The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Institute of Architect’s Analysis of Interior Design Legislation UPDATE

If you read my earlier post regarding Wisconsin Registered Interior Designer’s (WRID) effort to pursue permitting privileges via Wisconsin Senate Bill 303;

https://wordpress.com/post/professionalinteriordesigner.com/7000

Then you will be interested in the AIA’s latest missive regarding WRID’s legislation efforts as well as proposed legislation to implement Sunset Reviews of Wisconsin’s licensed occupations (Wisconsin Senate Bill 541);

https://www.aia.org/articles/6239136-occupational-licensing-sunrise-reports-and

First and foremost the above article posits a misleading summation of WRID’s objective from the get go.  To wit;

At the same time, legislation has been introduced to revise Wisconsin’s existing ”title” law governing the registration of interior designers and expand the scope of interior design practice to include architecture – 2019 Senate Bill 303.

TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR……Wisconsin Registered Interior Designer’s do not want to practice “architecture”.  This Trumpian stretch of reality,  should render Mr. Babcock’s argument presumptuous at best or suspicious at worst.

Previously I chose not to waste my time, or yours, by not offering a counter to the AIA’s position vis-a-vis the Wisconsin Chapter’s July 10, 2019 article.  But for those who care to consider more than one side to this issue here in red italics, is my tit for tat response to Mr. Babcock’s opinion piece.

Does the unregulated practice of interior design clearly harm or endanger the health, safety or welfare of the public and is the potential harm recognizable and not remote or speculative?

BABCOCK: The proponents of the interior design legislation have not identified any instances of harm to public health, safety or welfare caused by the unregulated practice of interior design in Wisconsin. The “sunrise” reviews of interior design proposals in Colorado and Washington failed to uncover clear evidence that the unregulated practice of interior design harms the public.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: First let’s address “unregulated” interior design.  Unregulated interior design can in fact be practiced by anyone with a pulse.  Much like unregulated “architecture” that is practiced on a daily basis by all sorts of unlicensed folks (builders, developers, contractors, etc) typically under the guise of non-permitted residential work or other licensed building professionals.  Now if you want to change your original query to;

“Does the code regulated practice of interior design clearly harm or endanger the health, safety or welfare of the public and is the potential harm recognizable and not remote or speculative?”

See… the answer changes dramatically simply by adding the prefix “un” to “regulated”.  While it is true that only seven states have codified the practice of “interior design” allowing licensed/state registered interior  designers to legally practice in code regulated interior design environments there is no question that the interior designers in these states deal with numerous health, safety and welfare concerns on a daily basis.  I am not about to cite all of the slip and fall and hazardous/flammable material litigation that is clearly in the purview of the interior designer but suffice it to say that the International Building Code dedicates  several chapters ( 8, 11, & much of chapter 12) to what is commonly the work of a qualified code regulated interior designer…..many of whom work dilligently within AIA member’s firms contributing to the success and bottom line of those firms.  Why is that?

Can the public be reasonably expected to benefit from requiring interior designers to be licensed?

BABCOCK: Proponents of expanding the scope of interior design practice offer an unsubstantiated economic rationale that it could reduce the cost of certain projects by eliminating the need for an architect or professional engineer. However, the purpose of long-standing state requirements that an architect or professional engineer be involved in projects of this scope and size is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. The “sunrise” reviews of interior design proposals in other states have concluded that state licensing is not necessary because the public can reasonably expect that an interior designer is a competent practitioner through certification, testing and experience requirements established by related professional associations.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: FACT- When an interior designer is hired by a building owner to perform interior design services, either directly, or vis-a-vis a design firm , within a jurisdiction where local codes require a registered design professional to sign and seal construction drawings in order to obtain a building permit, those interior designers must seek the services of a Registered Architect. This occurs regardless if the interior designer performed 100% of the design work and personally confirmed acceptance with local building codes.  This is a cost burden for the owner since there seems to be a legal lock on that market limiting building owners options for regulated interior scope services.  Happens day in and day out and the AIA knows it.  Unfortunately the interior designer, who may actually be more qualified to perform those interior design services, than said registered architect, must surrender the ownership of their design and somehow account for the cost of duplicated effort to obtain a building permit.  The added cost and the infringement on qualified interior designers to own their own scope of work and provide options for building owners is very real.  

This little slice of permit monopoly is what Mr. Babcock is arguing for.

Taking Mr. Babcocks logic here to its fullest extent, and as he alluded, architects should also be subject to sunset scrutiny as the vast majority of code regulated building design, as far as ultimate responsibility for the safety of the users/public is concerned, is performed by licensed structural and M/E/P engineers and not said architects.  Why should states shoulder this duplication of HS&W responsibility?

What is the least restrictive regulation of interior designers that would effectively protect the public?

BABCOCK: In Wisconsin, anyone can offer to provide interior design services. Wisconsin’s “title” registration law only regulates who can use the specific title “Wisconsin registered interior designer.” Title protection laws represent one of the least restrictive levels of state regulation. With no evidence to the contrary, the existing state regulations for interior designers effectively protect the public. The proposed interior design legislation is not necessary. In fact, a legislative report on state occupational licensing submitted by DSPS in December 2018 recommended that Wisconsin eliminate the existing title registration for interior designers because it one of the “most burdensome licensing requirements of all occupations.”

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: Again the semantics here are important….yes anyone can provide interior design services.  But the second those interior design services fall within the realm of code regulated design services the laws obviously change.  This is where the WRID designation factors in.  WRID’s have proven themselves via education/experience/examination to be competent to practice code regulated interior design.  The current title law ensures that those who claim such competency are in fact registered with the state.  The current effort to add permitting privileges to the WRID title act is simply an effort to expand consumer options and their right to work to the fullest of their knowledge and abilities…much to the AIA’s chagrin.

What are the licensing requirements for interior designers in other states?

BABCOCK: Wisconsin is one of 19 states with voluntary title registration for interior designers without permitting authority. In addition, 21 other states do not regulate interior design at all. The 40 states with either title registration or no regulation for interior designers include our neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. The recent DSPS state occupational licensing study noted that only four states regulate the practice of interior design.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: Well given the AIA’s formidable resistance to qualified interior designer’s right to own their work and provide a competitive cost environment for building owners we cannot claim nationwide licensure.  Suffice it to say that our little profession is working on that and Wisconsin SB 303 is just one example.  Hence the AIA’s interest in misinforming around the real reason for their concern.  Their long standing legal control over the code regulated built environment has suffered from the chipping away of their dominion by specialist trades and professionals who do in fact offer building owners safe and cost effective options.  Certified/Registered code regulated interior designers are next in line.

Conclusion

BABCOCK: The interior design proposal does not meet the criteria for state occupational licensing established in the “sunrise” legislation. It is unnecessary because it fails to increase consumer protection or enhance public health, safety and welfare. There is a straightforward alternative that would not involve any statutory or administrative rule changes. In Wisconsin, if interior designers want to practice architecture, they can apply for an architect license by using their qualifying interior design education and work experience and passing the required Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER: Once again Mr. Babcock we do not want to practice architecture.  We simply want to practice to the fullest of our trained and vetted professional potential.  Taking your conclusion to its fullest extent should we say that licensed building contractors, you know the ones who actually build your visions, and assume liability thereof, should also be required to take the ARE?  I think you know the answer but certainly would not admit it.

Make no mistake about Mr. Babcock’s article, this is not really about public safety and which profession is best suited to master that domain in our best interest.  No it is simply a way for the AIA’s small firm members to protect their small petty piece of professional services turf.

In conclusion (mine) I urge all certified interior designers, who work within Architecture firms, to open a dialogue with their peer RA’s to consider just how petty and protectionist the AIA’s position on denouncing qualified interior designer’s right to work efforts.  In the end a licensed interior designer can only enhance the professional collaborations that both professions, and the public, can benefit from.

There is enough work out there for both of us.

 

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