October 25, 2023

When is an architect required?

When is an architect required?

In Oregon (and similarly in many other states), a Registered Design Professional in Responsible Charge (architect or structural engineer) is required to design and stamp Significant Structures and Non-exempt Structures. We will focus on architects here, but structural engineers are the other important design professional covered by these rules. And most often with complex structures, both professionals will work together as a team to bring them to successful completion.

Exempt Structures do not need either of these professionals, though the structures must still meet the appropriate building and local development code (zoning) requirements. All design/build or delegated design services provided by contractors are subject to these definitions as well.

Further, architects must provide “observation” of the construction process of the facilities they design and stamp, except those that are Exempt.

Significant Structures: architect required

  1. Hazardous facilities or special occupancy structures – jails, hazardous material storage, or controlled access facilities like behavioral health hospitals, schools with populations over 250, or high population structures like arenas.
  2. Essential facilities – emergency facilities like hospitals, police/fire/rescue buildings, essential government services required for emergency response, critical defense structures, emergency shelters, power/water facilities, aviation control facilities.
  3. Structures that the Director of Consumer and Business Services determines to have “irregular features” — this line item provides flexibility for authorities to include structures with significant asymmetries, unusual geometry or high impacts.
  4. High rises — any structure for people taller than 45’ or more than four stories above the ground. 

Non-Exempt Structures: architect required

  1. Structures that are neither Significant nor Exempt. This is the majority of medium and larger commercial buildings out there.

Exempt Structures: architect not required

  1. Detached single or two family homes
  2. Farm/agriculture buildings that do not serve the public.
  3. Accessory structures to homes or Ag buildings — garages, barns, work sheds, etc.
  4. Any other building with a ground area smaller than 4,000sf AND no taller than 20’ to the highest interior finish. Basements count as the lowest point of measurement for the height limitation if they are usable (storage, garage, etc.).
  5. Alterations to a building where no structural elements are affected or when occupancy or type of classification of the building are not proposed as changed.

By elimination, the text of items four and five under Exempt Structures above is what actually defines most Non-exempt Structures.

So, an architect is not required for new single family or two-family homes (duplexes) unless special conditions exist requiring professional oversight. Nor is an architect necessarily required for an alteration to an existing home. Historically, this exemption began so that homesteaders could self-design & self-build on their own property. Today, you may find interior designers or home designers directing this type of work. Exempt structures must still follow a prescribed design path that is itemized in the building code.

So, why have an architect design my home or home remodel?

  • level of service
  • specific education
  • deeper technical understanding
  • familiarity with jurisdictional processes
  • higher attention to detail
  • breadth of design experience
  • educated in higher efficiency or performance standards than the prescribed code paths
  • state certification
  • professional insurance

Is my architect really licensed?

You should check, just for due diligence. It is illegal to advertise oneself as an architect unless actually currently licensed in good standing. And architects are required to stamp projects created under their responsible charge, even exempt ones.

Similarly, you should verify the status of your prospective general contractor’s license. 

Adam and Lisa Christie are licensed architects in Oregon, Washington and California. Give us a call when you are ready to design your next project.