The Home Designer or Professional Building Designer

Elizabeth Tomlinson  |  5/26/2008 9:37:21 PM

A building designer designs residential and agricultural light-frame buildings, such as single-family homes. A designer also might design decorative facades for larger structures.

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

You may choose to hire a home designer or professional building designer to design your new home, to design for rebuilding or renovation of your home or to design other related structures on your property, such as a pool house or a "mother-in-law" apartment.

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

These designers are not legally required to pass any exams or to carry a license at this time.

In an effort to provide consumers with an indication of the level of experience and competency of the building designer they might hire, the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) established the National Council of Building Designer Certification (NCBDC). The NCBDC will certify a building designer as a Certified Professional Building Designer (CPBD) after certain qualifications have been met. This designation of CPBD is not recognized by Louisiana law and does not act as a professional license in Louisiana; however, it does tell the consumer that this designer has a certain amount of training and experience and has passed a national exam.

Certification requires at least six years of building design experience at no less than 20 hours per week and under the supervision of a CPBD, and architect, or a professional engineer. Education in the form of training courses related to architecture and engineering are recommended. Finally, the applicant for certification must provide a set of working drawings for three separate projects that he has completed and three letters of recommendation from a builder, building official, CPBD, architect or engineer.

At this point the applicant can apply to take the certification exam, which covers information regarding construction, design and problem solving. This exam has 11 sections, and all sections must be passed before receiving professional building designer certification. Certification must be renewed annually, and eight hours of continuing education are required to renew.

Alternately, the AIBD offers the credential of Professional Building Designer. This requires at least five years of educational and professional experience and continuing education. The AIBD requires that all professional-level members of its organization complete eight continuing education (CE) hours in order to maintain this level of membership.

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

You may verify your designer’s CPBD status by visiting the NCBDC at www.ncbdc.com or by calling (888) 726-7659. You may find an AIBD professional designer in your area by going to www.aibd.org or calling their national office at (800) 366-2423. Remember that an AIBD professional designer is not necessarily a certified professional building designer.

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

There is no license or certification required in Louisiana to design light-frame residential structures. Any person is able to design your home or home rebuilding project without a license.

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

Fees vary widely and may depend upon the complexity of the project. Generally, your designer will charge a certain percentage of the total construction cost, but he may choose another method of payment or combination of methods.

How does a person become a building designer?

At this time, most states do not recognize this industry as a profession by law that requires licensure or certification, so there are no requirements for how to become a building designer. The home- or building-design industry is working to develop and enhance the profession of building design, as well as to increase awareness of building design as a profession.

In the past, most people became building designers after working in the construction field and learning about construction. For instance, you may come across building contractors who offer design/build services. On-the-job training and sometimes a few courses at the local vocational school are all it took to become a building designer.

If you wish to obtain designation as a certified professional building designer, it is best to start by taking courses in architecture and structural engineering. You can take these courses at a university, a vocational school or even online. (Most architecture courses in accredited programs are only open to architecture students who have been accepted to the program through certain requirements.) You may also receive training through an official or unofficial apprenticeship program or through an internship. In either case, six years of building design experience under supervision is required to sit for the certification exam, along with a small portfolio of work demonstrating this experience.

Having met these requirements and having presented three letters of recommendation from approved industry professionals to the National Council of Building Designer Certification, the applicant can take the certification exam. After successful completion of the exam, the applicant can become a certified professional building designer and use the designation "CPBD" after his name.

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

No license or certification is required in Louisiana to practice residential design, so you may be from any state to practice design in Louisiana.

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