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In Virginia regulation of architects can be found in Title 54.1, Subtitle 2, Article 4, Chapter 1 of the Code of Virginia.  Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-400, an architect means “a person who, by reason of his knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences, and the principles of architecture and architectural design, acquired by professional education, practical experience, or both, is qualified to engage in the practice of architecture and whose competence has been attested by the Board through licensure as an architect.”  Further the section also defines “practice of architecture” as “any service wherein the principles and methods of architecture are applied, such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning and design, and includes the responsible administration of construction contracts, in connection with any private or public buildings, structures or projects, or the related equipment or accessories.”

Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-402 exempts certain architects who prepare plans, specifications, documents and designs for certain things mentioned in the section from the licensing requirements.  For example, architects who prepare plans, specifications, documents and designs for:

  • A single- and two-family homes, townhouses and multifamily dwellings, excluding electrical and mechanical systems, not exceeding three stories; or
  • Buildings, structures, or electrical and mechanical installations which are not otherwise exempted but which are of standard design, provided they bear the certification of an architect registered or licensed in another state, and provided that the design is adapted for the specific location and for conformity with local codes, ordinances and regulations, and is so certified by an architect licensed in Virginia; or
  • Additions, remodeling or interior design without a change in occupancy or occupancy load and without modification to the structural system or a change in access or exit patterns or increase in fire hazard.

However, it is provided in the section that any such plans, specifications, documents or designs, the preparation of which is exempted, must bear the name and address of the author and his occupation. 

Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-402.2, the board for architects (“board”) can issue an order requiring any person to cease and desist from practicing or offering to practice as an architect, when s/he is not licensed or registered by the board in accordance with this chapter.  If any person fails to stop the unlicensed, uncertified, or unregistered activity after entry of an order by the board, the board can either refer the matter for enforcement or can impose a civil penalty not exceeding $ 2,500.  The penalties collected will be paid to the Literary Fund after deducting administrative costs of the board.

Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-404 provides that the board will propagate regulations consistent with the chapter to govern its own organization, the professional qualifications of applicants, the requirements necessary for passing examinations and its proper conduct, the execution of exemptions from license requirements, and the proper discharge of its other duties.  The regulations promulgated by the board include a code of professional practice and conduct, the purpose of which must be:

  • the protection of the public health, safety and welfare;
  • the maintenance of standards of objectivity, truthfulness and reliability in public statements by professionals;
  • the avoidance of conflicts of interests by professionals;
  • the prohibition of solicitation or acceptance of work by professionals on any basis other than their qualifications for the work offered;
  • the restriction by the professional in the conduct of his/her professional activity from association with any person engaging in illegal or dishonest activities; or
  • the limitation of professional service to the area of competence of each professional.

The board will also transmit regulations governing continuing education requirements for architects licensed by the board.  As a prerequisite to the renewal or reinstatement of a license issued to an architect, completion of 16 hours per biennium of continuing education activities approved by the board is required. The board can grant exemptions or waive or reduce the number of continuing education hours required in cases of certified illness or undue hardship.

The Board must establish criteria for continuing education activities including, but not limited to:

  • content and subject matter;
  • curriculum;
  • standards and procedures for the approval of activities, courses, sponsors, and instructors;
  • methods of instruction for continuing education courses; and
  • the computation of course credit.

Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-405 provides that the board must hold at least one examination each year at times and locations designated by them.  A license to practice as an architect will be issued to every applicant who complies with the requirements of the chapter and the regulations of the board. A license once taken will be valid during the life of the holder unless revoked or suspended by the board.

Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-406, a person must hold a valid license prior to engaging in the practice of architecture.  Any person, partnership, corporation or other entity offering to practice architecture without being registered or licensed will be liable for a civil penalty of at least $ 200 to $ 5,000 per violation, with each unlawful act constituting a separate violation.  But the civil penalty will not in any way exceed $ 25,000 per year.  Such persons can also be considered guilty for a class 1 misdemeanor.  Further any person unlicensed, uncertified, or unregistered, who advertises or promotes through the use of the word “architecture,” in a manner that indicates or implies that it practices or offers to practice architecture will also be subject to civil or criminal liability.

However, any state agency or political subdivision of the Commonwealth unable to employ a qualified architect to fill a responsible charge position, after reasonable and unsuccessful search, can fill the position with an unlicensed person.  This will be determined by the chief administrative officer of the agency or political subdivision that the person, by virtue of education, experience, and expertise, can perform the work required of the position.

Inside Virginia