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John Castles

Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.  

John Castles was Chairman of the Standards Australia Board from 2004-2010.

How did you become involved in standards? 

As a practicing architect, Australian Standards provided basic and trusted information, and were part of my daily work life. Information from those yellow documents was used at every stage of a project, design, documentation, and on-site inspections. Standards became an even more significant part of my life when I joined the [Standards Australia] board towards the end of the 1990’s. I became more aware of the breadth and significance of Standards Australia’s influence in the products, services and systems serving this country and beyond. This was an interesting period leading up to the sale of parts of the business which left the new Standards organisation able to focus on and fulfil its national and international objectives.  

What role have standards played in your career?   

Beyond the guiding role building and related Standards played in my life as an architect, my board roles have opened wider avenues for engagement in the Standards world. Standards development is organised through boards and by committees, the Standards development accreditation board, and sector boards, overseeing each of the committees in their sectors. As Chairman, I attended, when possible, most of these meetings. This involvement was both stimulating and educational, and through these activities I met many critically involved dedicated and interesting individuals, both committee members and engaged Standards Australia staff.  

What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver? 

Initially Standards Australia remained in its old location, but the move to the new location 20 Bridge Street served to independently identify the organisation. The new, more convenient location was fitted out and developed to better support staff, members and the operation of the committee system both with appropriate space and facilities and a new communication system to enable remote participation.

Together with board members and senior staff, process reviews were undertaken, and some refinements and changes were proposed and discussed, with a range of useful responses and inevitably some challenges.

The productive management of the organisation’s investments, critical to the ongoing funding of standards development activity was a significant responsibility. Today Standards Australia would be amongst the most secure, well-staffed and productive standards development organisation associated with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

I am pleased that I was able to play a part in the evolution of such a vital organisation and I am grateful for the opportunity I enjoyed.      

Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career? 

For many years I was active in the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA, now trading as the AIA) and I was proud to have served as both a Chapter President and a National President.  During this period, I had other involvements in professional associations, some more broadly based.

In the 1970s, I was retained as the architect for the design and construction of a freestanding Day Procedure Centre. This was the first such medical building in Australia. In parallel with this design, I was involved with authorities in developing guidelines for such facilities. This project was the first of several such projects which I designed. Further, my practice was involved in designing and integrating similar facilities into existing hospitals. Standards of course played a critical part in the design, documentation and inspection of these facilities.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

Standards Australia quietly plays a significant role in Australian professional, industrial and business activity. Standards are developed by professionals for use by professionals, and presentation of this material is important and must cater for a range of users with different backgrounds and experience. Presentation could be enhanced by the greater use of diagrams and illustrations.

Following the recent arbitration, Standards Australia has greater freedom to distribute material in more ‘user friendly’ forms. Presently over 70% of architects gain access to Standards electronically. In the building and construction area the provision of an electronically accessed service to standards, cross-referenced to related standards, and cross linked and referenced to the National Construction Code (NCC) could well be a welcomed tool. Such a service could be provided through a membership organisation within Standards Australia, and of course would come at a reasonable cost. In other sectors of standards similar services could be developed.

In rapidly changing areas of materials, construction, and procurement, conversations between involved professionals frequently take place. There could well be scope for standards to host a facilitated workshop for such discussions, with clearly defined requirements for involvement.

Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year?

Milestone celebrations are significant in all aspects of life and certainly significant in the life of an organisation involving so many dedicated individuals as Standards Australia does in its production of intellectual guide documentation influencing so many aspects of our lives. Such celebrations can be the occasions to review past activities contemplating what was achieved and, in some instances, what could have been done better. Likewise, they provide a focus for thinking of the future, and of new and better ways of achieving established objectives, and what new objectives might be considered.

Standards Australia can be proud of its achievements, its supporting contribution to the professions, to industry, and to business in contributing to a safe sound and environmentally responsible environment.

CONGRATULATIONS TO STANDARDS AUSTRALIA and to the many who have played their part in contributing to its status and success.