03 April 2009

Design Friday, Post I.

I noticed today that the 'ol RSR been getting more than a few hits from, and out-clicks to, Reason Magazine's website,. Now I know why.

(I've had this argument before).

For the record, I think the Reason folks misunderstand, and therefore mis-state, the issue of licensing interior designers and limiting the title to the licensed.

(Full disclosure: I am a long-time Reason subscriber, and my wife is a licensed interior designer.)

No one, no one, is demanding that you must hire a licensed interior designer if you want to rearrange your living room. And, if someone gives you advice on the same, they won't go to jail. No, they won't. So let's put that scary straw-man out the door.

Residential designers, typically, do not need to be licensed. And I do not support forcing them to be licensed. If you want to risk having your brother's friend design and build your house, knock yourself out. If the slab or roof fails, hey, that's your problem - and only you are at risk.

But what we are talking about here is commercial work, and work that falls within a very defined area of public safety and public accommodation.

I am licensed as an architect not because the state says I design beautiful buildings, a subjective conclusion, but that I have demonstrated a functional and technical knowledge in the application of the rules, regulations, and system that protect public safety and access. An objective conclusion. And the state limits the term 'architect' as a professional title to only those who have demonstrated that proficiency, not because it gives me status, but because it shows others I meet that standard.

My wife is licensed for the same reason. Our practice is almost completely in commercial design - schools, office buildings, labs, medical facilities - and things like the Americans with Disabilities Act, Life Safety Code, International Building Code, etc., are involved. So are user-specific standards. And the finishes we use are affected by all of them. Wall finishes in schools have to meet certain standards of flammability. Carpet in some hospitals has to be of a certain type in certain areas to meet particular standards. Curtains, too. Floor finishes can be impacted by handicap access. The list goes on.

Years ago, I too, did not support the licensing of interior deisgners. But have one project where the 'interior designer' - someone who had never studied or been trained, just a seat-of-the-pants type - cost the project thousands because they didn't understand the Codes. More than that, they didn't know many of those Codes even existed. What value did that give the Client? None.

Look at it this way - I know people who have a lot of practical and theoretical knowledge about a field, like medicine or the law, but they are not doctors or lawyers. Should they be allowed to call themselves doctors or lawyers and practice as such? Would you go to them? Me, either.

What Reason sees as some conspiratorial and unreasonable restraint of trade, I see as establishing a minimum standard of public safety. That is a reasonlble function of government, and recognizing the people who have met that standard is also equally reasonable.

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