10 Nov 2010

Seal of Approval

0 Comment

You probably think of architects as creative types. You see them as die-hard professionals constantly redefining normal, pushing borders and thinking innovative, but you may not realize architects have to follow certain practice rules that unlicensed professionals may not. Have you ever seen an unfinished construction document labeled with a disclaimer “not for construction”. Did you wonder if the architect was trying to avoid responsibility or preserve a copyright? Actually your architect is accepting the responsibility required of ethical design professionals — protecting you!

Architects are safety stewards. That means the state expects us to do the right thing and the right thing is protecting the people. The best way to protect the people is to learn what you need, what the state requires and explain that to the people building it so the design documents satisfy all criteria. The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners reminds architects we may not release documents unless, the documents are:

  1. Complete, sealed, signed and dated. That’s legal talk for “it is finished”.
  2. Or if released in progress, the architect must include his/her name, date and the label “not for regulatory approval, permitting, or construction”. That’s legal talk for it is NOT finished.

But what does finished look like? Here’s what the Texas Occupations Code considers a finished Construction Document:

  1. Floor plans and details showing internal and external walls, building spaces, and vertical circulation including ramps, stairs, elevators and escalators;
  2. Plan views, cross sections and detailed wall sections showing building components including the structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems;
  3. Roof plans and details showing roof materials, components, drainage, slopes, directions, and roof accessories/equipment;
  4. Component and assembly details to control water infiltration or fire-spread;
  5. ceiling plans showing the location, materials and integration with structural, electrical, mechanical, lighting and sprinkler systems;
  6. Finish schedules showing interior and exterior building materials;
  7. Interior and exterior elevations showing materials, locations and relationships of components and surfaces;
  8. Partition, door, window, lighting, hardware and fixture schedules;
  9. Manufacturer or fabricator drawings that are part of the Construction Documents;
  10. Specifications describing material type, quality, and installation
  11. Life safety plans and code analyses.
  12. Site plans showing building location and orientation including topography, drainage, vegetation, geographic aspects, and legal restrictions;

If you ask me to do anything less than this because you need less or want to save money, I can provide a limited service, but cannot call the document “construction-ready”. That means it is a planning document you can use for preliminary review with an agency or budget preparation with a contractor, but not for a construction contract or installation.

I’m not trying to complicate architectural service, but the state requires design professionals to provide enough information to protect the public safety, health and welfare. If architects don’t follow these rules, the state will fine them and for severe or repeat infractions could revoke their license. That means they are not an architect anymore.

So when you ask me for a simple sketch and I remind you I have to label it not for construction, I’m not trying to upsell more work. I’m fulfilling my oath to the profession, my livelihood and my responsibility to you.


About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 32 years experience in design, construction observation and life.