Electronic version of architect's stamp - advice?

I'm in a bit of a weird situation.

Stamping hasn't been an issue for me for 6 years, as I've been doing mostly residential work that doesn't require a stamp. So maybe I'm just behind the times.

I am working on a small structure as a consultant to a landscape architect. They are the lead on the project, I'm subcontracted to them, and they are inserting my drawings for the structure into their set, on their title block.

They just asked me for an electronic version of my stamp and signature to affix to their sheet, and that doesn't seem right to me. Is this common practice?

I also have a structural engineer who is subcontracted to me - he has always sent me a sheet pdf with his stamp on it after I sent him a title block to use.

What is common practice in regard to electronic stamping these days? I really should call my E&O provider and ask them, right? Or does everyone just give their stamp to the lead?

Jan 19, 11 10:55 am
Ms Beary

Electronic stamps are common, but not acceptable in some locations. Check with your insurance or the building authority.

Jan 19, 11 10:58 am

I understand electronic sheet submittals with stamps is common, but is giving the firm that hired you a copy of your electronic stamp common?

Jan 19, 11 11:01 am
Ms Beary

I worked at a firm that indeed had all our consultants electronic stamps on file, that is all I can offer. So it is common to me.

Jan 19, 11 11:05 am
el jeffe

seems strange to me, i can't figure out why it might be necessary. convenient - sure.

but i have another question; in my jurisdiction, according to our architect's practice act, any instruments of service prepared by me MUST be stamped, regardless of whether the permitting agency would require a stamp.
is yours different?

Jan 19, 11 11:17 am

Can you get them to send you their title block, and then you PDF your sheets with your stamp on it, and just send them the completed PDF?

We've never asked for our subs electronic stamps...

Jan 19, 11 11:19 am

Hey Donna - we've done it a couple of ways but in general I've tried to adhere to the following:

If it's just the actual seal (those lovely round things), we do put an electronic copy on our drawings. However, that's only for our own sets - we would never send out a dwg to a consultant (we work with a landscape firm in the same way quite often) with the seal on it. Nor have we ever been asked. Under no circumstances would I ever give someone a digital copy of my signature on the drawing. Nor have we been asked.

I'm personally skittish about sending a pdf with the seal on it - it's not the legally binding instrument in Georgia (the signature is supposed to be there). Main reason is that I'm nervous someone could just forge a signature and get away with falsifying our info in ways we don't want to deal with. However, it's been done for 90% sets, so...

E&O people do not like this practice. At all.

Now, for the truly scary part of all this: we have a consultant who, on another project that we're not involved with, did a set of civil plans for a development that went on hold 3 years ago, after being partially built (and in complete non-compliance with the design or code). The parcel was recently sold and the new owner was told that the plans were 'included' in the price (not true, but less germane). New owner wanted the civil firm to modify the plans to make the work done 'work' for an obscenely low price. They refused. Here's the scary part: I asked the local official during a review for another project what they would do if the owner came to him with a 3 year old set of plans that didn't have an original ink signature (meaning it was clearly a copy, which the owner would legally be able to obtain from the permitting department) - he answered that it happens all the time and they wouldn't think twice about calling the firm to see if, in fact, they had authorized the drawings. I pressed him about what liability would the county be taking on, unknowingly, if something went subsequently wrong and it came out that they issued a permit on drawings that were clearly not approved or issued by the design professional. He became increasingly uncomfortable and tried to end the conversation as quickly as possible, especially after I pressed him about why they were accepting clear copies and how do they attempt to head off potential forgeries.

So... all that to say, I'd be really careful. If you trust the LA firm not to abuse what you're giving them, that's a decision you can make. Personally, I like the satisfaction and finality of signing the original copies myself...

Jan 19, 11 11:29 am

I just submitted a partial set (foundation only) that's 55 architectural pages. The AHJ needed 6 copies. Are you saying that you'd sign all copies by hand? Or just one set?

le bossman


electronic stamps are common out west, esp in the rockies for some reason. i don't know of any other region where it is all that common, but one thing that isn't common is the electronic stamp and signature file leaving the office. i don't think i'd give them a copy of my stamp. request the cad file so you can send them pdfs. don't let your stamp leave the office.

Jan 19, 11 11:34 am
le bossman

(not that i have a stamp)

Jan 19, 11 11:35 am

tagaloing, that's what I've told them I want to do. But! Greg your excellent (though adding fog to the murkiness of this whole question) post raises the signature question, as Strawbeary did above - I don't know if my current jurisdiction allows electronic signatures. And this firm requested both my file and my signature.

It's totally NOT that I don't trust the firm requesting these things - I do, I've worked with them plenty and trust them completely. It's more a question of principle, as well as a desire to not find myself in a legal situation three or 10 or 30 years from now.

And Stawbeary, respecting you as I do and recalling how you've very creatively and amusingly complained about your old firm's ineptness over the years here, the fact that they had all their consultant's electronic stamps on file is exactly the opposite of comforting! ;-)

Jan 19, 11 11:46 am

Oh, and to el jeffe's question: no, in my jurisdiction if I prepare a drawing that doesn't require a stamp I do not have to stamp it - and IIRC from my liability seminar a few years ago, as long as I don't stamp it the "personally liable" clause can't be invoked against me.

Jan 19, 11 11:48 am

Donna - the trick is the 'trust' factor. My fear with that kind of stuff isn't that the person I'm working with is going to do something sketchy, it's the disgruntled employee 3 desks down.

In the end, the risks someone could forge documents are pretty small, but I'm not in the mood to find out just how small...

Jan 19, 11 11:57 am

This is a fascinating discussion. I've never worked in an office that kept electronic stamps (either our own or consultants') on file so I can't speak to the main question.

However - I just want to add a reminder that it's extremely simple to cut an stamp image out of a pdf copy of a drawing set. So, honestly, if you are stamping drawings and then sending electronic copies of the stamped drawings to anyone, if they actually wanted to it would be an extremely simple matter to just cut your stamp out of the electronic drawing file.

Just goes to say that I'm not sure you'll ever be able to 100% protect yourself from possible fraud.

Jan 19, 11 1:29 pm

I know, manta, it would be ridiculously easy - which is why I'm wondering if I'm just being a pain in the ass by saying no to sending them my electronic stamp. Actually I don't even HAVE an electronic stamp, only a wood/rubber one.

Jan 19, 11 1:36 pm

And nothing in the coed I just read references whether the signature has to be original or electronic - it just says "legible". So I'm guessing electronic is fine.

Jan 19, 11 1:49 pm

How many drawings is it? Are they in the same town as you? Honestly I'd just call the LA PM up and say, "Hey, I understand it would be easier to use an electronic version of my stamp, but I'm simply not comfortable with it and not sure about the E/O implications. Why don't you give me a ring when the set comes back from the printers and I'll come round and stamp them all."

Personally I would not be too keen on letting an electronic version of my stamp out the door. I just... I dunno, I get weirded out about things like that. But I'm a person whose had my credit cards stolen twice (both times without the physical card, just the number) even though I rarely make online purchases...

Jan 19, 11 1:52 pm

Yeah, my sheet count is one, my PE's is one. So not really a big deal to come in and stamp/sign it IRL before it goes off to the permit department.

I mean, it's a fricking PITA to GET the stamp in the first place, and carries a lot of liability with its use - so the thought of just emailing copies of it all over town weirds me out, a lot. Though my PE seems to be fine with it.

I kinda wish the state required the physical seal still (some states do), so this whole discussion wouldn't matter.

Jan 19, 11 2:04 pm
St. George's Fields




Jan 19, 11 3:20 pm

I'm going to agree with not sending your stamp and signature to others. As Manta suggested, it would be easy to forge a stamp either way but I would think if someone has your electronic stamp/signature on file it be too easy for them to accidentally add it or assume you intended to stamp something the next time you work together.

If someone cuts your stamp from a pdf, I think it would be a little more clear that you didn't intend to allow them to use it.

Jan 19, 11 3:42 pm

why would they ask for just your stamp and sig anyway? are they planning on changing the drawings after you give it to them?

Jan 19, 11 4:10 pm

You're right, curtkram, that if someone cuts a stamp of yours off one drawing and puts it on another, that's CLEARLY a violation of the law. It's the accidental placing of it on the wrong sheet or a preliminary sheet that worries me, and sending them a pdf of of the entire sheet with my stamp on it already would be somewhat safer in that respect - I'd have a record of where my stamp went.

toaster I think it's just for convenience. If not, then that's screwed up, and I'm right to be wary!

Jan 19, 11 6:14 pm

even if they're not being sheisters I'd be very wary if they're doing any formatting of your drawings - a layer could get turned off, some text might not make it to print, accidents happen. personally I'd want to see the final product first.

Jan 19, 11 9:34 pm


Jan 19, 11 9:40 pm


When can I pre order the Art Vandelay deluxe stamp kit?

Does it strike anyone else as peculiar that to get a stamp it requires:

5 years of school
3 years of internship
multiple examinations (that few people can pass in one try)
serious E/O insurance

but they allow electronic stamps that could be copied by a 4th grader in 20 seconds?

Jan 19, 11 10:15 pm

It is bizarre, jbushkey. But the point is I have a stamp and can use it legally, someone who Grabs and pastes it is using it illegally.

Jan 19, 11 11:41 pm

does your city require the signature to be wet for submittal?

Jan 20, 11 1:21 am
OMNIA Architects

Hi, Does anyone have any updates on using the electronic seals?  We are reviewing are process in Philadelphia, PA.  Your feedback is appreciated.  

Jan 17, 17 11:58 am
x intern
Call the city and ask them. It's legal most places but some have strange stipulations
Jan 17, 17 1:19 pm
OMNIA Architects

Thanks for your reply.


I meant the technicality of using digital signatures to electronically seal drawings not just to the city, but to anyone.  

Jan 17, 17 1:32 pm
x intern
It's legal in Texas. In Oklahoma you used to have to date them by hand and date had to touch seal.
If you mean the adobe signature deal, I've never heard of it myself.
Jan 17, 17 2:22 pm

It really depends - on one project I have everything is electronic, on another they wanted signed and sealed hard copies. 

Jan 17, 17 2:25 pm
x intern
It would be very easy to fake how we do it currently. We should probably switch to QR codes that link to a secure website listing our projects . It wouldn't require a significant amount of resources and would be an productive use of our license fees.
Jan 17, 17 3:01 pm

has fake stamping been a problem?

Jan 18, 17 9:45 am

Why would anyone but the building department need the drawings to be stamped?  We used to wet stamp and sign ONLY the permit sets.

Jan 18, 17 10:34 am

Depends on the jurisdiction - some states require all construction drawings/sketches etc. (even clarifications) to be stamped.

Jan 18, 17 10:54 am

^  Whew.  Ridiculous.  No end to the stupidity of government.

Jan 18, 17 11:15 am

Certified pdf's?  I've done it for change orders and the like, but locally around here we are still wet stamping. 

Jan 18, 17 12:29 pm
OMNIA Architects

Recently, we have been receiving requests for electronic seals to submit to Townships for permits. With this is the fear of our digital seal getting reproduced and pirated. We have been researching using Certified Documents through Abode/Reader and third party services (Entrust, GlobalSign,OpenTrust, etc.) for creating digital signatures/IDs. The AIA did not have much to offer in terms of a guidline or template to follow. 


Our questions are: How have you handled the distribution of electronic seals? Is it a hassle to distribute PDFs with a digital signature, or worth the hassle? How do clients respond?

Is it acceptable to submit an "un-certified" PDF sealed drawing with a watermark stating the specific use of the seal/township, accompanied by a translucent date over the digital seal to identify it's valid dates of use (only usable between 6 month period, ex. 1/1/17-7/7/17)?

Jan 18, 17 12:39 pm
OMNIA Architects

I would not call it fake stamping, I would call it unauthorized reuse of drawings without paying for it.

Jan 18, 17 1:24 pm

With the certified pdf, it was a few years ago... but I can't remember much.  The client introduced me to them since we all officed in different areas of the State and most the 'paper' had to be done electronically.  That's actually a good thing I can't remember since it means that it was so inconsequential to make certified pdfs and easy that it didn't leave a strong impression.  

Honestly, what is your liability if someone steals it?  Something goes wrong, and it will be apparent very rapidly you weren't involved.  I've seen those cases doing some litigation expert witness stuff. (don't get me started on engineers, regardless of what kind of engineer, having just "Professional Engineer" (seen mechanical sign structural and variations like that)  

The more complex ones I've seen are when the contractor or owner scans your stamped set and starts changing lines... and then things go wrong.  Takes longer to clear it up since you did work, but not those changes and how those change played into the defect. 

Jan 18, 17 1:36 pm

Found this older thread while googling this topic In our locality it has come to this (from Permits and Inspections website) : 

"We are NO longer accepting paper plan submissions."

So unless we want to do a design, print, wet stamp and sign, scan and then submit process we are forced to use e-stamps.  As a contract drafter for multiple licensed design professionals, I do have a handy assortment of e-stamps with sigs all ready to go. 

Must be a better way - I don't want the liability on my end. But as a previous posted noted. With acrobat pro and PS I can close any stamp I see if I had bad intentions.     

John M in RVA 

Mar 13, 18 10:08 am

In NYC, specifically if you are e filing, digital stamps are acceptable, how else are you going to print and scan large sets of drawings and submit as a pdf set?

its 2018, don't be scared to digitize...

Mar 13, 18 11:07 am

It's been that way for several years here - I don't know when the last time was that we could submit paper anything, except on small projects in small towns.  Even if digital weren't required, on large public projects it would be wholly impractical not to do it that way - especially in the states that have QB selection processes that require a gazillion stamped original sets filed because of different trade bid sets and multiple authorities - there can easily be 60 stamped/signed original sets filed. Multiplied by a few hundred sheets, our principal would have to spend nearly all his time stamping and signing.

New Jersey requires third-party certified digital stamps.  If you have liability/security concerns you could probably do it that way, even if you're not in New Jersey.

Mar 13, 18 12:21 pm

I would send them your completed drawing with your stamp on it, using whatever title block was agreed to.  When I receive stamped drawings from my consultants, this is the way we always do it. I would think it's weird if someone requested my stamp so that they could put it on whatever drawings they want to.

Mar 17, 18 10:44 am

not sure if this is the correct thread,

but has anyone come across someone else intentionally using your stamp without your knowledge (to stamp/submit plans) and if so what is my appropriate course of action...?

Sep 17, 18 2:32 pm

It happens now and then - usually by former employees or consultants of the person whose stamp is being used - though it's so easy to order or make a stamp in anyone's name/number that it could happen to anyone. The appropriate actions are to report it to the applicable state board(s), make any permitting officials aware to look out for it in the towns/cities where you know or think it's happening, write a cease and desist letter to the perpetrator (I'd recommend having a lawyer help with that), and possibly report it to law enforcement in the place(s) where it's happening.


thanks tons for your time Bloopox

Sep 17, 18 3:13 pm

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