Architect magazine, “The Magazine of the American Institute of Architects,” just published a column by Aaron Betsky titled “Who Cares Who’s a Licensed Architect?”
Architect magazine has perplexed me again. (Do any actual architects review this stuff before it gets published?)
Anyway, here’s a link to the column by Mr. Betsky, and below is the response I posted tonight on the Architect website. I hope that my comment, and a whole bunch of other similar comments, show up tomorrow. (So far zero comments show up, but it’s late at night right now.)
“‘CLIENTS care’ is the answer to the question ‘Who Cares Who’s a Licensed Architect?’ Sophisticated clients want design professionals who are insured for professional liability. Design professionals who are not licensed cannot obtain professional liability insurance.
“Governments care, too. Unsophisticated clients deserve the consumer protection that licensing and regulation by states provides. A license only demonstrates minimal competence, but that’s so much better for consumers than NO required demonstration of competence, and no regulation of design professionals. According to a recent report by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, ‘Title protection plays a vital, fundamental role in protecting consumers from unqualified practitioners. The use of certain protected titles and phrases informs consumers that the individual is regulated, has undergone a certain level of scrutiny, and is qualified to practice under state law.’
“Everyone who cares about good buildings ought to care about licensure too. ‘Design’ of buildings is total design – down to the flashing details inside the walls. Someone has to figure out (design) those details, and building owners don’t want the guys in the field making up those detail designs as they go. In fact, building codes for commercial buildings REQUIRE that the construction documents show details of ‘flashing, intersections with dissimilar materials, corners, end details, control joints, intersections at roof, eaves or parapets, means of drainage, water-resistive membrane and details around openings.’ (2009 IBC) These construction documents are required to be prepared by design professionals who are ‘licensed to practice their respective design profession as defined by the statutory requirements of the professional registration laws of the state or jurisdiction in which the project is to be constructed.’ (also 2009 IBC)
“As I have written before, in my blog, ‘Only with good construction details can architects’ designs be executed the way they have been imagined. The designer who can’t draw, or even recognize, good construction details that communicate to the constructor how to build his design will not be a good designer of anything but unbuilt work.’ In other words, the drawings might look good, but the constructed building won’t necessarily look like the drawings, unless the designer can draw the construction details for that building.
“So, a licensed design professional is required by law to prepare the construction documents, including details. It may as well be an architect – there’s no shortage of licensed architects who need work right now. Good construction details make better buildings. Details drawn by the same team who produced the schematic design make better buildings.
“Many, many licensed architects already practice architecture as described in the last paragraph of this column by Mr. Betsky. Many licensed architects produce designs that transform ‘buildings into frames for our daily lives, frameworks for relationships, catalysts for new ways of living, anchors in a world of change, and many other things that… are difficult to define…’
“Debate away about what these other, difficult-to-define things are, but do not discount the core of what it means to practice architecture. (Program a building based on a client’s needs, schematically design a building, develop the design, prepare construction documents including construction details and specifications, assist the owner in bidding out the project to builders, observe the construction process to determine whether construction is proceeding in accordance with the contract documents.)
“And for people who are looking for ways to describe to the public what architecture is, why not start with the basics that I mentioned in the paragraph above? It’s what’s most important in the eyes of the public, governments, lawyers, insurers, and CLIENTS. The basics MUST COME FIRST. Licensure is a basic requirement for the practice of architecture. The difficult-to-define qualities of the practice of architecture can come after that.”