First, greetings to Mark Robin, glad to hear you are still out and about.
With respect to legislating that buildings, including residential buildings be designed by architects, there are downsides to that and I don't support the idea.
When I see a problem, my reaction is never, "Let's pass a law, set up a board, establish a testing regimen to fix this!" 5 states already have license requirements for someone who shampoos someone else's hair. 7 states requires licenses for someone who does upholstery repair. Of 102 licensed occupations studied in a report from The Institute for Justice, only 15 were licensed in 40 states or more which means that either there is a lot of harm being done that could be prevented, or a lot of licensing is happening that is not vital---except that it is a source of state revenue and serves to protect the occupational opportunities of select classes of folks. Usually the excluded ones are from low income backgrounds.
Now maybe one could contend that as architects we have more opportunity to do good or harm. So, are we asking for homeowners to be required to hire licensed architects because of the havoc created by unlicensed designers and do-it-yourselfers, or because we'd like a special privilege, which has nothing to do with protecting society?
Or do we think that a license guarantees the best service? In my state all plumbers are required a licensed by the state. Are all those plumbers good plumbers? Top notch plumbers? Union plumbers are believed to have more rigorous training. They ought to be somewhat better for that, especially in the early years of their career. Should we require that all plumbing be done by union plumbers?
My state does also recognize that some structures require elevated skill, technical skill mainly. So, hospitals, schools, police stations and the like, must be engineered by licensed Structural Engineers. That is a higher standard than the more common Civil Engineer. Yet it is the Civil Engineers who manage the "structural" engineering of all other structures, that is most structures. If Structural Engineers are more capable, shouldn't all Civil Engineers be required to work under a Structural Engineer?
Some theoretical advantages are not vital, even before the offsetting disadvantages are considered.
There is also the issue of restraint of trade. If requiring all buildings be architect designed, in effect prices low cost designers out of the market, and AIA furthers this legislative effort, would AIA be open to the charge that it is engineering a floor under architectural fees? AIA got its wrist slapped pretty hard by the DOJ for attempting to keep fees above a certain level once before.
Leaders are not victims in need of protection. And how can we be so valuable to society if we clearly are working the system for our own benefit at the expense of others? We will benefit if our work is seen as beneficial and cost effective. The AIA can help with the messaging, but in the end each of us has to make the case if it can be made. I think for most architects, it can be made. Convincingly, but not in every instance.
Donald Wardlaw AIA
More Than Construction, Inc.
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