Where can I find detailed practice related information and resources?
The AAA website
was rebuilt and updated in 2018. Important resources are readily available at www.aaa.ab.ca
. The Architects Act
, General Regulation, Bylaws and Code of Ethics can be found on the 'Our Ethics and Legislation' page
All regularly updated Practice FAQ’s
, Practice Advisories
, Practice Bulletins
and a variety of other documents can also be found on our website, including the Alberta Building Code Schedules A, B and C
, the LID Document 10 Agreement and the CAA Fee Schedule
. All of these documents can be downloaded, printed and kept for reference.
In addition, the RAIC Canadian Handbook of Practice (CHOP)
is an excellent general resource for practitioners and a new updated version became available via free download to members in 2020. RAIC contract documents and guides for their use are available on the RAIC website
Many general practice topics, particularly about loss control and insurance are available directly from your insurer who is always available to address questions about coverage and where to find loss control advice, bulletins and online courses. Finally, using your legal counsel as a resource to assist in reviewing documents and contracts is always recommended good practice.
Assignment of Copyright and Moral Rights
A client wants copyright and moral rights to my work on a new project. Can they do this?
Copyright and moral rights are vested under federal statute and that right cannot by default be taken by others. However, it is within your right to assign copyright under contract between a client and/or another party if necessary or desired. Thus far, no suitable reasons have ever been provided to this association that justify relinquishing an authorized entity’s copyright or moral rights. An alternative consideration may be a license agreement that provides unfettered use of copyrighted material to a client for specific purposes without relinquishing copyright and moral rights, per se. This licensing arrangement (including a generic agreement template) is explained in detail in the RAIC Canadian Handbook of Practice (CHOP). AAA recommends the use of this alternative measure, when necessary, to protect both the public interest and the inherent rights of an authorized entity.
Refer to Practice Bulletin PB-17 | Copyright and Intellectual Property
for more detailed information.
Copyright - Unauthorized Use of Documents
I have discovered another architect is using my drawings on a project I did a year ago that did not proceed. What are my rights?
If you have not given specific written permission for the use of your documents to the user, your rights under federal statute apply inasmuch as you are able to take steps (legal or otherwise) to prevent the architect from using and copying your documents. It is also recommended that in exercising these rights, you explicitly confirm to the user that you accept no liability whatsoever for this unauthorized use and, further, that non-compliance could result in your seeking legal advice for registering a court injunction against the user.
Further details can be found in Practice Bulletin PB-17 | Copyright and Intellectual Property
I have been invited to participate in a formal design build competition by a builder in response to an RFP. He says he will pay me if we win the project. Does the AAA have any rules about how I should participate?
This is neither recommended nor considered good professional practice. Practice Bulletin PB-27 | Providing Design Services During Project Procurement
provides extensive details and clear advice as to risks and what is considered unprofessional conduct in this regard.
The intent of the bulletin is to warn against the provision of services by an authorized entity without a written agreement that identifies both a method of determining a fee or other consideration and a description of the work to be provided for that fee in accordance with Section 41 of the Architects Act
Disputes and Duty of Care
I am in the middle of a dispute with an unreasonable client who is threatening to replace me with another architect friend of his if I don’t approve deficient work done by his contractor. His demands are serious and I believe are in breach of our agreement and our duty of care; but he is unwilling to sit down and negotiate a solution. We are at an impasse. Others are relying on me and I don’t know what I can or should do. What is your advice?
The AAA always recommends that parties to a dispute meet with the purpose of finding a mutually beneficial solution to whatever problem is at hand. That said, sometimes a client does not understand or accept the gravity of providing an ethical professional service.
Assuming you have a proper written agreement with the client that includes a termination clause and you are clearly at an impasse, it is prudent to seek legal advice with respect to serving a notice of termination to the client with cause as you would be risking exposure to a claim of unprofessional conduct if you knowingly enter into a circumstance where your duty of care is clearly compromised. The duty of care is defined in tort law as a legal obligation requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. A failure to provide the duty of care is often the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence.
Licensed Interior Designer Scope of Work
I am a licensed interior designer and I have a client who wants me to do some renovations to his three storey, wood frame office building. Each floor is less than 5,000 sf. This is strictly an interiors project with no work on the building exterior that will include a new atrium lobby and a feature stair. Do I need an architect?
The need for a building code review with respect to the impact, if any, on the building exiting system requires an architect. Licensed interior designers are able to design feature stairs in atrium spaces, as long as these stairs do not count as exits and as long as the atrium itself is not part of the overall exit program for the building. Often a new atrium created in an existing building that involves structural changes also requires new fire separations between levels that can and do impact the exit design strategy for the building and if this is the case, an architect is required.
Practice Bulletin PB-26 | Professional Involvement in Building Projects
provides additional information and clarification on this topic.
I recently received my seal and I have been offered some private work that I will do on my own time while continuing to work for my employer. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to build my reputation since I want to eventually open my own office. Do I need insurance and what else should I be aware of?
Yes, insurance is recommended and an acceptable practice arrangement with AAA (such as a sole proprietorship) must be established. However, it is important to understand the implications of "moonlighting". Most firms have policies that prohibit moonlighting by their employees as this work may inadvertently bring a risk into the firm’s office, thus potentially exposing the firm to unwanted, potential liability.
While it is true that an architect or licensed interior designer can provide certain design services on his or her own private time, the reality is that much of the work may spill over into regular business hours once it is extended to others through consultants, permitting and construction. Any query or discussion regarding a private project that occurs in the firm’s office during regular business hours via email, phone calls or meetings, places the firm at risk as well as takes the architect or licensed interior designer away from his or her own regular employment responsibilities. The AAA recommends that private projects be brought into the firm under the firm insurance policy alongside a suitable written agreement including a finder’s fee (if applicable) and a description of services that define the responsibilities of both the member and the firm.
Preparing a Design for an RFP Response or Interview
I am preparing a proposal for a project and the client wants me to give them a few design sketches (no detail, just concept ideas) to “test our knowledge and enthusiasm” for the work and to see if we are a good fit. How much work can I do?
The requirements of the General Regulation are clear under Section 41(1) that states an authorized entity may provide professional services to a client only if the authorized entity and client have executed a written agreement that, (a) provides for a method of determining the fee or other consideration to be charged and, (b) describes the professional services to be provided. To do otherwise could be grounds for a finding of professional misconduct.
Further information is presented in Practice Bulletin PB-27 | Providing Design Services During Project Procurement
My client expects me to do a set of “as-builts” on a project. This wasn’t included in our contract because I thought this was done by the contractor. Can I charge for this service?
This is a source of confusion where the words “as built,” “as found,” and “record” drawings are incorrectly used and often interchanged.
Record drawings are provided by the architect or licensed interior designer and this service can either form part of an initial contract agreement or be added later as an additional service. Authorized entities are entitled to be paid for this work that represents an official record of the complete project design as intended and as modified, and may be prepared under seal. These are NOT as-built drawings.
As-built drawings are provided by the contractor as a record of the construction as built. Since the Architect of Record is not responsible for the construction and cannot certify total accuracy, the architect is actually not qualified to do as-built drawings. This is strictly a contractor responsibility. It is not uncommon for an architectural or a licensed interior design firm to be hired by the contractor, effectively as a drafting service, to prepare as-built drawings from information provided by the contractor since the contractor may not have the capacity to prepare these drawings themselves. In such circumstances, the work is also paid for and the architect or licensed interior designer should issue a disclaimer of any and all responsibility for this work since it is based solely on information provided by the contractor and should never affix a seal to this work.
Refer to Practice Bulletin PB-28 | As-Built and Record Drawings – They Are Not the Same Thing
for further details and best practice recommendations.
I have recently registered with the association and have been offered an employment agreement as an architect with a developer. Can I act as a prime consultant and use my seal?
A developer can hire anyone trained in architecture or, a registered architect with this association as an employee to provide such skilled but restricted services as developer-client representative or, as a project coordinator / project manager. This can include soliciting and selecting the professional services of outside architectural firm(s) for projects that require professional involvement.
An in-house architect cannot as an employee act as a prime consultant within the development company or, practice architecture personally within the same development company, as defined in the Architects Act including providing services that may require the seal. This also means that services such as programming, site studies, concept and detail design, production documents, field review (other than acting as a developer field representative) and executing agreements directly with an outside third party owner to provide in house architectural consulting services and / or sub-consulting services, are not permitted.
The developer however has two options 1) to either alter its company structure or open a new architectural practice arrangement entity to meet the 51% ownership rule per the Architects Act General Regulation or 2) request the architect to independently establish an acceptable practice arrangement under the requirements of the Act and be engaged through that entity as a contract consultant to the developer company.
In either of the above options, the administration of the work of the practice is vested entirely to the architect to service the work under his or her personal supervision, direction and control.
Can a drafting service work as a prime consultant and if necessary, hire an architect to seal the drawings and/or contribute to a project as a sub consultant?
A drafting service cannot practice architecture, i.e. planning, designing or giving advice on the design of, or the erection, construction or alteration of, or addition to a building. That means where professional involvement is required on a project, an architect or a licensed interior designer is required to be the coordinating registered professional, ‘architect of record’ or ‘prime consultant’ – all as per the Architects Act.
A drafting service cannot under any circumstance execute an agreement with an owner as a prime consultant where professional involvement is required, because that company is not licensed to practice architecture or licensed interior design. Likewise, it follows that it cannot hire an architect or a licensed interior designer as a sub consultant in order for the drafting service to ‘legitimize’ its consultancy as a prime consultant, as this is tantamount to purchasing the seal.
For details around the terms of engagement and scope of work where professional involvement is required – from the outset of a project that by definition, includes executing a professional services agreement with an owner – refer to PB-26 | Professional Involvement on Building Projects
Right to Title
I just graduated from architecture school with a Master in Architecture and our local paper is doing an article on the new generation of architects. Someone told me I can’t call myself an architect until I am registered. Is this true?
Yes, please refer to the Right to Title Practice Advisory. Confusion arises when the word “architect” is used both as a noun and as a legal term. In order to be called an architect in Alberta, one must be a registered member of the AAA. In this context, it is not acceptable to refer to oneself using derivative terms such as “graduate architect,” however, it is acceptable to refer to one’s degree in architecture (i.e., M.Arch.) or to yourself personally as a graduate from a professional degree program in architecture.
I am a registered architect and I am starting my practice as a sole proprietor. Is there anything I need to be aware of?
A sole proprietorship is defined as a “firm” which is one of only three acceptable practice arrangements per Section 26 of the Architects Act General Regulation. It must be structured in accordance with the General Regulation, Bylaws and applicable provincial and federal requirements. A registered architect or licensed interior designer in practice as a sole proprietor must register the sole proprietorship with the AAA and pay annual firm dues. It is also recommended that you secure a professional liability insurance policy.
Statute of Limitations
I am planning to retire soon and close my practice. What is the statute of limitations for architects and what do I need to do with insurance to protect my interests?
Typically, the statute for financial records is seven (7) years and for project documentation it is 10 years. It is important to review your circumstances with your lawyer and professional liability insurer. Generally, the AAA recommends archiving records instead of destroying them, since they could be useful in defending against third party claims that can arise anytime outside of the limitation period.
Refer to Practice Bulletin PB-05 | Limitations Act
for more details.
I have been approached by an unhappy client to take over a project from another architect with whom there is a growing dispute. It is becoming messy—poor drawings, construction overruns, non-payment, etc. What do I need to do?
You must first decide if it is worthwhile for you to take over any project by assessing all circumstances. This is an important step since taking over a project means you assume full responsibility for it as if it were your own, from its inception to completion. You are also entitled to enter into a “clean” agreement with the client, i.e., with all outstanding matters between the original architect or licensed interior designer resolved as a condition precedent to beginning your own work.
For additional information, please refer to Practice Bulletin PB-06 | Succession
and follow the recommended protocols.
Unauthorized Practice Reporting
It is widely known that many businesses in Alberta are practicing architecture or interior design illegally and buying a stamp to get permits from the authorities having jurisdiction. What is AAA doing about this?
It is illegal to sell one’s stamp to aid and abet others. Practice Bulletin PB-15 | Documents Authentication
, addresses this in detail.
The AAA relies upon its members to advise of any alleged unprofessional practice that is encountered during the normal course of business. This is a requirement under the Code of Ethics where one is mandated to assist in maintaining the integrity of the profession. It is also a requirement of Part 12(2) of the General Regulation to bring any discovery of unlawful practice of architecture or interior design to Council.
For its part, the association uses a cease and desist process whereby any unlawful practice, reported or discovered within the office is subjected to a thorough due diligence process that usually results in the issuance of a demand letter(s) obligating the candidate to rectify the situation under penalty of a legal court injunction or in the case of a member, a formal complaint. This process is consistently successful. The incidence of unlawful practice is, however, an ongoing matter and the AAA must continue to rely upon its members to report any findings as soon as they are discovered. The AAA is also engaging the authorities having jurisdiction with respect to using Practice Bulletin PB-26 | Professional Involvement in Building Projects
as a guide to inform them when professional involvement is required.
Use of Seal
I just got my seal. When can I use it?
Before one is able to use their seal, it is essential to have a registered practice arrangement with the AAA, i.e., a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a limited liability corporation. Refer to Practice Bulletin PB-15 | Documents Authentication
The seal is an exclusive privilege and is to be used strictly in accordance with the Architects Act. It is primarily used to certify documents that are complete and for construction contracts, permit applications and post construction certification. The use of seal pre-supposes significant liability and is not to be used frivolously or fraudulently, since its application means that the work has been completed under the personal supervision, direction and control of the authorized entity. Improper use of the seal is a serious breach of the Architects Act and is subject to serious penalties.
My employer relocated outside of Alberta, but the practice is still active. Since I continue to be involved in several of the projects, I was asked to take over the construction administration. I started my own firm to act as a contract consultant for this work. Can I use my seal to sign off the Alberta Building Code Schedule C’s?
Your relationship, whether in house or not, must be committed to contract that describes your responsibilities and liabilities if you are acting as a contract consultant. However, only the Coordinating Registered Professional can execute and be responsible for the Schedule A, B and C’s. Just as an employee cannot qualify as the coordinating registered professional, the same is true for a contract consultant. Moreover, the only way that you are able to use your seal on a project authored by your former employer’s firm is if you are a successor architect per PB-06 | Succession
; in which case you take over the entire project as if it were your own, including liability for the entire works. The circumstance described exposes both you and your former employer to potential liability if the principal who has moved cannot meet the test of personal supervision, direction and control for the project (per the Architects Act
) in the event of a loss. Your former employer, as the Coordinating Registered Professional must maintain that duty of care for the work regardless of his or her location. This includes oversight of your work. Contract consultants can only be responsible for the work that they do for their client i.e. in this case, the Coordinating Registered Professional – while he or she, on behalf of the firm, remains responsible for the entire project.
Withholding Schedule C's
I am working for a developer on a building that is 90% complete and we will need to apply for an occupancy permit soon. I have not been paid for several months. Can I withhold signing the Schedule C’s until I am paid?
There are legitimate circumstances where the architect can evaluate if he or she can withhold these schedules. The two most common reasons are: 1) when fees are withheld by the client for undisclosed or unresolved reasons, and/or 2) when the architect is unable to provide the assurances required. Regardless of the reasons, such a decision may have a severe impact on the completion of the project vis a vis the occupancy permit and by extension, financial consequence(s) to the client/owner. In such situations, every attempt should be made to communicate with the client regarding outstanding payments and/or to resolve any remaining issues first. In the event this is not possible, legal advice and advice from one’s insurer should first be obtained prior to any action should there be no alternative but to withhold the Schedules.
Refer to Practice Bulletin PB-24 | C1 and C2 Schedules
for additional details and practice tips.
Work Without a Contract
My client hasn’t paid me for months, but I am continuing to work in good faith because I don’t want to strain relations. He is a friend, I have known him for a long time and we have a gentleman’s agreement. How do I get out of this mess?
The absence of a written agreement with your client always puts you at risk since there are no active written terms of reference whereby you are able to protect both yourself and the public interest. The absence of a written agreement also offends Section 41(1) of the General Regulation whereby an authorized entity may provide professional services to a client only if the authorized entity and client have executed a written agreement that provides for a method of determining the fee or other consideration to be charged, and describes the professional services to be provided. Under the circumstances, it is recommended that you meet with your client one final time to appeal to his or her sense of duty to honour your “agreement.” However, regardless of your relationship, as it is by definition now strained, you may ultimately need legal advice and legal action to: 1) claim the outstanding funds assuming this is justified, or 2) relinquish the project altogether, or 3) both, to mitigate your losses.