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 An Architect by Any Other Name1

SUMMARY


Several years ago when Bill Gates, chair of Microsoft, relinquished his title as chief executive officer, he appointed himself chief software architect instead. Since then, several industries have adopted the term architect. If youíre in the insurance industry, you can call yourself a workforce architect. If youíre in the electronic industry, you can be a software architect or a systems architect.

IS THIS CORRECT USE OF THE TERM ARCHITECT?

Although many AIA members have inquired about the cast of new uses for the term architect, and expressed their displeasure of it, there is no official AIA policy for the usage outside the construction industry. The term architect is a generic one and the
AIA does not own the rights to it.

In the profession of architecture, though, you cannot call yourself an architect or provide architecture services unless you are licensed. All states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories (Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the
Virgin Islands) require individuals to be licensed (registered) before they may call themselves architects or contract to provide architecture services.

To become licensed, an individual must have been awarded a professional degree in architecture, completed practical training or an internship, and passed all divisions of the Architect Registration Examination. Until all the requirements for licensure are fulfilled, architecture professionals are known as interns. Interns gain supervised architecture experience while working under licensed architects. Upon receipt of licensure, it is expected that licensed architects will protect the public health, safety, and welfare and take legal responsibility for their work.

Although there is no national agency with oversight for architect licensure, each state and U.S. territory has its own architectural registration board that sets standards for architectural registration and the practice of architecture. All architecture firms and individual architects who employ additional architects must register with their state architectural registration board.

Can recent architecture graduates, then, promote themselves as architects? Or, can licensed contractors provide architectural design services? No, not if they are not licensed architects.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

If you encounter an individual or a firm in the construction industry misusing the term Architect, you should notify your local AIA component office. While the AIA cannot investigate and prosecute individuals who misrepresent themselves as architects, AIA local component offices work in conjunction with state architectural registration boards to protect the term architect. The offending individual or firm will be asked to cease and assist the illegal use of the term. If the individual or firm refuses to stop using the term, the state architectural registration board can initiate legal actions against the individual or firm.

If in doubt, please contact your local AIA component office or state architectural registration board.
 

 What Do Architects Do1

 

You have a vision of what you want. Now you need to make that vision a reality. Here's how an architect can help you:

  • Architects see the big picture.
  • Architects are specially educated to help you define what you want to build, present options you might never have considered, and help you get the most for your valuable investment. They don't just design four walls and a roof -- they create total environments, both interiors and exteriors, that are functional and exciting places in which to work and live.
  • Architects solve problems creatively.
  • Architects are trained problem solvers. Need more room for your growing family? Architects can show you how to enlarge your home so you won't have to move. Have a limited budget? Architects can propose ways to get more for your investment than you imagined possible.
  • Architects help you get the most from your construction dollar.
  • Architects can reduce building costs, decrease your home's energy needs, and increase its future resale value through good design.
  • Architects make your life easier.

Building is a long process that is often messy and disruptive, particularly if you're living in the space while it's under construction. Your architect represents you, not the contractors. Your architect looks out for your interests and smoothes the process, helps find qualified construction contractors, and visits the worksite to help protect you against work that's not according to plan.
Speak with an architect who is a member of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) at the earliest stage of the design process.

 

 Why an AIA Architect1

 

Like doctors and lawyers, architects are licensed professionals. The title "Architect" may be used only by an individual who possesses a state license to practice architecture. They are the only professionals in the construction industry who are ethically bound to represent you, the building owner.

Professional qualifications generally include:

  • College degree from an accredited school of architecture, requiring five or more years of professional studies
  • Three years of internship under the supervision of licensed architects
  • Passage of a rigorous five-day examination

Only those professionals, who have fulfilled these requirements, or other requirements as stipulated by each individual state, may legally call themselves architects and practice architecture in the jurisdiction granting the license. Individuals may be registered, or licensed, in more than one state by means of reciprocal licensing agreements among the states.

Get the real thing -- Look for the "AIA" designation.

Look for the AIA initials after the name of any architect you consider for your project. AIA architects remain current with professional standards through continuing education and subscribe to a code of ethics and professional conduct that assure clients, the public and colleagues of their dedication to high standards in professional practice.

At the heart of every successful project is a strong relationship between client and architect. AIA architects know that the more knowledgeable their clients are, the more likely they are to fully participate in the process and enjoy the benefits of a collaborative effort.

 

 Finding the Right Architect in Nine Easy Steps1


SUMMARY


Every architect has an individual style, approach to construction, and method of work. For homeowners who wish to retain an architect to design a new home or renovate an existing one, it is important to seek out an architect whose style and working methods are compatible with the scale and type of project and the clientís needs. Follow these nine general steps to find the right architect for you.

MATCH THE ARCHITECT TO THE PROJECT

1) Make a list. Ask your neighbors or the owners of architect-designed new homes or renovated homes in your community for the names of architects who provide services in your area. Because the relationship between a homeowner and an architect is such a personal one, most residential clients and architects find each other through personal referrals. The AIA Architect Finder, an online tool accessible to the public through the www.aia.org Web site, also can generate a list of architects within a designated radius of your ZIP code (up to 50 miles) that specialize in the building type that matches your project.

2) Research. Contact your local component of the American Institute of Architects. Many local AIA components maintain lists of AIA-member firms who specialize in different types of work. Some components maintain member portfolios that are available to prospective clients for review during business hours. This is a great way to become acquainted with the architects who work in your area before contacting them directly. Many firms, even small ones, have Web sites that feature their work.

3) Check credentials. Although architects in the United States are not required to be members of the AIA, determine whether the architects on your list are AIA members. Membership in the AIA means that the architect subscribes to the AIA Code of Ethics, complies with the AIAís rigorous continuing education requirements, and has access to a variety of professional and technical resources, and is committed to high standards of practice and service.

4) Conduct phone interviews. Once you have conducted your research and have developed a list of prospective architects, call each firm on your list. Explain that you are interested in procuring architectural design services, and ask to schedule a brief phone interview with the firm principal. If you were referred by a previous client, be sure to share this information. During the phone interview, describe your project and ask if the firm is available to accomplish it within your desired time frame. You need to request for a literature outlining of the firmís qualifications and experience. If the firm is unable to undertake your project, ask whether it can recommend another firm.

5) Interview select firms. The phone interviews and additional literature provided by the firm should help you narrow the list of candidates. Interview the firms on your short list, preferably at the firm offices. The interview allows you to meet the people who will manage your project and to learn if the chemistry is right; you may be working with them for a long time. Some architects charge a small fee for initial interviews or meetings, which often involve at least some professional design advice. Inquire about such fees prior to the interview.

6) Ask questions. How busy is the firm? Does it have the capacity to take on your project? Who in the firm will be primarily responsible for your project?
What is the firmís design philosophy? What is the fee structure? What is the firmís track record for performance completed on time and within budget?

7) Inspect completed work. If possible, ask each firm to show you at least one complete or substantially complete project.

8) Check references. Ask for references from both past clients and contractors with whom the architect has worked, and check them thoroughly. Ask the clients the same questions you have asked the architect: Was the project completed on time and within budget? Was the person primarily responsible for the project the person who was introduced as such at the initial meeting? Was the client satisfied with the completed project? Was the client satisfied the architect again? Ask the contractors whether the documents prepared by the architect were sufficiently clear and detailed to enable the prepare accurate cost estimates and complete the project in accordance with the design intent, and whether the architect addressed issues during the construction period promptly and thoroughly. Obtain an Architectís Qualification Statement (AIA Document B431) from your local AIA compo and ask each prospective architect to complete it and return it to you. This standardized form may be used to verify and compare an architectís credentials and other information prior to making a final selection.

9) Make the professional service, not a product. The right architect will be the one who has demonstrate your satisfaction the judgment, technical expertise,
design talent and communication skills that suit you needs.

 
1 By AIA. Appropriate use of the information provided is the responsibility of the reader.
   

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