The mandate of the Institute is to, in the interest of the public, regulate the profession of architecture through a responsive regulatory framework. The Professional Conduct and Illegal Practice department furthers this public-interest mandate by enforcing professional standards expected of AIBC registrants, as well as addressing illegal or “unauthorized” practice by non-registrants.
Recently, the AIBC has received increased correspondence regarding attempts to circumvent the requirements of the Architects Act, whereby designers or unregistered persons attempt to legitimize their illegal practice of architecture by requesting architects to seal their work. This Regulatory Review will provide an actual example of this type of request and illustrate the appropriate response and course of action to take if approached with a similar proposal.
Receiving a Request, and What to Do
Occasionally, unregistered designers ask architects to seal their drawings. The communication may provide a copy of the preliminary drawings or information about the project, stating that the design is in development or is complete. This is typically followed by asking the architect if they will review and seal their drawings in support of an application to be made to an authority having jurisdiction. These requests can be framed in different ways, from “signing off on”, “double checking”, or as a “partnership” between the individual and the architect.
Pursuant to the Architects Act and AIBC Bylaws, it’s not acceptable for an architect to “sign off” or seal drawings prepared by another person unless they were prepared under the architect’s direction, supervision or control. This generally means continual instruction, guidance, review and examination of the design in progress at intervals appropriate to the stage of development.
An actual example of a request that the AIBC recently received is reproduced anonymously below:
The architect declined the request and notified the AIBC of the potential illegal practice. This was the appropriate response and the architect’s approach was commendable. The AIBC’s expectation is that any architect who receives this type of request must decline it and alert the AIBC’s illegal practice department immediately.
Applying a seal to drawings prepared by someone else in the absence of the architect’s direction, supervision or control exposes the architect to professional conduct proceedings and considerable legal liability. Bulletin 61 summarizes the issue as follows:
“An architect’s seal is not for sale, and the term “trained seal” is a legitimately derogatory term to describe any architect who applies a seal to documents that he or she did not prepare or supervise, direct and control. Requests to do so are often sparked by clients looking to have their ‘in-house’ design (or that provided by a non-architect consultant) sanctioned by a professional. Such misuse of the seal brings the architectural profession and the validity of the seal as a public representation of professional qualifications and responsibility into disrepute. The stakes are even higher when an architect applies a seal to a non-architect’s drawing, since it appears to legitimize, aid and abet the unauthorized practice of architecture by unregistered individuals and businesses.”
Given the importance of an architect’s seal, it must only be applied in accordance with the provisions of the Architects Act and the AIBC Bylaws.
- Architects Act
- AIBC Bylaws
- AIBC Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
- Bulletin 61 – Seal of an Architect (PDF)