I got my “Architect” magazine in the mail today (you know, “The Magazine of the American Institute of Architects”). There’s an article called “The Problem with Licensure” or “The 50-Year-Old-Intern” that is all about “… a decline in registered professionals… And should we care?”
Here’s a link to the article: http://www.architectmagazine.com/architects/the-50-year-old-intern.aspx It’s about the so-called “philosophical debate” about whether licensure matters. It matters.
Without licensure and regulation by the states, the public has nothing reassuring them that people practicing architecture are qualified to do so. The Colorado Revised Statutes state that the regulatory authority of the Colorado state board of licensure for architects “is necessary to safeguard the life, health, property, and public welfare of the people of this state and to protect them against unauthorized, unqualified, and improper practice of architecture.”
Without architects’ professional liability insurance, their clients don’t have much recourse in the case of errors and omissions by an architect. When I obtained my architect’s professional liability insurance in the state of Colorado, the first question my agent asked me was whether I was a registered architect in Colorado. I told him that I am, and he said, good, because you can’t get insurance without being licensed.
This is telling. The stuff that floats to the top when the lawyers and the insurance companies get involved tells us that licensure matters to the public, licensure matters to the governments, licensure matters to the courts, licensure matters to the insurers, and licensure matters to sophisticated clients. And it should matter.
Ron Geren’s recent blog post, “Towards a More Irrelevant Architect” http://specsandcodes.typepad.com/specsandcodes/2011/10/towards-a-more-irrelevant-architect.html touches on this issue when he says:
“In an effort to protect its members, and the profession in general, from undue risk, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) inadvertently reduced the influence of the architect by minimizing the liability to which the architect may be subject. This shirked risk was quickly snatched up by other members of the construction industry—namely by contractors and members of the growing construction management profession.” – Ron Geren
Risk is often carried by the people who are willing to be grownups, and risk is often shirked by those who are less willing to step up and take responsibility for their own actions (like, well, children). Remember that whole risk-reward thing? When architects are willing to take more responsibility for their own actions, they’ll have more freedom, and will earn more respect.
Architects, we need to protect ourselves. But we don’t do it by ducking responsibility, and we don’t do it by having the magazine that is the so-called voice of our primary professional organization practically condoning design professionals’ remaining unlicensed.
First, architects need to have very good agreements. Don’t sign Owner-Architect agreements that have the potential to screw you over.
Second, architects need to have very good construction documents. Don’t issue bad documents. Have good drawings, have good specs, have coordinated documents. If you have interns doing most of your drawing production, review carefully before those documents go out with YOUR stamp on them.
Third, architects need to have very good insurance. (Oh, yeah, and you need to be LICENSED to get that.)
Then work hard. Do your best. And encourage your employees to follow in your footsteps and get licensed. Maybe you can’t give them raises for getting licensed, but at least give them verbal encouragement to take their exams, and praise them when they pass all of their exams. We are in this thing together, and the interns are the future of our profession. And interns need to be on a path to licensure!!