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Plan Drafter Penalized for Practicing Architecture without a License

An individual that drafted plans and specifications for a strip shopping center was fined by a stated board of architect examiners for practicing architecture without a license.  The individual appealed the Board decision to court, arguing that since the building for which he prepared design plans was never built, he did not practice architecture within the meaning of the state statute definition of the term.  The court affirmed the penalty and held that it did not matter whether or not the building was built since it was the intent of the statute of safeguard public safety and prevent waste “by prohibiting activities that are undertaken in contemplation of erecting buildings.”  The court held that “the state logically need not wait until the erection actually occurs” before making a determination that an individual has practiced without a license.

In Davis v. Board of Architect Examiners, 193, P.3d 1019 (Oregon, 2008), the court of appeals affirmed a decision by the Oregon Board of Architect Examiners that imposed a civil penalty of an individual that was doing business under the name of “Coast Drafting and Design.”  Although no employee of Coast was licensed as an architect, the firm advertised itself as available to produce designs.  In response to an advertisement, a builder/developer company contracted with Coast to create preliminary plans for a strip shopping center it was planning to build.  Preliminary plans were defined by contract as being sufficient to create “a final floor plan and elevations.”

According to the court, Coast Drafting and Design provided three proposals with completed drawings, one set which was selected by the builder which then entered into another contract with Coast by which Coast would provide the following services:

“1.  Provide permit ready drawings for a two (2) story, wood frame retail strip center …

2.  Incorporate civil and structural drawings, done by others, into the work drawings.

3.  Periodic site visits and reports to Client during course of construction.

4.  Provide reproductions of drawings as follows, 20 sets Preliminary Drawings for Site Plan Review, and 12 Sets Final Working Drawings.”

Coast thereafter produced floor plan drawings showing two levels of building units with square footage.   The court states these drawings were “stamped by petitioner.”  Coast and the builder then submitted additional drawings to the city planning director who approved them.  Subsequently, Coast drafted more detailed plans that included framing plans and section details.  These were stamped by Coast and an “engineering firm with which [it] had subcontracted.”  The court does not specifically say so, but this appears to be the first instance in which plans drafted by Coast were stamped by a licensed professional – and it appears that the stamp is as to engineering aspects of the documents only.

Coast did not deny that it had produced plans and designs for the building.  Instead, it argued that the statutory definition of architect services does not encompass planning and designing buildings that are never erected.    In rejecting that argument, the court found that Coast’s proposed definition could not be reconciled with the plain text of the statute that provides that the practice of architecture includes “planning” or “designing” the “erection” of “any building.” As explained by the court, “One plans the erection of a building or executes designs for it regardless of whether the plans or designs ever come to fruition.”

About the author: J. Kent Holland is a construction lawyer located in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with a national practice (formerly with Wickwire Gavin, P.C. and now with Construction Risk Counsel, PLLC) representing design professionals, contractors and project owners. He is also founder and president of ConstructionRisk, LLC, a consulting firm providing consulting services to owners, design professionals, contractors and attorneys on construction projects. He is publisher of ConstructionRisk.com Report and may be reached at Kent@ConstructionRisk.com or by calling 703-623-1932. This article is published in ConstructionRisk.com Report at www.ConstructionRisk.com (Jan 2009).