by Gregory B. Hancks, Esq., AIA
Several years ago, Bill Gates caused a stir by deciding to call himself Microsoft’s chief software architect. Now, the company credentials “practicing architects” in information technology through the Microsoft Certified Architect Program. A Web search for architect jobs is likely to turn up many more positions for software designers than building designers.
The AIA General Counsel’s Office periodically receives questions about whether something can be done about such nontraditional uses of the term “architect.” Naturally, we have an interest in matters that affect AIA members and the architecture profession—plus, the AIA has established policy on use of the term (see item 13 here ). But the AIA does not control architectural licensing requirements. In the U.S., state and territorial governments set the laws covering the use of the term “architect.”
In Microsoft’s home state of Washington, Wash. Rev. Code § 18.08.310 provides:
“It is unlawful for any person … to use in connection with his or her name … the word ‘architect,’ ‘architecture,’ ‘architectural,’ or language tending to imply that he or she is an architect, unless the person is registered or authorized to practice in the state of Washington under this chapter. The provisions of this section shall not affect the use of the words ‘architect,’ ‘architecture,’ or ‘architectural’ where a person does not practice or offer to practice architecture.”
The statute further defines the “practice of architecture” as the “rendering of services in connection with the art and science of building design ….” (Wash. Rev. Code § 18.08.320). As a result, under Washington law, one could conclude that computer software designers may lawfully call themselves “software architects.”
The model licensing law the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) publishes for use by the state boards is not quite as explicit as the Washington statute but would produce the same result. Section I A of NCARB’s Legislative Guidelines states that:
“no person not registered should be permitted … to use the title ‘architect’ when offering to perform any of the services which the practice of architecture comprises or in circumstances which could lead a reasonable person to believe that such services were being offered.”
Nevertheless some states have statutes that appear to be more restrictive. A Texas statute, for example, provides that no one other than licensed architects or their firms may use “any form of the word ‘architect’ or ‘architecture’ in its name or to describe services it offers or performs in Texas” (22 Tex. Admin. Code § 1.123(c)). (This does not mean, however, that the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners actually enforces this restriction with respect to software designers.)
Knowing this won’t make it any easier to scroll through all of the software designer jobs when looking for architect positions. But perhaps some comfort can be had when traveling to San Antonio for the AIA’s convention this year knowing that we will be meeting in a state that hasn’t formally diluted the title of architect.
What do you think?