch. Dipl. Eng. Georg Wintgen, Member of AVSK and the Board of the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

To use the professional title of architect in Germany, architecture graduates must meet additional requirements beyond obtaining a recognized academic degree, typically a master's. The presentation by Arch. Dipl. Eng. Georg Wintgen emphasized the necessity of continuing education, which was adopted by AVSK as one of the three main positions following the international conference: "It cannot be relied upon that in the modern conditions of rapidly developing construction technologies and ever more new materials, an interdisciplinary profession like architecture can be mastered in quality through just 5 years of university education without being continuously upgraded through wide-ranging continuing education."

Arch. Dipl. Eng. Georg Wintgen – The Model of Continuing Professional Education for Architects in Germany

​​Additional training of 112 hours and at least two years of practice in an architectural office – these are the additional requirements for students who have graduated in architecture in Germany to obtain the professional title of "architect." Thirty-two of these 112 hours must be dedicated to regulatory and legal topics. For this purpose, for instance, the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia has established its own academy, offering an extensive program of seminars for continuing education and qualification enhancement. The intensity of the offered courses averages one for each working day. Similar is the intensity of the course offerings in the academies of the other 15 provincial chambers. Every day, every architect has the opportunity to choose from dozens of continuing education courses on various topics throughout the country and participate in them in person or online.
Arch. Dipl. Eng. Georg Wintgen, a member of AVSK and the board of the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia, presented the model of continuing professional education for architects in German

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​"Analysis of Systemic Problems in the Construction Sector in Bulgaria and Ways to Solve Them" – Arch. Stanimir Savov, Member of the Board of AVSK

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024

European legislation, both as a general regulatory framework and in individual EU member states, is focused on the OBJECT of planning (design) as a comprehensive construction endeavor. The regulations aim to protect the public interest in the planning processes of projects before construction permits are granted and to ensure a competitive construction environment that protects consumers through regulations on the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of buildings. This is achieved by introducing standards for the execution and acceptance of construction and installation works. Under this administrative scheme, a single Project is developed for the Object, with the result of the "planning" being the completed building.

Arch. Stanimir Savov presented his analysis in the presentation "Analysis of Systemic Problems in the Construction Sector in Bulgaria and Ways to Solve Them":

​​Legislation in Bulgaria transposes European regulatory acts in a rather obscure manner, including Regulations aimed at direct application in the legislative framework of each member state. The regulations are not directed towards the planning object but towards the subject in the form of a poorly regulated number of designers and other entities tasked with preparing different parts of the project documentation or performing other activities typical for architects and engineers. "The regulatory framework in Bulgaria aims to protect the personal interests of the subjects in the design and construction process without giving due consideration to the excessive administrative burden on consumers of architectural and engineering services," said Arch. 
Stanimir Savov, a member of the Board of AVSK, during his analysis of systemic problems in the construction sector in Bulgaria and in search of ways to solve them. The process of creating a building, in the phases after the construction permit is granted, largely exits the powers of architects and engineers, being left mainly in the "hands" of construction supervision and the builder. They perform 73% of the activities of architects and engineers as stipulated by law, with the legislature conveniently allowing them to perform other activities that in Europe are usually carried out by the architect – the author of the realized project.

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​"Discussion with All Speakers on the Topic: Professional Tasks, Rights, and Responsibilities of Architects and Engineers in the Construction Sector for Creating a Quality Living Environment."

​International Conference "Professional Tasks of Architects and Engineers in Creating a Quality Living Environment"
May 8, 2024 

More than 250 architects, engineers, local government representatives, students, and members of professional and non-governmental organizations attended the conference in person and online.

Discussion with All Speakers on the Topic:

​​During the discussion panel of the international conference, questions were raised about the balance between private and public interests in achieving a harmonious living environment, the role of consumer opinions in legislative matters for improving the living environment in urban areas, how the professions of "engineer" and "architect" in Bulgaria can gain public trust, and whether trust in these professions is crucial for the prosperity of the construction sector. More than 250 architects, engineers, local government representatives, students, and members of professional and non-governmental organizations participated in the conference both in person and online.

​download brochure

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