Let me begin by explaining how our political system differs from democracy in Belguim: This country, the size of a US state, has at least seven valid political parties, who all must state their platforms in writing. The candidates are all on the ballot in an election, and EVERY PERSON OF VOTING AGE MUST VOTE, OR FACE A FINE. The relevance of this will follow.
Thanks to Ed, Eric, David, Greg and Rand for glimmers of concern beyond your own agendas in the discussion of November 2-8. Does the public care about all this "retribution without a cause"? We all know that unless the Architect or designer has a contract with a client, we are defacto sub to the builder. Many builders truly regard us as a sub. And Greg fully knows how unlicensed designers revel in their role as free agents- howsabout some spit in your eye, architect? In all of this, the public is shortchanged.
These disputes may go on until we perish as a species- because of nothing in sight to end the disputes. The loser in all this? The public. Why? Because no standard exists for training a house designer. SO LETS LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD ONCE AND FOR ALL WITH ONE SET OF RULES.
When I interviewed for the Director of Education post at NCARB several years ago, I suggested ideally Residential Architecture would be licensed as discipline separate from Architecture. This would be supported by a somewhat shorter collegiate curriculum focusing on the technics of residential structures of less than 5 stories, combined with master planning exercises for residential and mixed use areas. With my idea akin to leaving a large turd behind in a church pew, I did not get the job.
But NCARB is blind to the fact that in the US we have AIA, AIBD, cadfolk, designers, decorators, and of course homeowners at work in this field- our version of Belgium, but with few rules. Our rulers are nominally the code officials, who do not actually design buildings, but instead "chaperone" health, safety and welfare, and write the code. The result? Our homes have a modicum of safety, but so many of our recent environments are less life-enhancing than 19th century company towns.
In my scenario Architects would practice as always. But many talented individuals with no interest in large commercial commissions would now have state credentials. This idea DEMANDS our two leading organizations, AIA and NAHB, to come to terms with what a house designer/land planner should know to practice. Each guild would have to find some common ground. The discussion between Eric and Rand really highlights the need for uniform standards for all house plan submissions above say 500 sf. Note these standards were discussed between two architects, not designers-at-large- the real core of the problem. With a new license category for a Residential Architects, we could close down the larger anomalies that fuel this intercine bickering.
I fully realize our guilds, demi-guilds, and free agents may find this idea repellent- because it has some logic? Or is unwieldy? Much work? Where to start? Needs to be phased in? Ultimately a state issue, etc. But as someone said, WITHOUT STATING AN END GAME, THERE IS NO GOAL. We will default any autonomy we may have back to the code drafters, who are more than slightly driven by the material producers- our industry equal of Big Pharma. AIA and NCARB must realize that failing to fuse our interests will continue chaos for our industry, and foster bland environment in the long run. As we lose more control to the "package deal" folk in the financial sector, we all count for less.
As to the AIA, do not mourn the loss of a hegemony we never had. We may be loved more for consigning the closed loop of modernists and academics that manage ARCHITECTURAL OFFICIALDOM mostly to the commercial sector. The public, being composed of sentimental fools that mostly love houses that refer to their culture and locale, would be just as happy. And well-designed homes in a smart-growth setting WILL doubtless gain more popularity over time, especially in the crucially dense parts or the US.
ALL OF US THAT LOVE RESIDENTIAL ARCHITECTURE SHOULD HAVE THE SAME EDUCATION AND STANDARDS. ANY OF YOU THAT FIND THIS A WORTHY GOAL SHOULD START THINKING OF HOW WE COULD SLOWLY IMPLEMENT THE ONLY INTENTIONAL SOLUTION IN SIGHT. ANY OTHER SOLUTION LEADS TO MORE DISSOLUTION AND FRAGMENTATION OF INTERESTS. WITHIN 20 YEARS, RESIDENTIAL ARCHITECTS WOULD COMPETE AMONG PEERS, IN A MARKET FREE OF BOTH THE MARGINALLY COMPETENT AND THE RENT-SEEKING.
WE MIGHT IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT AND HELP SAVE THE PLANET, TOO.
Residential Architects have a huge identity problem.
Friday I was in Des Moines and had lunch with an old friend from college. He had told me about their experience in building their home some ten years ago. They ended up using a stock plan service from an AIBD designer owned company in Cedar Rapids (not a bad option, in my opinion - and their house seems to have been competently designed). He told me that before he and his wife went that route, they had worked with an "architect". When I asked the name of the architect he told me it was Alvin S. - whom I have met (at AIBD functions) and happen to know is not a licensed architect, but an AIBD designer - a very successful one at that.
When I tried to explain to my friend, Rick, that Alvin was not a licensed architect. He said, "Well, we thought he was one". I know Alvin, and I doubt he would hold himself out to be an architect. Yet, in the public's eye he IS an architect. And while I can speculate that he didn't tell my friends he was an architect, he might not have told them he wasn't! In other words, let them think he is an architect as it's too hard to explain to clients that he's not - and might kill a project.
This is the problem I face and, in realty, our own dilemma. It is that anyone with a CAD program is perceived by the public as an architect. John & Judy Sixpack aren't going to check state credentials when getting their home designed. In fact, they could probably care less. In their eyes, their guy at the lumberyard is just as much of an "architect" as anyone on this forum.
When I do come up against someone who knows that architect's need to have credentials, i.e. NAHB builders, I am thought of as an unnecessary expense - and (Now this is important) someone who is going to mess with "their" design
The AIA has done a very poor job in previous efforts at marketing residential architects. Indeed, they have done a disservice to the majority of residential architects in using case studies that are typically highly custom, avant-garde, object homes. Just look at Residential Architects Mag's latest design awards! Flat roofed Euro-boxes that are in remote sites (so much for sustainability)! As a residential architect who is not among the culturally elite, I can no longer trust the AIA to work in my best interest!
The AIA has done a very poor job in previous efforts at marketing residential architects. Indeed, they have done a disservice to the majority of residential architects in using case studies that are typically highly custom, avant-garde, object homes. Just look at Residential Architects Mag's latest design awards! Flat roofed Euro-boxes that are in remote sites (so much for sustainability)! As a residential architect who is not among the culturally elite, I can no longer trust the AIA to work in my best interest! Edward Shannon
Sorry Dave, I don't think it's that simple. I think it's more of an uphill battle and an endless money pit. I gave financially (over 20 years as a member) and sacrificed to serve my chapter (two terms on Board of Directors, chaired 3 different committees, served on many more) and I still don't feel I have a professional organization that advocates for me! I can only give for so long. Right now, I am tapped, squoze like a lemon with no juice left! NCARB reports 104, 301 US Registered Architects. According to the stats I could get from the AIA (their last survey being 2009!! - ridiculous) they counted 56,295 US Registered Architect members. (The AIA uses a much higher figure of members on their website, which includes internationals and professional affiliates) I sense this number has fallen since 2009, but even at that, this means 54% of US licensed architects are members of the professions foremost professional organization! Not good! I venture to guess that many of the 46% of architects who are not members are engaged in residential practice of the vein of working with builders and middle income families who do not appreciate or want an avant-garde statement. The AIA should be focused on capturing this demographic, not in the next 5 decades, but the next 5 years! Show these architects (like me) that the AIA can provide some real value. Create a dues structure that is more reasonable for the sole practitioner. Create materials that advocate for the NORMAL residential architect. Work with the NAHB to regulate residential design. But, please don't ask us to give now, so that the next generation of architects can enjoy the results.
Side note - I attended a building science seminar last weekend which focused on moisture protection. With all the potential problems out there, I cannot see how residential design cannot be regulated!
I just skimmed this post so forgive me if I am repeating someone. I have a comment on one of Perry's ideas. He says "I suggested ideally Residential Architecture would be licensed as discipline separate from Architecture. This would be supported by a somewhat shorter collegiate curriculum focusing on the technics of residential structures of less than 5 stories, combined with master planning exercises for residential and mixed use areas".
An architectural license indicates one has the mandated required minimum understanding to practice architecture. It does not say the individual has a mastery of architecture and as such doesn't have a mastery of one building type. It is up to the license holder to further devolve their skills and most wind up developing an expertise in one, two or perhaps three types of projects. If one of those types of projects a person becomes an expert on is residential then so be it. I don't think it does anyone any good to grant a residential design license separate from an architecture license. If you want to be licensed to design "only" houses then become an architect.
An architectural license indicates one has the mandated required minimum understanding to practice architecture. It does not say the individual has a mastery of architecture and as such doesn't have a mastery of one building type. It is up to the license holder to further devolve their skills and most windup developing an expertise in one, two or perhaps three types of projects. If one of those types of projects a person becomes an expert on is residential then so be it. I don't think it does anyone any good to grant a residential design license separate from an architecture license. If you want to be licensed to design "only" houses then become an architect.
Just to clarify my comments on a "residential license". I was not saying I think everyone that designs a house needs to become an architect and I was not saying every house needs to be sealed by an architect. I don't know exactly where I stand on that issue and am not going to start yet another discussion on that, it's been done. I was saying I don't think it does any good to license residential designers separately from architects. I don't think there is much (if anything) that could be trimmed from the current education and experience requirements to be an architect to make a shorter path to become a "licensed residential designer" or "residential architect" or whatever it may be called. I think that would lead to a diminished perception of our profession and "licensed residential designers ...." would be perceived as "Jr. architects". I think it would lead to the enlightened clients that want to seek out a professional designer to skip a "regular" architect and go for a licensed residential designer on the assumption it would be cheaper and I know I am not for that. It could also lead to further fragmentation of the architectural profession requiring a license for other building types. "Sorry Dr. Jones, I can design your office building but I am not licensed to design the parking garage to go with it".
Just to get a job these days we need to spend lots of time to get certified and accredited in all sorts of things, and pay for the privilege. I thought it was a joke the first time I heard about "Revit 2011 certification" but it's real and expensive. Do we want to cut up our license into little bits and have to pay for each one? Again, specialize in any type of building you want once you met the min requirements of a license. If you are a non-licensed designer and it is legal where you are, keep going.