confused about the law


So, without getting into any philosophical debate about licensure, I have a question.  I have done research into this with the local board, and with the boards of other states, and cannot seem to find a clear answer. 

In my state, single family homes are "exempt."  The board states that a non-registrant is allowed to design single family homes and buildings under 3000ft2.  From the looks of it, 99% of the homes out there are designed by non-registrants. 

However, the board also states that a non-registrant may not engage in the practice of a regulated profession, and defines the practice of architecture as.....

"Architectural Practice" means any professional service or creative work requiring architectural education, training and experience, and the application of the mathematical and physical sciences and the principles of architecture and architectural engineering to such a creative work as consultation, evaluation, design and review of construction for conformance with contract documents and design, in connection with any building, planning or site development.  A person shall be deemed to practice or to offer to practice architecture who in any manner represents that the person is an architect, or is able to perform any architectural service or other services recognized by educational authorities as architecture."

So my question is....

does this then apply to exempt structures?

if not, can a non-registrant design exempt structure as the law states?

can a non-registrant design these exempt structures in a non-conventional way if they obtain the stamp of an engineer when required by the city?

Are there any limits to what a designer or residential designer can do with regard to these exempt structures?

If so, does a residential designer have to dumb down the design so that it does not qualify as architecture as defined by the "educational authority"

Dec 18, 13 2:21 pm

Can one open a residential design studio and design homes in the same way an architect would as long as they refrain from using protected titles or words?

Dec 18, 13 2:26 pm

Yes- they are called "builders".

Dec 18, 13 2:39 pm

hmmm.  Yeah but builders are licensed contractors.  I am talking about a non-registrant who wants to provide full design services (sustainable homes, passive heating/cooling etc..) for exempt structures.  I am not talking about simply drafting conventional plans.  Can one legally do this?  I mean its exempt, so it would seem that way, but the definition of "architectural practice" seems to contradict that.

Dec 18, 13 2:50 pm

Assuming the exemption is to the practice law (which I believe it is), legally yes, you are allowed by law to engage in the practice of architecture within the exemptions without a license.

Dec 18, 13 3:26 pm

Yes.  The exemption is by definition an exception to the general rule.

Dec 18, 13 4:02 pm

jla-x: "If so, does a residential designer have to dumb down the design so that it does not qualify as architecture as defined by the "educational authority"

I cannot imagine any scenario where this would be necessary -- but, it would be a fun discussion if you got something built and then somebody labeled it "architecture" and complained because it was "too good" !

Dec 18, 13 6:38 pm

as i understand it, and i could be wrong, but the designer has to "dumb down" the design to fit under "convention framing" right?  so, wood stud house is fine.  fancy frank gehry stuff is questionable.

how do you qualify something as "architecture?"  does it have to be "traditional" to be "architecture?"

Dec 18, 13 8:12 pm

Quizzical that would be awesome!  

Curt, some states do specify that but most don't.   My state does not mention anything about conventional construction or wood framing.  I know CA limits to wood frame. i know a few very talented non registrants (very experienced but foreign) that build homes with all kinds of things (rammed earth, etc). The city does require an engineering stamp on any span greater than 20'. Also that would kind of be dumb here because wood framed homes are not very efficient  in the desert climate even though crappy developers have made it the norm. Most older homes (pre-1970) here are concrete block.  But yeah I think geezertect is right. 

Dec 18, 13 9:27 pm
If its small enough to be under the limit set by your state, and you use the residential code to design it / engineer it, then you don't need a license.
Dec 19, 13 7:26 am
Non Sequitur

In my jurisdiction, a land-owner can submit drawings to the city for approval without a architect's or P.eng's stamp granted they 1. own the property, 2. take responsibility for the design, ie... commit to making whatever changes required for permit and 3. Have a project which fits neatly within the local construction codes and span tables readily available.

Anything which slightly differs from 1st year construction textbook gets flagged and usually specific details complete with stamp are required. This applies to single-family houses, retail strips and warehouses. My city will usually have the most junior of staff reviewing these so if they can't relate your drawings to their tables, someone needs to stamp the drawings.

There is a grey-zone though where people offer services as drafters for the land-owner but these are usually craig's list type of projects where the permit application and follow through is by the owner/client rather than the one doing the design.

Dec 19, 13 1:24 pm

Come on down to Texas.  Not only are single family homes exempt, but so are commercial buildings under 20,000 sf and multifamily with less than 16 units per building. Oh, and duplexes, warehouses with minimal public access too.  It's the freakin' wild west down here.  TSA is rumbling about stepping into that battle next session, but I don't have my hopes up.  

Dec 19, 13 3:15 pm

Just looked up rate of fire death per state and apparently my state is one of the 3 lowest.  The rate in DC is like 10 times higher.  Texas was pretty low too.  Not sure what the correlation is but just though it was interesting.  

Dec 19, 13 3:47 pm
Thought Texas was one of the mist strict? Are you sure!?!
Dec 19, 13 7:14 pm

"Everyone is confused by the Law."  So we have Lawyers to figure things out, who report to Judges who figure things our but they are really Lawyers. However most political people come from a law background and they are the ones writing the Law.  So I guess  the only place to turn to is a Lawyer.  No wonder Architects  can't get any respect.

Dec 19, 13 9:14 pm

Actually, many judges are not lawyers.  Appellate judges and county judges do not have to have any law background, and most do not.  I guess there are "exemptions" in every field. 

Dec 20, 13 10:41 am

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