The AIBC has initiated legal action with the City of Langford arising out of an illegal practice matter. The AIBC is seeking a declaration from the BC Supreme Court that the City of Langford must consider the Architects Act in its permitting decisions, and that failure to do so is unreasonable.
In August 2016, the City approved a building permit based on a design and drawings prepared by an unlicensed individual for a building that, under the Architects Act, required the services of an architect. The building consists of five residential dwelling units and commercial space.
The AIBC learned of this matter in 2018, when a member of the public contacted the AIBC with a concern that the building had been constructed in contravention of the provincial legislation. The AIBC confirmed that the building required an architect, and took action to resolve the illegal practice by the unlicensed designer.
The AIBC’s remaining concern is that the City of Langford approved the building for construction and occupancy without the involvement of an architect, when one is required by law.
Prior to initiating legal action, the AIBC contacted the City with this concern. The City’s response was that they have no obligation to take the Architects Act into account when dealing with building permit applications, and that they were not willing to do so.
The AIBC does not agree with this position. For public and building safety, the Architects Act states that only registered architects, who have the appropriate training and experience, can carry out the planning, design, and construction supervision of certain types of buildings. The AIBC believes that the Architects Act is an important law about public safety, and that local governments should not legitimize and approve illegal practice by unlicensed persons.
Unlike unlicensed persons, registered architects are subject to thorough qualification examinations, experience requirements, ongoing professional development obligations, and compliance with a code of ethics and professional conduct, all overseen by a robust complaints and discipline process. In addition, all registered architectural firms are required to carry professional liability insurance.
The combination of entry and practice standards, a complaint process, and liability coverage, provides a vital accountability and public protection mechanism which is missing when unlicensed persons practice unlawfully.
This case is not just about the City of Langford. A decision from the BC Supreme Court on the question of whether local governments should approve construction that is proceeding in violation of the Architects Act will provide clarity for owners and building officials all over British Columbia.
Lastly, it is also important to note that the AIBC is not “suing” Langford, and we are not seeking to recover any money from them in this case. Rather, we are asking the court to review the permitting decision. The AIBC has brought this legal proceeding because we consider it to be a matter of public importance.
The AIBC is committed to providing guidance to the public and local governments about all matters architectural. We encourage anybody with a question about the need for an architect under the Architects Act, or any other architectural matter, to contact one of our Practice Advisors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, AIBC’s Bulletin 31: Buildings Requiring the Services of an Architect (PDF) serves as a useful resource, including a detailed chart comparing the BC Building Code requirements for architectural services and the requirements for hiring an architect. Does Your Project Need An Architect? addresses the use of architectural services.