Letter Re: Use of the Title Architect

Letter Re: Use of the Title Architect

In nearly every state I am aware of it is unlawful and may be a misdemeanor for any person to use a title, business name, or description of business services using the word “architect”, or “architectural” to refer to one’s self or business, unless the principal of the firm is a state licensed architect. Some states take this so seriously that I as a licensed architect on several states, am prohibited to use of “Architect” and/or “Architectural” in a state where I am not licensed, or in a state where I am licensed, and my license has lapsed or I failed the renewal criteria. Illinois even goes one step further and requires any firm which wants to call itself “Design-Build” be under the direction of a Licensed Architect or  Registered Professional Engineer (PE). When I have an out of state project which does not require me to obtain an additional license, for example Idaho County, Idaho, I only refer to my self in title and contract as “building designer” to avoid the wrath of the state architects board.

For example, see this site, describing Oregon’s laws.

Every quarter the CAB, California Architect’s [Board] publishes violations, convictions and fines. A very large portion of these are for the violation of “Holding oneself out to be an architect” and the fines range from $500 to $5,000, and though I have yet to see it the state of CA reserve the right to unto 12 month jail as a Class A misdemeanor.

So you can imagine, that reading today’s posting from the contractor made my skin crawl with the repeated and even capitalized reference to the posting party as an “Architectural Designer” (as we used to say in the Army, “That’s a major NO-GO”; on that note it may be considered similar to the UCMJ section on “Impersonating an Office.”)

The precursors to becoming an actual licensed architect compared to becoming a licensed contractor in many states is as vast as the difference between becoming a doctor and an ambulance driver, and this is not an exaggeration. For example I am also a general contractor in Chicago, but it was little more than an application form, local fee and providing a certificate of insurance to become a Chicago Licensed General Contractor”


At  the very least, such as in the case of California, where there is a sophisticated contractor licensing a program requiring evidence of past experience, and a rigid exam, with legal aspects of practice, the difference is comparable to Registered Nurse to Doctor.

So while, in the post collapse world and post mass human die off, any valid experience may be respected and valuable;  in the present world your recent poster has crossed a line which disrespects those who have achieved the title “architect” and may be illegal.

The use of Architect and Architectural in title, for those in the construction industry, is only achieved after the following:
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)
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,
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
4. Pass any local state exam, which for some states is none to easy, for others is notorious.
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.
6. Going forward, once licensed,continuing to provide annual or biannual proof of continuing education especially Health Safety and Welfare (HSW) ed units.

Whew! Yes, all that and more! it is a lot. My Father and Grandfather were general contractors and carpenters, and I highly respect their intellect, work ethic, and experience, however, it is not the same level of responsibility as a Licensed Architect. Nearly every state has included in its charter for architects a phrase to encompass an architect’s primary duty which includes the wording “To protect the Health Safety and Welfare of the Public in the Built Environment”

This responsibility sometimes is in conflict with paying clients wishes, but must remain in the for front of an architects mind in respect to all his decisions.
I hope this clarifies use of the term “Architect” and “Architectural”

D.C. (AIA, NCARB, M-Arch)

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