Design and construction are constantly evolving. To keep up with this evolution, architects are required to maintain a certain amount of continuing education each year. While this can sometimes feel like a burden, it does ensure we are up to date on improvements to building science and changes in building codes.
Most states require a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education each year for every licensed architect and many require more. As a result, most architecture firms build-in constant education to our everyday practice. This keeps architects up to date on new materials, changing codes, and better building performance. Unfortunately, this standard does not apply to the construction industry. In fact, only eleven states require continuing education, and the hourly requirement is half of what most architects are required to maintain.
So why does this matter? Despite the common belief that contractors simply follow the architect's plans, we routinely get pushback that “this is how we have always done it.” This thinking does not necessarily take into account changes in standards or regulations. For example, a recent project had an elevator contractor who insisted the elevator shaft needed to be mechanically vented by code. And yes, it was required by code at one point, but not since the adoption of the 2015 International Building Code (IBC) and we are currently using the 2018 IBC. If an architect were not involved in the project, the developer would have installed the mechanical system and money would have been unnecessarily wasted.
There are lots of reasons for disconnects between architects and contractors, but the lack of continuing education is a leading factor. Many trades only require the business owner to be licensed, which means even if more continuing education were required, it would likely not trickle down to the people doing the actual work. As buildings get more complex, the construction community needs to start embracing more widespread education to keep up with the changes.