architectural home design

The Word “Architectural”

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by Engineer Designer on February 11, 2012

This article was written in early 2012.  I want to make it clear that I know and work with many Architects and have found them to be a fine and often talented and knowledgeable group of folks. The Architectural profession is to be admired, especially those who produce fine works and operate by high professional standards. This article is not about Architects. It is about a policy adopted by the Board of Architects and Interior Design in the State of Florida, apparently with legal backing, claiming the right of exclusive ownership of the word "architect", regardless of form or usage. If you agree, or not, let me know. Here it is:  Formal Architectural Engineering education, following the engineering model of earlier disciplines, developed in the late 19th century, and became widespread in the United States by the mid-20th century. With the establishment of a specific "Architectural Engineering" registration examination by the NCEES in April 2003, Architectural Engineering became recognized as a distinct engineering discipline in the United States. Today the profession of “Architectural Engineering” is a recognized field of study throughout the U.S. and the world. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) even has a special “Journal of Architectural Engineering” However, if an Engineer calls himself an Architectural Engineer, at least in Florida, he is subject to the wrath of the Florida Board of Architecture. It is their belief that they not only own the profession of Architecture but also any part or derivation of the word "architect". That includes the word “architectural” as an adjective. For instance if you say you are capable of architectural design then you are subject to legal action by their Board. If one says he produces architectural molding, he can be sanctioned. They make this claim by alluding to past court rulings. They claim the power to fine anyone who uses this word as a descriptor of their actions. If a lady says she is an expert at architectural renderings, and if not an Architect (by their definition) then she will be attacked. I was personally attacked by this group a long time ago. I had used the term “Architectural Engineer” in describing my profession on a yard sign. One of their guys (an Architect) drove by it – reported it to the Board and I was ordered to travel to Tallahassee to defend myself. Understand, I called myself an Architectural Engineer (complete with Professional Engineer License Number). I reported as ordered - it was a legal order. I sat on a chair in front of a large board of Architects who told me in no uncertain words that they owned any derivation of the word architect. When I cited in a multi page report the indisputable fact that this word “Architectural Engineer” was used by a great many professional and educational groups (including universities here in the State of Florida which offer graduate degrees in Architectural Engineering) they acknowledged that and said they did not care. They did not care that the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers a registration exam as an Architectural Engineer. They asserted that they own the word. No one else can use it. I was to stand down or be fined in the range of $1,000’s of dollars. I was just one guy against this board so I took the term architectural off the sign. Later I spoke to one of the Engineering Societies about this sham and could not get anyone interested enough to challenge this in court. Evidently, and to the Architects' credit, they fight harder and with more vigor. I must respect them for that though I cite my opinion of their reasoning below. You even have to respect a bully from time to time in the very audacity of his actions and how he can dominate folks into submission without even lifting a finger against them. So despite what was stated above in the first paragraph, if a Licensed Registered Engineer says he is an Architectural Engineer, he may be attacked by the Architects- at least in Florida. Even if he took is exam, legally, in the field of Architectural Engineering. Interesting how the engineers are not so protective. I run into building engineers, software engineers, sanitation engineers and many who call themselves engineers yet who are not licensed engineers. The Engineering Profession (as a group)  could care less. I am working with a guy who is an engineer in Bell Helicopters. He runs the engines. Makes sense to me. If Joe Blow down the street decided to do an amazing job designing a racing car, or an experimental airplane, I would say that he performed an awesome job of engineering. He produced an engineering design – and it drives or it flies. But if he  designed a home and said that he did an architectural design – he could be subject to attack by the Board of Architects. Now – calling oneself an Architect or implying he or she is a Licensed Architect when he is not one is wrong. It is illegal and should be. Architects work hard to gain their professional status. Same with Engineers. One may not say he or she is a P.E. (Professional Engineer) without being, in fact, a Licensed Engineer and having gone through the rigorous university training, internship (5 years) and testing. But, saying one is an engineer just might be an accurate statement – even though one is not registered. Michelangelo was not an Architect. Most of the Designers of the Iphone are not Registered Engineers. Jefferson was not an Architect. Henry Ford was not an Engineer. But I need not say more about the amazing engineered and architectural products these folks produced. Professional arrogance should be seen for what it is. It is a puniness, based in inferiority. Arrogance is often a guise for the opposite. It is a front to cover another truth entirely. It is, perhaps, an admission that one can’t stand by his or her own merits and actual production. It is that simple. I know some talented Architects. They stand by their own merit – and little else. This is, frankly, the underlying requirement for any true greatness.  It is not a title. It is not solely a beingness. It is also a  doingness and the achievement of products. Greatness is not a title. It is far more than that. If one can do an  excellent job as an architectural designer, then he or she IS an architectural designer. He may or may not be Architect – note the distinction. An Architectural Engineer is NOT an Architect even though his field is well recognized by countless professional and educational institutions as a valid profession. He has deep knowledge of engineering, of architecture and is able to combine the knowledge in valuable ways. So I hereby state, with no lack of pride, that I am NOT an Architect. I also state carefully, since these Architects love to bite when their collective profession feathers are ruffled, that I am an Archit^ctural Engineer (note that I did not use the word – will I be still be attacked?). I can and do produce beautiful arc*it*ct*ral drawings. I bring to the table not only great archit^ctural skills, but engineering skills and decades of  “hands-on” field experience as an archit^ctural designer and certified General Contractor. It used to be that Contractors, Architects and Engineers were one the same. Some of the greatest structures of the world (studied by both Architects and Engineers) were designed and built by those who were neither Registered Engineers nor Architects. So, again, so that this not be construed wrongly, I am NOT an Architect. But many consider me one heck of an archit^ctural Engineer who can produce excellent archit^ctural products. After we have worked together, you be the judge. I will state my strong opinion. No profession should ever own a word in verb format or in modifier format (ie. an adverb or adjective) - EVER. They may lay claim to the Proper Noun of their profession and make it clear that they have done so. They even have a right to be proud. But anyone can engineer anything. Anyone can doctor their dog until it is well. One may even do architectural drafting and design of a home or building. One may barber their own hair or that of another. One may pilot their own boat. One may say that he is in the architectural industry even if he simply supplies drafting paper. But one may not say he is a Doctor with being one. One is not an Engineer unless he has the legal credentials. And one is not an Architect unless he has been through the legal rigors of that profession. This should be a legal clarification - in my opinion. Ah - but I am not a Lawyer.

Building A Home? Should You Use OSB Or Plywood Sheathing?

by Engineer Designer on November 9, 2011

The Building Profession is traditionally slow to change and adapt to new methods and materials. One example is the use of OSB sheathing verses the "good-ol" CDX plywood. I still find, in 2011, some builders who have never used nor plan to use OSB. When asked why, their answers seem to boil down to a few false ideas. Without further evaluation many dismiss OSB because they have seen the result of water damage to particle board in cabinet countertops. They remain convinced that OSB is similar and will come to pieces in high moisture. There is also, to some, a question of strength. How could a bunch of wood fibers that are pressed together be as good as the old standby, CDX plywood? I was a bit skeptical myself when I first came across OSB as an option - several years ago. However when I took a look at the product I had to admit it was quite well worth the try. I\'m going to go over a few myths that I have heard regarding OSB - but first let\'s cover a few definitions: Sheathing is used to stiffen a group of parallel framing members to keep them from racking. It is sometimes called a diaphragm. Plywood is a flat sheet of wood that is quite strong because of the way it is made. It consists of layers of wood (thin veneers) which are laminated together in alternating grain orientations. Since wood has a weak direction and a strong direction (relative to its grain pattern) these layers contain wood turned in different directions to gain strength in all directions. CDX plywood is a designation indicating a rough finish and a glue that is okay for exterior use. OSB (meaning Oriented Strand Board) is produced by taking small fibers from smaller, low diameter trees and bonding them with a resin, heat and pressure. These panels achieve excellent strength in all directions. Myths: Myth 1 OSB lacks the strength of CDX plywood. This is untrue. All building codes and dictating standards make no differentiation between OSB and plywood. For sheathing, they are considered structurally equivalent. Myth 2 - OSB will fall apart like particle board. This is untrue. Many have observed kitchen cabinets (many are largely made of covered particle board) which expand and even crumble after exposure to moisture. This would be quite unacceptable for a structural member of a home or building. However particle board is different than OSB in that it is not produced for exterior use. The truth is OSB is designed for longer exposure to exterior higher moisture conditions than even CDX. Myth 3 Plywood is just better than OSB and its what I have always used. I would never suggest anyone changing against their own certainty however my experience is that such considerations do not stand up to evaluation. If one looks one will likely conclude that plywood is not \"better\" than OSB. Factually OSB is made from younger and smaller fibers and are actually faster to product when one includes the growth of the wood. There is great consistency in the product and it is more stable, in dimension, than plywood when exposed to moisture. OSB has proven itself in the industry and is used in about 70% of homes in the U.S. I now specify it in my own designs and on my own projects unless the owner really insists on plywood. When this occurs I always make available the facts but will go with plywood if he or she chooses. Oh, and when folks compare the prices of OSB and Plywood (OSB sometimes costing half as much) this is usually the deciding factor. I believe that all of us should be open to newer and better ways to build our homes and buildings. OSB is one of those methods that I readily endorse.
  Imagine this: You are building a home with either on your own or with the help of a general contractor. The project is finished and you take possession and move in as a happy owner of a brand new custom home.   You have faithfully paid every bill that was due. You finally pulled it off. It’s done.Then, out of the blue, you get notice that your brand new home has been slapped with a lien (a legal claim against your home for an amount stilled owed) for sums still owed for some materials or labor (or both) for which you are certain you have already paid.   How would you feel? Violated? Like after a burglary? You bet you would. After checking further you find out that one of the material or labor suppliers, a company that you may never have heard of, supplied products for your home and was never paid. Of course you paid your bills. But the guy you were paying did not. And that person is gone!   You might say, “That shouldn’t be my problem!”. Not correct. It is your problem.   The good news is that there are ways to avoid this painful situation. Here are a few suggestions (the last one most important):  
  •  If you are the owner-builder (ie. contracting your own home) make sure you know how every subcontractor (“sub”) who you hire is hiring their own labor forces and from whom they are obtaining materials. This may be tedious, but it is worth knowing. Your checking will put the sub on notice that you are watching. Find out if his workers are employees or is he sub-contracting (“subbing”) to them. If he is subbing, each sub has the legal right to lien your property if he or she is not paid. If they are not paid by the sub, they can come after you – even if you paid the sub.
  •  If you are the owner-builder be sure to have a written contract with each sub. Do not go for “hand-shake” deals. If he is supplying materials as part of his agreement find out who the supplier is. Contact the supplier and make sure that the sub has an account which is up to date. If no account, then he is likely paying cash for the material which is totally fine.
  •  If you are the owner-builder, when you pay a sub, get a release of lien from them and an affidavit that they have paid for all labor and materials that were part of their contract with you. This affidavit may not be worth much but it is another assurance that you can us. The above two and the next one are the most important.
  •  And the last point, likely the most important, applies, whether you are the owner-builder or have a contractor who is building for you. All subs and material supplier who are not in direct contract with you are required, by law, in most states, to supply what is called a “Notice to Owner” document to you before they can place a lien on your property. This is a legal notification, sent to you by certified mail, that they are supplying materials or labor, or both, to your new home. So you should check your legal address routinely, during construction, and watch for these documents. There are certain time requirements and you should check your local state laws to determine these. Once that time has passed they can not lien your home, regardless if they were paid or not. If you get such a notice pay attention. Assure that that entity is paid before releasing funds to your contractor or sub. If he can’t do it, then double-party checks can work. You can find a way. Just remember that it is, ultimately, your legal responsibility to assure that these folks are paid.
        Know the players, know the laws and pay attention. Awareness is the key.   Have fun.