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1.  For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-18-2012 11:22
This message has been cross posted to the following Discussion Forums: Housing Knowledge Community and Custom Residential Architects Network .
This is in response to some other recent comments on CRAN about the NAHB considering creating a certification program for "home designers." 

Hey: okay, as soon as NAHB does this, let's have CRAN immediately create a "Home Builder" CRAN-AIA Certification program!  We can make this program for all interested "builders" (to heck with requiring licensed, real General Contractors, huh? because NAHB doesn't seem particularly concerned about involving licensed real architects...).  Anyone with a hammer and a pickup truck would qualify.  No problem.  No green card?  No problem.  No education or degrees in construction?  No problem. No state license to build anything?  No big whoop.  No CEUs?  okay.  Can do.  We'll certify ya, dude!   and oh yeah: no General Liability insurance?  Who cares?  No Workers Compensation insurance?  Pffffftttt!  Fall down, fake an injury and sue the homeowner.  Hah!  Just give a us a fee, we'll print yer certificate out and e-mail it to you to proudly hang on the rear window of your aging F-150, right under your gun rack.

Okay.  Now that we've got that out of our systems: What NAHB is proposing is not prudent.  It can hurt and confuse the public and it hurts real, licensed architects in the CRAN and elsewhere, who primarily practice residential architecture.  Residential architects everywhere are struggling to survive and confusing the public with some other "certification" program from entities not licensed to provide such services by any state government can and will mislead the public into thinking that they are architects.  What such "designers" Don't say when meeting or talking with clients is the issue.  What they should say is "hey, I'm NOT an architect.  I just draw."  Do they?  What do you think?

CRAN is struggling right now, to fund programs to begin public awareness programs to do two main things:
1.  that real, licensed architects exist and can and will design homes for anyone.
2.  that there are good reasons for anyone to hire an architect to design their home.

The problem CRAN and any residential architect has with step one is that when other organizations (like NAHB) "certify" people with no educational requirements, no state license to design anything, no CEUs or other legitimate qualifications, it appears to whitewash those less qualified people and set them forth as if they are architects, even though they don't explicitly say that.  It also confuses the public, many of whom do not even realize that there are such things as architects who specialize in designing homes who are available to design their homes (I know this is true).

This is bad for us and bad for the public and quite frankly, I really don't see what good it does the NAHB.  If anything, the NAHB ought to be contacting the CRAN leadership about organizing programs of mutually beneficial cooperation to refer legitimate licensed GCs and refer real licensed residential architects.  NOT attempt passive-aggressive inter-organizational warfare by undermining what we do.  How would the NAHB like it if CRAN really did create a "Certified Builder" program.  Wouldn't that frost their chops?  I'm not seriously advocating that. 

What I would like to see is CRAN and the NAHB working together to HELP EACH OTHER, not harm the public nor take the bread of off each other's tables. Instead, I hesitate to book our leadership to do pesky things about which they are not invested: but John & Dave: would either of you guys consider giving a call to NAHB and try to talk them out of their ill-advised certification program of "designers" and instead suggest embarking on a mutual referral program, whereby CRAN AIA architects would refer NAHB GCs and vice versa, rather than waging war on each other?

And : what legitimate right does a contractor organization have certifying anyone to do anything, other than Build?  No more that the CRAN/AIA would have certifying builders.  Each organization should be certifying and underscoring the legitimate qualifications of those licensed by law to do what they do and not muddy the waters of public perception. 

But, I'm sure others will have different opinions.
Rand Soellner AIA
Home Architects
Cashiers NC

2.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-19-2012 15:08
It seems to me that one way to avoid this kind of thing in the future (if not stop it in the present) is for all architects in residential practice to join NAHB and speak out.

Sean Catherall AIA
Integrated Property Services
Bluffdale UT

3.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-22-2012 09:27
Like many Architects, I've grown tired of this conversation. This sounds like loser talk to me. At present we only design maybe 3% of the new houses, so we clearly have a (wo)man power issue when it comes to requiring stamps for all houses. This could change, but it's the current reality. In the end, who cares if the NHBA or NAHB has their own certification for house designers? This doesn't matter one bit to the Building Review Depts and it certainly isn't going to supersede a License to practice Architecture. Remember, there is a reason these designers have avoided getting a license! The best thing we can do is get out there and run the residential designers out of your areas like I have. They don't understand structure, they often don't understand local zoning ordinances, don't understand current Building Codes, they're ideas are dated and stagnant, and if you learn to lower your fees without lowering your worth, you can charge a little more while providing much better service. I learned to charge just a bit more than the designers while bringing up my dollars per hour with limited scope services. I'm still providing more information than they can and this is why I'm running them out of my area.

A bigger fee doesn't mean more dollars per hour, in fact it often means less dollars per hour. Start with a baseline of the bare minimum to get a permit. Then you add layers of service appropriate to the client. Be warned, the more layers you add the more you will find yourself bundling your services for a discount. If you charge the minimum fee for the minimum service, you can charge the "minimum set up charge" at the highest dollars per hour. I make more dollars per hour on my 4 figure fees for builders than I do on my 5 figure fees for custom homeowner work.

There are many areas of the inner cities that need revitalization. There are many speculative builders out there cutting it up with the cookie cutters, but you can convince them to build one of a kind spec houses. This is like designing  a custom house for a builder that they will happen to sell. Renovate, Repurpose, or Replace these old tired houses at spec and you will create real sales that can be used to value the next round of houses. CUSTOM HOUSES FOR HOMEOWNERS ARE NOT SALES! THEY CANNOT BE USED TO APPRAISE OTHER HOUSES!!! If you ignore spec houses, then the value of your homeowner work is determined by the job the cookie cutters are doing. I design spec houses, in part, to push the values UP in my area, so I can push the envelope with my custom houses. If you ignore spec houses, you're ignoring the sector of the business that generates 2x more buildings than all other sectors combined! If you find a good builder to work with they will bring you the work, they are easy to work for, and the right teammate will make you look good with minimal effort on your part. Right now multiple loans on spec houses are hard to come by and they are looking for other ways to make profit. Be creative and help them get the best bang for their buck. When you get into a rhythm with a builder and you understand their strengths and weaknesses, you will both evolve together to provide better and better buildings with less and less effort.

p.s. this rant isn't directed at anyone, especially Sean.

Eric Rawlings AIA
Rawlings Design, Inc.
Decatur GA

4.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-23-2012 08:27
I have gotten to know some of the AIBD designers in my state and have attended a few of their meetings.  My experiences have been that (in many cases) they are just as competent as most architects in every way!  Yes, they are self taught.  Many began by working for architecture firms, so they were instilled with a high set of standards for producing CD's and such.  They still represent a small faction people engaged in residential design.  In fact, I am told that total membership in AIBD has dwindled to about 1,000 nationally.

They people that concern me are the bottom feeders.  The in-house lumberyard guys & gals who provide "free" design services if a client purchases $100,000.00 worth of materials.  Talk about a conflict of interests!  Many contractors also think that because they can purchase and operate CAD and produce a minimal set of drawings, they are qualified to design too.  A little bit like sang that if you can type, you can write an interesting novel or a competent technical document.  They produce shoddy documents and thoughtless designs.

What can the AIA do for the large segment of the architecture profession that focuses on residential design?  Doing nothing is not the answer!  Having awards programs (such as Residential Architect magazine) that only recognize avant-garde "Euro-boxes" is not the answer!  Having a dues structure that is unattainable for many small/one person firms is not the answer!  Emphasizing "Custom" is not the answer to the sprawling blight that is currently being produced!  Providing promotional materials with custom homes (many that require a commercial contractor) is not the answer!  Kicking the can down the road, by stating that licensure is a state issue is not the answer!  Celebrating the "star-chitect" is not the answer!

Can the AIA recognize that there are many architects who do work for builders ( or clients w/o sophisticated tastes)  and in many cases have to compete with the bottom feeders?  It's time to recognize that residential design needs to be regulated,  It's time to reach out to these other organizations. 

Can the AIA advocate on behalf of all architects, especially the small practitioners dedicated to residential design?

Edward Shannon
Waterloo IA

5.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-23-2012 10:46
Amen, Edward.

Rand Soellner AIA
Home Architects
Cashiers NC

6.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-23-2012 12:29
From Eric's post below:

"Remember, there is a reason these designers have avoided getting a license! The best thing we can do is get out there and run the residential designers out of your areas like I have. They don't understand structure, they often don't understand local zoning ordinances, don't understand current Building Codes, they're ideas are dated and stagnant..."

I think that one of the main fears for architects (that is also sometimes the sentiment of the general public) is the idea that anyone can do what we do.  You don't need special skills, or technical understandings, or knowledge about theory or history.  You just need to have good taste, and / or your fingers on the pulse of the latest trending.  

There is an analogy with CAD skills.  I have heard many times from other architects that if CAD programs were easier to utilize, then everyone will be utilizing them and architects will be eliminated from the food chain.  Pencils are / were easy to use.  My point is that I think that our major problems are more internal than external.  We can talk a lot about changing the public's perception, but I think we have let the producers of our tools determine a lot more than they should about the way we conduct our careers.  It has created confusion.  Part of the confusion is the public's perception that a technical college trainee that is CAD proficient is equally as valuable as a licensed architect.  We are in a paradox that we help create because we cannot focus on the things that are vital to us.

I am less concerned about convincing someone that doesn't want to utilize an architect that they should.  I am more concerned about performing at a level that I feel reflects my true abilities.  What holds architects back from performing at the levels that reflect their true abilities? 

Ken Brogno AIA
Architect AIA LEED AP
San Francisco CA

7.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-22-2012 13:49
Sean, even if not all architects in CRAN AIA joined NAHB I agree that at least some could become involved with NAHB in association with the some AIA STAFF in advocating for residential architects.

Debra Rucker Coleman, AIA
Sun Plans Inc.
Mobile, AL

8.  RE:For: Architects Desiging Homes. Against: other entities "certifying" "designers"

Posted 10-23-2012 16:13
Hey CRAN folks, here's a wild and crazy idea:
Why don't we have CRAN create a Certified Residential Architect program?
  All of us that are licensed architects that have been doing it for a decade or more fill out a form and qualify.  No fee required. 

Any entity that is Not a licensed architect doesn't qualify.  When they become licensed, then their work history can be reviewed by some of us and some sort of questionnaire can be sent that tells us what they have been doing; perhaps a couple of recommendations from other licensed residential architects on their letterhead. Yes, a fee would apply here ( to be used for public awareness programs to inform the public that 1.)  there are licensed architects that can and will design their homes and 2.) that there are good reasons for an architect designing anyone's home).

Then any other organizations (particularly non-architects, like NAHB) will be directly competing with the gold standard of residential design:  Certified Residential Architects. 
"certified residential designers" would pale in comparison.  Mark?  John?  I'll participate or lead the subcommittee to make this happen.  Let's beat everyone else to the punch.  After all, we are licensed architects that specialize in the design of homes!  Who better to certify anyone to do that?

Rand Soellner AIA
Home Architects
Cashiers NC