Professional Roles – The Architect

Elizabeth Tomlinson  |  7/17/2008 6:53:41 PM

An architect is a design professional who designs environments in which people live, work and play. The architect can provide a broad array of services to fit your particular needs and must be knowledgeable not only in aesthetic design but also in building structure, building function, finance/budgeting, life safety issues, accessibility, project management, construction, building materials, the bidding and permitting processes and more. The architect also needs a working knowledge of environmental issues and civil, electrical and mechanical design. However, the architect will often leave the detailed investigation and planning of these to a consultant who specializes in that area. The architect also must be knowledgeable regarding codes adopted by the jurisdiction in which he is practicing.

For what specific tasks would you seek the services of someone in this profession?

Architects can be hired to do as little as develop space plans for your house all the way to complete design and project administration. This may include, but is not limited to, establishing your particular needs, site analysis and planning, handling the permitting process, project budgeting, full preparation of construction documents, aiding the homeowner in hiring a contractor and subcontractors, scheduling and coordination of building processes, researching new products, and supervising and managing the project to completion.

What licenses and certifications are available in this profession and what requirements are needed to obtain them?

Architecture is a professional degree and the designation of “architect” can only be used by those individuals who have satisfactorily completed the rigorous requirements of education, experience and examination. Upon completion, the individual receives a certificate of registration and license. This assures the consumer that this professional regularly undergoes continuing education and follows a code of ethics and professional conduct set forth by the state licensing laws. Registered architects are required to obtain 12 hours of continuing education units per year.

In order to obtain their license, architects must first pass all nine divisions of the Architect Registration Exam or ARE (the examination component of the requirements listed above). This exam is developed by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and tests “an applicant's competence in the protection of public health, safety and welfare, to provide the architectural services of Pre-Design, Site Planning, Building Planning, Building Technology, General Structures, Lateral Forces, Mechanical & Electrical, Materials & Methods, Construction Documents & Services as these relate to the social/cultural, natural and physical forces, design process, building systems/materials and methods and other related external constraints.”

But before the individual applies to take this exam, he must first meet certain requirements set forth by each state. In Louisiana, the requirements are residency in the state of Louisiana, graduation from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board (or NAAB) and successful completion of IDP (Intern Development Program) training. At this point, the prospective architect may apply to take the ARE. The applicant must successfully complete all nine sections of the ARE within a five-year period.

How can the consumer verify that the professional has the license he/she purports to have?

The consumer can ask the architect to see his license, and he should be able to provide it. In addition, consumers can go to http://www.ncarb.org for a list of registered architects published annually.

What license is required in Louisiana to do what type of work?

Civil engineers and single-family homebuilding designers may practice residential architecture, but they may not call themselves architects. An architect must possess a current Louisiana-registered architect license to practice architecture as an architect. The architect designs for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the public and his license assures this.

What is the typical pay basis for this profession, and what is the typical cost?

Rates will vary according to your project and the specific services you need from your architect. Generally, for homebuilding projects, architects will charge a percentage of the total project cost. The AIA recommends its members charge between 5-10 percent for a custom house and slightly higher for a remodel. Sometimes, this also is combined with hourly rates and reimbursement of expenses. Early consultations may involve hourly costs and the contractual project charged using the percentage-of-total method. You should work with your architect to negotiate the charges. It may be that some phases of the project would be better charged using a different method than the one normally put forth by the architect, especially if you are planning to do some of the work yourself and just need advice from the architect.

Fees are usually based on one of the following options:

  • A percentage of construction cost
  • An hourly rate
  • A lump sum
  • A lump sum plus expenses
  • Unit pricing based on the area of the home ($ per square foot)

Or it may be any combination of the above.

Remodels or renovations generally will cost more because they are more difficult, and while the cost may seem high, architect fees are actually a very small percentage of the cost of your entire building and can be well worth the cost.

Visit www.aiala.com for tips on how to choose an architect and on which rate method is right for your project. Note: Always insist on a written contract when hiring an architect. This helps protect both you and the architect.

How do you become an architect?

In Louisiana, the first step is to attend and graduate from an NAAB-accredited architecture program. Accredited programs can be found at www.naab.org and www.aiala.com for those specifically in Louisiana. These programs are generally five years for an undergraduate degree. In addition, individuals wishing to study architecture at the graduate level but who do not possess an architecture undergraduate degree can find programs that offer what is called a “first professionals degree.”

This is followed by the successful completion of IDP training. The IDP is a comprehensive internship that requires 700 training units. One training unit equals eight hours of supervised and approved architectural activity. At this point, the prospective architect may apply to take the ARE. The applicant must successfully complete all nine sections within a five-year period and then apply to the state to be registered.

How does an architect who is licensed or certified for providing service in another state get authorization to provide services in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, architects from jurisdictions outside the state may not practice in Louisiana, even if registered, unless they obtain a Louisiana license or are NCARB certified. For more information, visit the Louisiana component of the American Institute of Architects at http://www.aiala.com/ or the Louisiana Board of Architectural Examiners at http://www.lastbdarchs.com/.

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