Letter Re: Use of the Title Architect

You have recently run two posts (my article and D.C.’s reply letter) and have dug into the ugly underbelly of the building design world.

I think there needs to be some clarification of D.C.’s points.  I will dissect it to indicate that this is the type of person that I would describe as an “elitist” and they are why we are in the predicament that we are in right now in this country.  I mean simply stated: Why would using the term “architectural, Architect, or Architecture” be a misdemeanor?  Sounds like a little government overreach to me. 

First things first.  Notice the three states he indicated.  California, Oregon and Illinois.  Those are three state that epitomize the Nanny State mentality.

Now if you put that aside let me describe my credentials. 

I am a practicing Designer in the field or Architecture. (An Architectural Designer.)  I can use this term because I work under the guidance of a licensed Architect.  I have 15 years of Design experience under licensed architects, I have designed buildings from $5,000 house additions to $30 million school buildings. I have completed all my IDP requirements, and have only one exam of seven left.  So basically the only thing stopping me from calling myself an “architect”, which I did not do, is one last exam.  I also have a side business building home additions (as a contractor).  So I think my qualifications speak for themselves.

Now onto his mischaracterizations:  (With quotes from his article are indicated as best I could)

“1.  Formalized education at an  NAAB accredited college leading to a degree recognized by a state board as valid for licensure. (My Bachelor’s degree at U. of Illinois was enough for some states but not enough for many states so I had to go back for a Master’s)”  (quote from D.C.’s letter)

This is not true and a line used in every school run by elite professors who often try to teach architecture because they failed at practicing it.  They try to scare students into “school training” they do not need.  The states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin (14 total) all allow a person to acquire their “architect” license without an NAAB-rated degree.  They can get it based on experience alone. (It’s called working not schooling).  See this link for licensing requirements, per state. 

It should also be noted that NCARB has what they call the BEA program.  It is a way for a Non-NAAB degree holding “Architects” to get a license in another state after they work as a licensed “Architect” in a certain jurisdiction (state).

“2. Completion of  3 to 5 years of internship, depending on level of architectural degree, (Masters vs. Bachelors) validated by the national  NCARB Intern Development Program (NCARB IDP)  for verification of multi-thousand hours of experience, in over a dozen specific categories, signed off by licensed architects,”  (quote from D.C.’s letter)

True, yet not true.  Every state has its own requirement.  Again see the aforementioned link..  The range is from 2 years to 13 years of work under an “architect” and the IDP requirements can be met in as little at 2-½ years, as in my case. 

“3. Achieve passing scores on all  8 parts of the national NCARB Architectural Registration Exam (NCARB ARE). Until this exam was computerized in 1996, it was 4 long lays of testing with the final day being a 12 hour long Charette to design an entire building, which passes all codes, based on being provided just a written program requirement and site plan” (quote from D.C.’s letter)

What does it matter what the exam was in 1996? (17 years ago.) The exam was modified in the last few years to ARE 4.0 and will again transition to ARE 5.0 in 2016.  The ARE 4.0 version has only 7 parts.  It can be taken, as each part, at its own separate time and at different locations if needed.  The Charette is not 12 hours long but broken up into separate time frames based on which exam you are taking at the time.  The exam is not as hard as he makes it sound either.  If you have been working in the field then it is rather easy.  Again experience trumps education.

“4. Pass any local state exam, which for some states is none to easy, for others is notorious.” (quote from D.C.’s letter)

He got that right.  Some localities and states have additional exams.  California being one, based on seismic design.

“5. Applied to and been accepted by that state’s Architects Review Board, passed a criminal background check, including domestic child support payment status, (sometimes with additional candidate interview process) paid the annual fees.” (quote from D.C.’s letter)

Close enough to not argue.  Hmmmm…  Annual fees to use the term “architect”.  You’ve got to love the government.

“6. Going forward, once licensed, continuing to provide annual or biannual proof of continuing education especially Health Safety and Welfare (HSW) ed[ucational] units.” (quote from D.C.’s letter)

True yet not true.  Each state is different.  You need 36 hours of continuing education credits in 3 years time frame.  I know “Architects” that will not do any for 2 years and then roll them all into 1 year.  Also these credits can be as easily attained by have a sales rep from Pella Windows come in and do a 1 hour lunch seminar and sales pitch. (That qualifies as 1 hour continuing education).  Not what I would call Continuing Education.  Let’s see the architect’s office schedules 36 free lunches that the sales reps pay for, and they get their continuing education.  That sounds hard doesn’t it?  It’s a joke.

So as you can see D.C. does have some “facts” wrong. 

It is true that the term “Architect” is considered a Professional term and in so has been regulated beyond what should be in modern society.  It has become a way to require people in most places to pay for drawings that are not really needed.  It is a racket equivalent in my opinion compared to any lobby group, mob organization and/or political activist group attempting to limit capitalism and free market economics that built this country.  It all based on the perception on making society safer for the general public. 

The AIA that he indicates (in his title) is a guild group that has manipulated the government and regulation system to try to make money for themselves and manipulate the system.  They hurt the general public with all the excessive regulations.  Let’s let the free market decide who they want to design their home or business.  If someone want to have a local handymen build him a pole barn then let him do it.  Why does an architect need to design it?  They have been being built for over a hundred years.  Why now do you need a stamped architect or engineer drawing?  It’s called over-regulation!  The best part of it is that I am going to be an “Architect” soon and I am fighting for essentially less work for myself!  I believe that if someone feels they need a building designed for their personal well-being then I will be there to help.  If someone wants to have a bathroom addition added to their home then by God let them build it themselves if they choose.

I am an individual trying to navigate a corrupt system to provide people with valuable advice based on my experience.  I will be a licensed “Architect” shortly and in my opinion the ones who fight against trivial things like using the term “architect” are the ones to be very afraid of.  They will charge you thousands of dollars for something that should cost you a few hundred because they feel privileged to have their knowledge. 

Now that attempts to clarify the ramifications of the elite trying to judge everyone.  Onto the more important items that should be brought up.  How does this rant affect me?  In truth it does not unless your local government dictates it. 

I get a lot of jobs from local jurisdictions that have passed regulations for people to need architectural stamped drawings for a Pole Barn, a bathroom addition or a garage.  Now it’s kind of like biting the hand that feeds you because I make money off these but I hate doing it.  So we do it as inexpensively as possible.  We will do a pole barn design for $200.  Basically we cover our insurance costs to stamp the drawings.  Why? Because it’s not fair to the people to have to pay it.  We can make our money on the big projects that need real design work.  The local [private homeowner]s should not need it. 

If you are looking to build a Home, and addition or any type of structure it should be up to you for who you trust.  I would recommend talking to a multitude of local contractors.  Give them a written idea of what you want.  Have them give you a quote.  Then call friends, Neighbors, and anyone else you know and ask how you feel they are as a contractor.  The final thing you do then is call your building inspector.  Ask them what the requirement are for your project.  Do you need plans or do they trust the contractor to do the work right.  Remember the building inspector has to certify buildings.  They know who does a good job and who does not. 

My previous post indicated that Knowledge as a very important item on the list.  This again comes into play here.  The knowledge to know when people are taking advantage of you.  Use the book I indicated in my previous post and anyone can build an addition to their house.  It’s not rocket science but poster D.C. wants you to think so.  Your knowledge will be beneficial in so many ways that this is what you should be most concerned with.  Not what a title someone uses is.  You study that book and think about your project and you will know if what is being built is right or wrong. 

Also, having the knowledge to navigate the current system and get around the “elites” will help you save money know that can be used for other more important preps.  Use your knowledge to avoid the pitfalls of regulations and government overbearing.  If you live in a rural area you will most likely not be affected by these issues.  If you live in the suburbs or urban area then question all government officials. – Paul W.

JWR Replies: Rather than have this degenerate into a protracted feud, I will leave this topic with just these posts. You’ve heard both sides of the argument, folks.

Where do I stand? I’m a libertarian with a conscience. Granted, I’ve seen countries where concrete buildings are erected with barely a scrap of re-bar, and sure enough, people die whenever there is an earthquake. But I must also mention that I live in a frontier county of an un-named western state where there is no formal building code enacted and where there are no permits required to build a house, a shop, or a barn. (Only septic system permits are required.) You can also cut down trees, erect a bridge, install a culvert, or construct a pond on your property without any permits. I like it that way!

There are indeed some entrenched guilds and elitist organizations in our nation. Statist attitudes have sadly become the norm. Under their we/they paradigm, stiff penalties have been created, by government decree. But even as an ardent libertarian, I must concede that there is a need for a modicum of public safety. I personally draw the line at distinguishing between private and public buildings. In my opinion, there should only be non-binding published guidelines for constructing private dwellings, but there should be more rigid standards for public buildings, overpasses, and bridges, especially in earthquake country.

Never forget: The definition of a license is a special grant of immunity from the state, for a fee, to do something that would otherwise be illegal. Who defines “legal”? It is our elected representatives. If they exceed their authority–as they often do–then they imperiously make that which should be inherently legal into something illegal or something that requires a license. (Witness, for instance: Educating our children, operating a private motor vehicle, owning a gun, dog licenses, buying and selling alcohol, et cetera.) Often, that comes down to the quest for government revenue rather than legitimate concern for public safety. I am writing this because I want you to carefully consider what is happening in our modern society. People regularly go along with new government edicts without ever stopping to question whether or not these laws are justified and the proper exercise of legitimate authority. So…. Be vigilant. Question authority. Demand your rights. Rebel against tyrants, but submit to good and legitimate government. (Per Romans Chapter 13.) Our Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves, to see the bureaucratic monster that we’ve created for ourselves. If we don’t speak up frequently and loudly, then we are destined to live under the tyranny of total government.