You are here:

Architecture/Can I design a building without a local architecture license?


Hello Mr. Santis

I am wondering, if in the future, I am a developer as well as an architect (licensed in Canada for example). Can I design a building and build it (in the USA for example) without a USA architecture license?

Theoretically speaking, can I design a building and ask another architect to redraw it?

Thank you so much for your time !

This is more thorough than you need but for the sake of a broader audience I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss this subject in detail.
There are several points for me to address in your question.  First relates to Architectural Licensure.  In the USA,licensure is controlled State by State.  Although I have a license in Washington State, I can not practice in Maryland for example unless I fulfill that State's requirements.  Typically if I already have a State License in one State I do not need to take the entire Architectural exam over again.
Whether or not a ‘Registered Design Professional’ is needed is dictated by the ‘Authority Having Jurisdiction.’  What this means is the City or County Building Official.  AHJ is a moniker that is more generic because some Towns are too small and not busy enough to have their own Building Official and may hire an independent Official or share an Official with an adjoining City or with their County.  
Essentially, all Commercial and Multifamily projects need this.  Single family houses are possible to do without a pro but someone needs to prepare the required documents.  Owner-Builders typically are given more leeway but it depends upon the AHU.
The International Building Code (IBC) 107.1 indicates that Submittal Documents must be prepared by a registered design professional.
Regarding whether or not you need an Architect or not the answer is essentially ‘yes’ to any Commercial and Multi-Family Residential project that is not considered maintenance.  As for single family houses, a Registered Professional is not required if the builder constructs the house according to a prescriptive system as identified in the International Building Code.  If the Builder wants to do something outside of the prescriptive structural, energy, and envelope requirements, (or simply wants an informed and aesthetically pleasing design) the builder will hire a Designer or Architect or Engineer depending upon their need.
That said, to answer the other part of your question as to whether you can design a building and have the Architect adopt your design and ‘Stamp’ it and submit it for permit.  Yes, that is entirely possible.  It may be difficult to find an Architect to do this as it becomes an insurance issue, the less control an Architect has the more uncertain his liability.  On the other hand, your input and direction is essential to the Architect.  YOU are the client and YOU determine what you want.  You may need to find a smaller firm to take on what you want to do rather than a ‘design firm.’  
Be careful though, many think they are better designers than they really are.  Besides, Architects can surprise you with something better than what you were thinking.  Trust me, we do it all the time.  We are trained to see opportunities that are often missed.
Architecture School helps teach basic design principals and helps strip the ego and illusions many of us have about our creations.  It is a rigorous education on history, design theory, structures, mechanical systems, environmental design, envelope design, Health/ Safety/ Accessibility Codes as well as all night projects to test your ideas.  Hire an Architect as your consultant to at least test your ideas in addition to acquiring a permit.  
I have had many successful Clients and Projects with this ‘Team’ method of Developer and Architect working hand in hand.  However many of these have been Builders with years of experience and so know quite a bit about Architecture already.  It is a marriage of sorts and you have to find the right ‘match.’  I’d suggest you leave it to professionals for your first development project until you see what it’s all about.  There is much to learn!
Good luck!  Hope this helps.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Albert A. de Santis


Value: best choice for design value and longevity. Design: planning, plan vs reality, elegant detailing, Poetics of Architecture, Japanese Architecture, modern design. 'Green': the hype vs reality, shopping and selection tips. Construction: materials and methods, estimating tips, sequencing, other tips. Color and finsihes: how to shop, how to select, and DIY tips. Cost: estimating tips.


I have learned and applied 'green' design before the term was coined. I was Educated in 1990 by Volker Hartkopf and Vivian Loftness at Carnegie Mellon (leaders in Sustainable and integrated systems) and having personally built (as a Contractor) projects with sustainable strategies and reused materials. I have personally designed, detailed, and supervised construction of hundreds of thousands of square feet of small residences to College buildings, Offices, Clinics, and Churches. I am well read in design theory, especially Japanese design. I have travelled to Japan dozens of times.

Architectural degree from Carnegie Mellon, 1990

©2017 All rights reserved.