Architect vs. Home Designer

Architect vs. Home Designer

Okay, so I run into this almost daily.  After ten years of being licensed, I finally think it is worth the mention.  

Let me start by saying that there are a lot of great design firms out there, and some non-architects do stunning work.  Jurisdictions have different requirements on whether or not an architect is required for a residential project (usually based on the overall square footage under roof). I often have potential clients say they are interviewing other architects and come to find out that they are interviewing designers or design/build firms.  Both architects and designers can deliver a great product, but please know the difference when interviewing so that you can make an informed decision that best matches your personality and project needs.   

Reasons to hire an Architect: 

As a licensed professional, we are required by law to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.  We are held to a code of ethics and conduct and are legally responsible for our work.

"Architect" is an earned professional title.  Somebody who is not a licensed architect may not use the word "architect" to describe themselves, even if they are currently sitting for exams.  An undergraduate degree in architecture does not mean somebody is an architect.  In order to become an architect, one must:

  1. Obtain a professional, accredited, degree of 5-6 years (a masters degree, in most cases, on top of undergraduate).
  2. An internship under a licensed architect (3-5 years + depending on the hours earned and if hours worked meet certain criteria).
  3. Register with the Nation Council of Architectural Registration Boards who tracks the qualification hours and testing.
  4. Pass examinations by the Architectural Registration Board in their state (Texas Board of Architectural Examiners for Texas) - this can take years as passed exams can "drop off" if too much time passes by between passed exams - There were 9 exams when I sat for last exam in 2009. Successfully completing these tests is quite the accomplishment for a working individual as it takes a lot of studying and devotion.   This is definitely something to be proud of, and as a profession, something to encourage.
  5. Complete Continuing Education - Texas requires a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education per calendar year, 18 if you are a member of the American Institute of Architects.  Courses involve sustainable or energy-efficient design, barrier-free design, and must be pertinent to the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
  6. License - The architect and their firm are required to be registered with TBAE (or the state in which they practice) and pay annual dues.  We are required to renew our license each year.  Licensure keeps us on the hook for liability for 10 years after the project completion date.  If we are awarded work in other states, we must check with the architectural boards of those states for their requirements.  Doing work in other states may require a reciprocity fee or even supplemental exams. 
  7. Insurance - requires us to insure each project completed for at least the term of liability.  (Some Home Designers may also carry insurance, but the terms of liability will be different).

Not sure if somebody is an architect or if their firm is registered?  The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners has a "find a design professional" link on their website:

Eddie Maestri, AIA

Texas Registration 21529

Owner/Principal Architect - Maestri Studio