A follow up question (from our last post) which comes up on occasion is “can you stamp my drawings” that were prepared by someone else. Again, these questions are frustrating, but the general public has no context or background to the world of design professionals. It seems some of the calls that I have gotten are people who liken the stamping of drawings to the service of a notary. I mean no offense to those who choose to be a notary, but these two services could not be any further apart. So I’ll answer the question.
My answer is no. But for good reason, let me explain.
An architect sealing or stamping a set of drawings implies that the architect is giving his/her “seal of approval” on the design and documentation for which they had direct supervision. In today’s world sealing something for which you did not have direct supervision or control over is an unlawful use of the seal or stamp. It also cheapens the profession.
According to the Pennsylvania Architects Licensure Law § 9.142, Unlawful use of seal or stamp: (other States will have similar laws)
(a) An architect may not seal or stamp a document unless his license is current with the Board.
(b) An architect may not impress the seal or stamp, or knowingly permit it to be impressed or affixed, on drawings, specifications or other design documents which were not prepared by the architect or under his direct supervision.
According to the NCARB Code of Ethics, “An architect may sign and seal technical submissions only if the technical submissions were: (i) prepared by the architect; (ii) prepared by persons under the architect’s responsible control…. “Responsible control” shall be that amount of control over and detailed professional knowledge of the content of technical submissions during their preparation as is ordinarily exercised by architects applying the required professional standard of care. Reviewing, or reviewing and correcting, technical submissions after they have been prepared by others does not constitute the exercise of responsible control because the reviewer has neither control over nor detailed knowledge of the content of such submissions throughout their preparation.”
Construction drawings are not only a series of technical drawings, but they represent a series of decisions and systems that have been made within a specific context and work together in harmony one with each other. In addition, the seal on the drawings states that these drawings comply with the applicable building codes to the best of the design professional’s knowledge. Each drawing, each detail comes from an understanding of a story that begins at the beginning when the client introduces their desires, budget, site and local building code.
Certainly there are common methods of construction and many details can be considered standard or typical. However, even the placement of a typical detail has to be done carefully with an understanding of how that detail interacts with the remainder of the building components. The architect who seals the drawings does not need to draw every line or any line for that matter. Yet, the architect needs to be involved in the discussions with the interested parties so they understand the process of decision making from the beginning. Then they can review and comment on the drawings as they are prepared, edited and finalized. They can give their “seal of approval” because they have had direct supervision and exercised reasonable control over the process.
If one understands the long journey of sacrifice that it takes to obtain a professional license, such as an architect, they would understand how no architect should risk the potential fines, or potential loss of that license for using it inappropriately. No fee could cover that loss.
bottom photo is from L*Ali’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)