Support and Oppose

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California law allows for, and recognizes, interior designers who meet specific education, experience, and examination criteria. These interior designers are certified and may refer to themselves as “Certified Interior Designers.” Architects are allowed to become Certified Interior Designers, or CIDs, and several have.

The CID law must go through the same periodic review by the legislature that licensed professions go through, including the architectural profession. This process is called the Sunset Review.

The CID law is going through that review this year, and there is a bill, SB 308, that keeps the CID law in the books.

The AIACC has testified twice in support of SB 308, stating that law and the California Council for Interior Design Certification have served their purposes quite well in allowing consumers to know that CIDs are interior designers with demonstrated knowledge.

The AIACC did oppose, however, language that would have changed what CIDs are allowed to do.

The scope of work that interior designers can perform is found in an exemption in the Architects Practice Act. Specifically, in Business & Professions Code Section 5538. Earlier this year language was added to SB 308 that would have allowed CIDs to design rated corridors, horizontal exiting, and reflected ceiling plans on commercial buildings, including high rise buildings.

The AIACC viewed this as language that conflicts with B&P Section 5538, and we expressed our opposition to this language to the author’s office. We can only assume after hearing our opposition, and the same opposition from the California Architects Board, the author removed all scope related language from SB 308, and instead leaves this area of the law unchanged.

The CID community has a different view of the purpose of the scope language. They say the language does not conflict with B&P Section 5538 and would not have expanded the work CIDs are legally allowed to perform, as CIDs already include reflected ceiling plans, rated corridors, and horizontal exiting in their designs in many jurisdictions in California. They argue the language is necessary because some building departments want this type of specific authority spelled out in law.

The author’s office will hold several stakeholder meetings this summer to continue the discussion of whether any scope language should be added to SB 308 before it is sent to the Governor. The AIACC will have full participants in those meetings.


Mark Christian, Hon. AIACC

Mark Christian, Hon. AIACC, is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the AIA California Council, a position he has held since 1999. In this position, Mark is responsible for monitoring the CA State Legislature, identifying bills of interest to the profession, developing and implementing strategies for the positive outcome of legislation of interest to the profession, and representing the profession before the legislature. Prior to joining the AIACC, Mark worked for the State Assembly for nine years in several capacities, including as a policy consultant on several significant environmental laws. He holds a B.A. in Economics from the California State University, Sacramento.

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  1. avatar
    Doug Stead, CID

    CIDs are not claiming a “different view”, they are claiming a simple “fact”, the simple fact that they have been doing this specific type of work for decades as you yourself have acknowledged to me personally. If you agree that we have been doing this work and submitting it legally under the law to building departments for permitting purposes, then it is obviously not illegal, and therefore allowed under 5538. Why are you opposed to codifying something you acknowledge we’ve been doing all along?

    Again, I will ask you, or your organization, to provide proof of harm caused by a CID or any other interior designer doing this exact type of work. This work is nonstructural, nonseismic, utilizing standard and conventional construction similar to that described in 5537, which by the way allows anyone to build a real “structure” within certain limits without an architect or engineer, far more structurally and seismically complex than a tin can stud interior partition or a suspended ceiling, all of which has to be permitted and installed by a licensed contractor.

    Conventional bracing and compression details are “standard” and do not require a calculation or a stamp. If they do for any reason, then an architect or engineers stamp would be required. Most permit jurisdictions provide these details on a flyer at the plan check counter for public consumption. This stuff is not “architecture”, or even engineering, by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it rocket science in this age of computers, CADD, and the Internet.

    The issue of whether nonstructural, nonseismic interior design plans require an engineer or architects stamp is the singular domain of the local building official who has jurisdiction over the project, not the AIACC. Section 5537 and 5538 of the architects practice act lays out the exemptions for that act and is there to guide the building official, as well as all others, especially those who are exempted. If the AIACC feels that building officials lack the expertise or intelligence to determine what is or isn’t in the best interests of the public and the safety of the building then perhaps AIACC needs to take over the entire plan check process in the State of California.

    Some architects will argue that interior designers lack the education and experience to do this type of work. If that is true why have we been doing it for so long and without a single case of consumer harm? Not all interior designers are capable, just like not all architects are capable, of practicing outside their area of expertise. Only those interior designers who specialize in commercial tenant improvements are probably capable of turning out the appropriate set of drawings for horizontal exiting and reflected ceilings to satisfy the permit process and the building official. Again, let the building official decide.

    Horizontal exiting, rated corridors, reflected ceiling plans, and millwork (which you neglected to mention in your commentary, which I still don’t understand as any homeowner can buy millwork by the truckload at a big box hardware store and install themselves without an architect, engineer, or even a permit) was added to the CID statute as a potential solution to the State of California’s request that the certification board address the problem of plan check acceptance of interior design plans during the Sunset Review process.

    Now that AIACC has seen fit to undo that potential solution, we in the interior design profession look forward to AIACC’s solutions to clarifying the plan check process for those inside and outside of California who would like to impose their version of interior design registration practice acts in this state, something AIACC has historically opposed, and the ongoing problem of permit avoidance, which has the potential to lead to more consumer harm than allowing interior designers to practice to the full extent of the law.

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