Suspect that a company is practicing architecture without a license


I got laid off due to corona and my mother handed be a job ad she clipped from the paper the other day. The company is an HVAC company looking for someone with a Bachelor of Architecture degree for a drafter position. Based on the job description, they want someone to draw full architectural CD sets for custom houses, not just mechanical drawings. I looked up the company on linkedin and they have one employee who is an architect. This guy has a BA in architecture, but none of his work experience prior to working for this company is in architecture. I tried to look them up on my state’s licensing board online database and this person is not there unless they go by a different name.

Obviously, I’m not going to apply for this job, but should I report them?

Jul 5, 20 11:43 am
Non Sequitur

plenty of places don’t require an architect/stamp for residential. 

Jul 5, 20 12:04 pm  · 
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Jul 5, 20 12:07 pm  · 

If you are licensed yourself  just weasel yourself in and take the drafter job, and then tell the bosses you want the architect position instead or you’ll report them(!)

Jul 5, 20 1:50 pm  · 

What are they doing that is illegal? If they present themselves as a 'design - build' firm and don't use the scarlet letter A word that may be exactly what they are doing. 

Jul 5, 20 1:59 pm  · 
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It appears likely that the business is operating legally.  In the vast majority of the USA, the design of single family residential without a license is allowed by law. 

Jul 5, 20 3:33 pm  · 
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revolutionary poet

Take back Single-Family housing licensing requirements Academia!

Make architects design American Again!

Jul 5, 20 3:47 pm  · 
 ·  1

The question of whether or not to report someone using the A-word to misrepresent their credentials is an interesting one.  It seems like snitching to me, though I don't mind hearing of sanctions for someone caught doing this.  And I admit I occasionally check my state's licensee roster when I meet some doof tossing "architecture/al" around freely in their materials; but this is more to satisfy curiousity.

I guess I wouldn't want someone reporting my 'occasional' breaches of the vehicle code, among other sins.

Jul 5, 20 5:08 pm  · 

It depends.  What state is this in?  There are only two states where most residential design requires an architect or engineer. In the rest pretty much anybody can provide full service design of houses. There are a lot of states though where use of the terms "architect", "architecture", or "architectural" is regulated.  

You said that they have one architect who is an employee - again what state is it in?  In some states they can provide architectural services as long as they have one licensed architect or engineer on staff.  In other states some or all of the ownership must be licensed architects or engineers.  As for whether the employee architect is licensed in that state:  be sure of that first, before you make a thing out of this.  States' websites are sometimes out of date, and sometimes names are misspelled or listed under variations.  There have been thread on here before where the original poster has reported someone, only to find out that they are in fact licensed.  

Jul 5, 20 7:34 pm  · 
1  · 

In New York City, a RA or PE can sign/seal architectural/engineering drawings.

Jul 5, 20 8:04 pm  · 

Don’t apply and move on.  Reporting them is bad karma/energy. 

Jul 5, 20 9:59 pm  · 
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It the single family homes are under 3,800 sf. then you don't need to be an architect to 'design' them.  

Jul 6, 20 10:00 am  · 

It depends which state. In some the threshold is as low as 1500 sf, and in others there's no sf limit at all.

1  · 

If they have adopted the IBC then the max limit is 3,800 sf.


Again: it depends on which state. Very few states have adopted that particular paragraph without amendments. The OP should refer to his state's fire and building safety code, or whatever it's called in his particular state, for pertinent amendments.  The most common amendment deletes the 3800 sf limit entirely, but other states have amended it to various other, more stringent square foot limits, and/or to tie the requirement for a licensed professional to the construction type. There are also states that have adopted only certain chapters of IBC, and do not use any of the I-codes at all for residential.

1  · 

Fair enough. I know CO, MN, ND, SD, WI, MI, IL, MT, and UT still follow the 3,800 sf limit. I believe certain counties in IL and UT have it lower though. Often it's all up to individual counties if they amend / adopt parts of the IBC and IRC. Truly confusing and a bit frustrating at times.


I'm confused. Can someone cite where it is in the building codes?


It's in each state's codes. It varies enormously from state to state, even in adjacent states. Examples: in New York any residence 1500 sf or larger requires a stamp. In CT residential up to 24,000 sf can be done with no stamp. There are model paragraphs in IBC and IRC, into which each state is supposed to plug their own requirements. Some states have done this, and others have tossed out the paragraphs, and others don't even use IRC.

1  · 

In some states, unlicensed design of commercial building is allowed (usually within limits).

1  · 

That's really weird. Do they require an engineering stamp for the various systems?

What does reporting them do? Are they endangering the public, have they harmed you? Seems like a waste of energy. Focus your attention on getting work not inventing problems for other people. Doesn’t sound like anything they’re doing is illegal.
Jul 6, 20 10:42 am  · 

It's ok to turn unlicensed people in if:

a) you are familiar with the applicable practice/title laws/rules (that vary a lot between locations in the USA), and you know what constitutes a violation of them.

b) you have some kind of proof of the violation you can share with the authorities.

Otherwise, you risk looking silly.

Jul 6, 20 2:27 pm  · 
1  · 

I'm sure we all have stories like this, but here is mine. I recently came across someone online who claims to be an engineer and is charging for construction advice. (A friend told they are charging more than it would cost to hire an architect for 1 hour of time to answer 1 question.) A quick google search revealed this person was an engineer of sorts, but not in construction, and has no construction experience. Technically this person is misleading people, but I do not have direct proof of the monetary exchange. It sucks because I hate people that do things like this.


Claiming to be an professional engineer without having a license would indeed be a violation in a lot of USA jurisdictions. In states where I work, an online advertisement that claims false credentials would be enough to open up an investigation.

1  · 

Many states exempt sfr.  Some states allow contractors to deign whatever they are themselves building.  I believe California is one of these states despite their limits on unlicensed designers doing sfr.  This firm is a design build firm, so I’m sure they know the laws.  They make way more money building than designing, so to risk their contractors license to design illegally seems counterintuitive.  

Jul 6, 20 4:22 pm  · 

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