What is the AIA’s Beef?
The latest example of ID regulation to consider is occurring in North Carolina where H-590 is currently making its way through the NC Legislature. As of July 6th the bill has been referred to the Committee On Rules and Operations of the Senate. I am uncertain if this means the bill is dead or it will be sent back out for debate when the NC General Assembly reconvenes in August (stay tuned).
While I appreciate that discretion is sometimes needed in the early phases of these legislative efforts I also maintain that there is a lot to be learned from each state’s efforts to advance the profession via title and practice regulation. Let’s face it once a bill has hit the state house floor it is public knowledge and monitoring/assessing the effort should not be some big professional secret. In my opinion we do an inadequate job of keeping the general profession abreast of these efforts, particularly those that are tabled/sent to committee or fail completely, if for no other reason than to learn from other’s mistakes….of which there have been many. In addition not all registered/certified interior designers are dues paying members of our professional organizations which does not mean they do not have skin in the ID regulatory game. We are all in this together. To my point.
The North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects has mounted an effort to lobby against H-590 and their pushback is enlightening. In addition to the general anti-regulation contingent and interior decorators who see ID legislation as an infringement on their rights the national AIA is our most vocal and forceful opponent. If we are to achieve any success in regard to pursuing practice legislation we have to understand our opponents objections so we can address them head first. Let’s look at their formal opposition letter. To wit;
- “The AIA believes that the level of education, the experience requirements and the NCIDQ testing for interior designers does not appropriately and competently address the full array of health and safety issues that impact the public for interior architecture.”
This is a common statement of opinion by the AIA….we (Certified Interior Design practitioners) need to provide factual evidence to the contrary. Based on my experience the NCIDQ exam is a widely accepted baseline vetting of a designer’s ability to appropriately and competently address the full array of health and safety issues that impact the public for interior. That is the NCIDQ Examination’s focus and those that pass the exam are entirely competent to practice certain aspects of code regulated interior design.
- “HB 590 looks to sever interior elements of architecture in an attempt to carve out building segments for less qualified designers. Severing the regulation of building interiors could do serious harm to the integrated practice of architecture.”
Again “less qualified designers” is their opinion devoid of any factual evidence. Furthermore it is not our objective to “sever the regulation of building interiors” of which the AIA has established a monopoly that infringes on the rights of educated/trained and vetted interior design professionals from practicing to the fullest potential of their knowledge and abilities. We are not here to take over your work. We simply want to be fairly considered for work that we well qualified to perform. Simple.
The stranglehold that the AIA has instituted over the past 50+ years on the regulation of building interiors actually infringes our right practice to the fullest of our abilities. This is a classic example of simple turf protection on the AIA’s part.
- “As an illustration, we point you to the devastating fire less than a month ago just three blocks from the Legislative Building. An entire city block of apartments under construction went up in flames threatening hundreds of residents in the fully occupied Quorum Center and the Link Apartment Complex. In the dead of night those residents were awoken by emergency alarms, they were protected by fire rated building materials, and they were escorted through smoke filled corridors designed specifically for fire egress for such emergencies. All of these systems are interior architectural elements and because of the education, training and testing of licensed architects, we are happy to report that these structures performed as designed, giving the residents and first responders the level of protection needed to save their lives.”
NEWSFLASH! All of the “systems” Mr. Crawford mentions above are part and parcel of a qualified Interior Designers education vetted by the NCIDQ examination. Mr. Crawford goes on;
- “In no way do we believe this level of life safety should be compromised by allowing less qualified designers to verify building design through stamp and sealing authority.”
There he goes again with conjecture…we can prove that we are as qualified. Maybe Mr. Crawford would like to sit for the NCIDQ examination so he can back up his claims.
- No Evidence of Need
“There is really only one reason for the State to convey a license for any occupation or profession and that is to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.” WE AGREE! “There is no body of evidence calling for interior designer licensing. The public is not clamoring for, or perishing as a result of unlicensed interior designers.”
Then why, for one instance, is there a chapter of the International Building Code dedicated solely to interior finishes? And we all know that Architects don’t do finishes (okay I can play the rhetoric game too). The vast majority of Certified Interior Designers are unable to accept liability and own their work when it is regulated by local building codes. As stated above most ID’ers are obligated to surrender their work to licensed Architects simply to obtain a building permit. Granted the licensed architect assumes liability for the work of that designers but that could be why evidence of litigation involving the work of interior designers is negligible. They do not legally own their work. Yes of course there are legal nuances that provide for designers and specification writers and CADD detailers to be held accountable for their work even when signed by a licensed designer (think Kansas City Hyatt bridge collapse) but in general the licensed designer assumes basic legal accountability for the safety of a permitted project. Qualified/certified Interior Designers can prove that they have the knowledge and skills to assume this liability.
- Consumer Confusion and Limiting Choice
For more than 100 years, building inspectors and consumers have turned to the three major licensed design professionals; architects, engineers and landscape architects to ensure that their buildings have been designed and constructed according to the stringent building codes that are regularly reviewed and updated for current science and construction practices to maintain the safety of the public.
The addition of another class of licensee able to sign and seal building plans for acceptance by building officials adds an unnecessary level of confusion and regulation that the building industry does not need nor want.
Times have changed. It is time that the AIA accepts that the built environment has become much more complex and there are many professions that are performing work that was traditionally owned, or claimed, by architects. The addition of another class of licensee offers the public an option to what is currently an economic monopoly that infringes on our rights to perform that work..
- “Barrier to Market Participation
The real reason interior designers seek to institute a licensing law is to create a protected market for their services. As stated above the only legitimate reason for the state to entertain such market limitations is for the protection of the public’s health, safety and welfare. Interior contractors, kitchen and bath specialists and traditional interior decorators would all be prohibited from performing their traditional services if HB 590 is passed. We’d like to point you to an excellent study, as mentioned above, done by the Institute for Justice, “Designing Cartels: How Industry Insiders Cut Out Competition,” by Dick Carpenter, III, PhD.
The report covers most of the arguments we have outlined in this letter but it pays particular attention to the idea that non-health and life safety professions that have obtained or seek to obtain state sponsored licensing protection are in effect creating barriers to market entry from other professionals in the market place.”
This is a tired old libertarian anti-regulation song that can be rendered irrelevant in one sentence…. Interior contractors, kitchen and bath specialists and traditional interior decorators do not perform code regulated interior design services and H-590 in no way limits their ability to continue performing their unregulated interior design, interior construction, kitchen and bath work and decoration. In other words if your work does not require a building permit then this argument is moot.
- “Monetized Conflict of Interest
It is a long-held practice for interior designers to work closely with interior product manufactures in specifying their products for client projects. That’s not unusual in the design and construction industry as a whole; however, the difference within the practice of interior design is the lack of transparency and disclosure to the client about the monetary benefit the designer receives for the specification of those products. Interior Designers make commissions on the sale of product, other licensed design professions do not, and in the case of architects, they are specifically prohibited from this practice in performance of their duties to their clients under the following
G.S. 83A-15(3)(c) states:
‘It shall be unprofessional conduct including but not limited to:
Knowingly undertaking any activity or having any significant financial or other
interest, or accepting any compensation or reward except from registrant’s
clients, any of which would reasonably appear to compromise registrant’s
professional judgment in serving the best interest of clients or public.’
As interior designers have attempted to enact practice act legislation in other states, this issue has come up time and again. In all cases attempts to address the conflict of interest issue with some sort of transparency language has been rebuffed. We see this as a major consumer protection issue that cannot be overlooked.”
The impropriety alluded to above is common in the interior decoration realm where decorators maintain to the trade only alliances and yes…dubious pricing and procurement practices. However, such practice rarely occurs at the higher level of code regulated commercial construction which is typically governed by legally binding contracts in which product specification and procurement practices are clearly spelled out or at least required to be transparent as part of the project budgeting. Professional/Certified Interior Designers are obligated by the same contractual requirements for product specification and procurement as architects.
Now if you want to complain about unethical business practices in the unregulated interior decoration realm we would be happy to join you. But that is not your beef here is it and you should stop using it as evidence against code regulated Interior Designers.
Following is a list of talking points offered by the North Carolina AIA in the hopes that their members will use them to lobby their friends family and policy makers to act against the break up of their monopoly on the practice of regulated Interior Design…..I offer my rebuttal to their facts in red;
Interior Designer Claims Rebutted
IDs say: “NC Restricts IDs from obtaining building permits”
The Fact: NC requires qualified design professional to submit for building permits.
Well-hence the bill.
THE TRUTH-North Carolina HB-590 seeks to expand opportunities for qualified interior design professionals thereby creating expanded job opportunities and consumer choice in what is now a very limited and restrictive aspect of the building design professions.
IDs say: “IDs must pay excessive fees to an architect”
The Fact: Categorically false and completely unsubstantiated. If unlicensed individuals choose to work in a regulated building environment, they must have a qualified design professional verify and assume responsibility for permitted plans.
THE TRUTH-While the adjective “excessive” is relative the issue is even for the most minor interior REMODEL/renovation or tenant fit up projects that require a building permit qualified interior designers must pay for an architect to sign and seal their documents. The cost to pay an architect, or licensed engineer, to sign and seal the permit documents is seen as an added expense on the Interior Designers part. If the interior designer were able to accept liability for their design by signing and sealing their own permit documents this would eliminate the added expense for the architects seal and signature. Again, qualified Interior Designers who are trained and vetted by examination to perform limited scope regulated interior design projects should be able to act as their own “qualified design professional” on projects in which the scope of interior work is limited to non-structural and minimally affects the overall base building life safety systems and assemblies.
This will allow consumers to have more choices for their limited scope interior design projects and it will expand opportunities for qualified design professionals.
Interior Designers who are forced to pay premium fees for licensed Archtiects or Engineers to sign and seal their documents simply to pull a permit need to document those charges and quantify the added expense to their clients and their policy makers. This can easily be substantiated. Thanks for the suggestion.
IDs say: “Having to use architects to approve ID plans costs ID firms an additional 12%.”
The Fact: No basis of verification for this number.
THE TRUTH- Note to North Carolina ID’ers….you did not make up the 12% fee upcharge…..you should cite the source. None the less this argument is redundant…see discussion above. 12% does not seem “excessive” but it is an added expense to North Carolina consumers that could be eliminated.
IDs say: “Architect owned design firms will always be less in fee because design plan approval is free for them.”
The Fact: Plan approval is never “free.” The business costs associated with an architecture firm vs. an interior design firm would contradict this statement. The assumed liability associated with a professional license ensures that a licensed design professional assumes the high cost of liability insurance, something interior designers do not have in their overhead now.
THE TRUTH-Again this is another way to look at the issue of who should be able to sign and seal limited scope interior design projects and how the fees for signing and sealing permit documents is passed on to the client. Interior Design professionals fully understand the legal ramifications for signing and sealing their documents. Currently Architect owned firms that provide interior design services have a built-in process for the signing and sealing of permit documents which does provide for an unfair advantage over those Interior Designers who may not work within a licensed architect owned business.
IDs say: “The law restricts IDs from partnering with an architect to form a business partnership.”
The Fact: Not true. The NC Professional Corporations Code allows for 33% non-license ownership in a professional corporation. The Architects Practice Act is not the appropriate place to address professional corporation ownership issues.
THE TRUTH-So let’s say two professional designers, a licensed architect and a certified interior designer decide to form an equal partnership. By law the Interior Designer can only own 33% of the company. That is not at all a fair partnership. There should be no such limitations in a free market. In many states the AIA lobby has managed to provide legalese both in practice bills and business/corporation regulations that limits or fully restricts the right of certified/qualified interior designers to own an equal share of the business entity. What are you so afraid of?
IDs say: “Creates voluntary registration for IDs”
The Fact: All licensing and registration is voluntary.
THE TRUTH-Interior Designers must include this qualifier in their pursuit of title registration so as not to incite the ire of the unregulated Interior Design community that sees such legislation as an infringement on their right to the title “Interior Design”. The AIA does not have a dog in this hunt but if you really believe that all licensing and registration is actually voluntary talk to our friends at the Institute for Justice about their well-funded campaigns to litigate regulatory infringement and discrimination.
IDs say: “The bill does not restrict any individual from referencing themselves an interior designer or interior decorator.”
The Fact: If the State is carving out a scope of practice for interior designers, this will create complete confusion on the part of the consuming public and regulators.
THE TRUTH-There is a fine line between a “Registered Interior Designer” and an “Interior Designer” but such subtle title distinctions are common in professional regulations….think accountant vs. Certified Public Accountant or financial planner vs Certified Financial Planner.
IDs say: “The bill does not restrict any individual or business from practicing interior design.”
The Fact: Then what is the NEED for the bill?
THE TRUTH-The bill actually seeks to open up a market that is currently restricted by, and for the benefit of, licensed architects. As long as building permits are required to construct interior design projects…many of which most architects would not consider due to scale, scope or lack of fit, certified interior designers will pursue these right to work bills to open up the market for regulated interior design work.
IDs say: “Interior Designers focus on how an occupant and the space around them inside a building is going to interact and function together.”
The Fact: Interior architecture includes all of this plus the very important relationship of how the interiors’ relate to all the other building systems.
YOU CANNOT DIVORCE INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE FROM THE REST OF THE BUILDING!
THE-TRUTH- You assume that code qualified interior designers do not understand “building systems” Again I refer you to the breakdown of subject areas in the NCIDQ Examination and the Professional Standards as defined by CIDA. Furthermore we both know that there are millions of square feet of interior space that exists quite successfully that is devoid of any relationship (apart from structural) to the exterior architecture. In fact there is an entire typology of buildings that were intentionally designed with no regard to interior/exterior relationship…Spec. office buildings or big box retail for example. You also presume that a building can be parsed into interior architecture and exterior architecture. Did you consult with any Exterior Architects to confirm your assumption?
I think we can all agree that most examples of textbook architecture from Andrea (Palladio) to Zaha (Hadid) are admired because they comprise a holistic solution. There is no distinction between the design of the inside and the outside -other than one offers protection from the elements. But we can also agree that these projects are the exception and much to architect’s chagrin this ∇ is the norm for “architecture” in the public’s eyes.
Shall we continue?
IDs say: “Interior designers impact health safety & welfare.”
The Fact: Yes they do, but their education, training and testing is incomplete to address all the building systems that must work together to ensure complete building occupant safety.
Well thanks for acknowledging that our work does impact HS&W even though this conflicts with other claims you make later. Unfortunately there is no easy, or clear, line of demarcation between the legitimate scope of Interior Design work and that of Architecture. Interior Designers do not claim to have expertise in “all the building systems that must work together to ensure complete building occupant safety” and we never will so calm down. We are not coming for your jobs.
Maybe instead of a wasteful turf battle, which is what this argument really is, we can begin to appreciate, understand and respect our particular knowledge and skill sets. I can assure that qualified Interior Designers have a deep respect for your body of knowledge- so the ball is in your court -so to speak. With that understanding and respect maybe we can begin to work together to understand how we both can improve our professional domains in a manner that mutually benefits our bottom lines and our clients interior spaces. I digress.
IDs say: “The NCIDQ exam formalizes a structure and path to ensure an interior designer has an adequate amount of education and experience in order to uphold health, safety and welfare.”
The Fact: The NCIDQ and its education/experience requirements does not come close to the necessary training and testing required to meet the minimum life-safety benchmark for stamping and sealing authority. See chart below that highlights the standards for interior architecture.
Unfortunately based on your rhetoric posing as “facts” below you do not have a clue whether the NCIDQ comes close to necessary training and testing required to meet the minimum life-safety benchmark for stamping and sealing authority. Your arguments are misinformed at best.
Finally I wonder why the AIA is so defensive when it comes to protecting such a minor portion of its domain. I know many registered architects (AIA members and not) who support the idea of licensure for qualified Interior Designers. They understand the concept that educated and vetted designers make for better teammates and ultimately add value to their projects and even their bottom lines. Do you really care about 7,500 square foot cubicle re-shuffles or 1,500 square foot tenant fit-ups? Could the AIA be threatened by the fact that Interior Design is a female dominated profession? Don’t make me play the gender card- oops sorry guess I just did. Could it be that Architecture, as represented by the AIA, is suffering from loss of relevance due to other emerging professions such as Project Management and Design/Build Contractors? It does seem like you have bigger issues to address.
Interior Designer Claims Rebutted;
Certified Interior Designers Licensed Architects
Minimum 2 Year Associates Degree Minimum 5 Year Accredited Degree
The facts. In order to sit for the NCIDQ Examination an Associate Degree (60 hours of ID Coursework) is currently acceptable as long as the exam candidate has also logged 5,280 hours of monitored internship/apprenticeship (see Internship Requirements below). The current pathway to sit for the NCIDQ Examination that allows Associates Degree with 40 hours of ID coursework & 7,040 hours of apprenticeship is being eliminated in 2018. Needless to say that the work/internship threshold for the Associates Degree pathways provides for a higher threshold than simply stating “Minimum 2 Year Associates Degree. This is an insurmountable hurdle for many AA degree holding designers to take on. In states in which the practice or title of ID is regulated the minimum education threshold is far more stringent and none allow 2 year degrees. Of course if you care to really understand the facts for this important comparison you will have to read the ID acts in 27 states and thoroughly read the eligibility pathways for the NCIDQ Examination. But why let facts stand in the way of your opinion.
Certified Interior Designers Licensed Architects
2 tests 300 questions 7 hours total 6 tests 605 questions 21 hours total
The facts. The NCIDQ Examination consists of 3 sections with 370 questions over a total of 11 hours. Out of the gate Mr. Crawford’s comparison is moot. Again if you care to know the facts please visit the NCIDQ Examination website.
Certified Interior Designers Licensed Architects
Testing for Code Related Issues:
Less than 15% At least 22%
The facts. The NCIDQ Professional Examination (part 2 of 3) includes 18% of its content which is directly related to building codes and standards. The ID Practicum Examination (part 3 of 3) includes 25% of its content which is directly related to building codes. Again this is content that deals directly with building codes and does not include additional content that also tests for more indirect health, safety and welfare or “code related” knowledge. Mr. Crawford’s numbers are not based on any factual evidence and therefore are moot.
Certified Interior Designers Licensed Architects
0-6 undefined hours a year 12 HSW hours a year
The facts. CEU’s are typically not measured in hours but in credits earned. For those of you that prefer factual evidence over baseless claims here are the NCIDQ CEU requirements;
NCIDQ Certificate holders are expected to meet continuing education minimums set by CIDQ (0.6 CEU), a professional organization (ASID, IIDA, IDC) or a regulated jurisdiction. CEUs must be tracked through the IDCEC System. To ensure compliance, CIDQ reserves the right to conduct random audits of IDCEC accounts each year of those who signed the Appellation Agreement Form
In order to maintain professional membership in any of the North American Interior Design Associations there are strict requirements for CEU’s. None allow “0 hours” of continuing education to suit their membership requirements. Again in those states that regulate the title and/or practice of Interior Designers are held to CEU credits similar to licensed architects.
Certified Interior Designers Licensed Architects
Education in Health Safety Welfare
None Required Must graduate from accredited university
Wow that is misleading. Here are the facts. To be clear there is a difference in “Certified Interior Designers” that simply take the NCIDQ examination and those that actually practice in a state in which the title and/or practice of Interior Design is regulated. But neither allow for a designer to become “certified” or maintain their certification without proving baseline competence and knowledge of Health Safety and Welfare issues that impact our work. Most* certified interior designers have earned 4 year minimum degrees from an accredited institution that must offer students the opportunity exposure to and understanding of a multitude of HS&W content. Again if you care to understand the facts in this regard, please visit the Council for Interior Design Accreditation website for professional standards and expectations for accredited Interior Design programs.
* While I do not have actual figures for this statement I am confident based on 30+ years of experience in Interior Design my generalization is sound.
Certified Interior Designers Licensed Architects
3520 Hours 3740 Hours
Given the much narrower scope of Interior Design work vs. Architecture this comparison seems reasonable. Interesting observation to note here is that the NCARB is now allowing qualified candidates to take the exam based on experience and less stringent education requirements as explained here. Furthermore, NCARB has created a “streamlined” pathway that allows certain Architecture degree students to sit for the examination prior to graduating and earning their work experience. Seems the numbers of ARE candidates has been declining for years due to the cost and effort to qualify for the Architectural Registration Examination in pursuit of licensure. Again I suggest that you have much bigger issues to concern yourself with than impeding Certified Interior Designer’s right to practice to the fullest of their potential.
So if anybody has taken the time to read this diatribe I commend you.
In closing I offer this; The AIA and the Certified Interior Design profession have so much to gain by working toward a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s professional domain. This petty turf war does really does nothing to benefit either of our professions. I also know there are many Registered Architects that hire and rely on certified Interior Designers to help them create the best projects for their clients. The AIA is out of step with the profession in this regard.