Who can sign-off on a Building?
October 11, 2012 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Does New York State law allow anyone other than a licensed Architect to sign off on a building project?

Are there any circumstances where an Licensed Contractor/Engineer is allowed? Under a minimum cost or square footage? How is liability determined? What is the law/regulation, and where is it? Any examples of other State's regulations?
posted by ebesan to Law & Government (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These sorts of state licensing schemes usually allow Architects to do "incidental" engineering work, and the reverse: licensed professional engineers are allowed to do "incidental" architecture.
This continuing education guide [pg 7] might help, because I didn't actually see it discussed in my speed read of the statute/regs.. The Office of Professions is where you'll be able to find out this info. I haven't dealt with NY state, but I have dealt with a large variety of them. Some have wacky rules that aren't well spelled out in either the statute or the regs. On the bright side, I've found almost all of the employees of these Boards to be helpful. Weird, but true. Give them a call. You can ask anonymously if you're concerned.
posted by atomicstone at 12:59 PM on October 11, 2012

I don't know about NY, but in CA you don't need an architect for simple residential construction (what constitutes simple construction is involved, but defined in the code - basically single story, maybe two story, wood frame construction), and a contractor (or the owner) can just do the whole building permit process by themselves. If anything tricky is involved, like steel or odd shear diaphragms or weird engineered framing conditions, structural engineer can sign off. For earthworks projects, I think a civil engineer is all you need.

This is from CA's "Guide to Hiring an Architect":

For a successful project, it is generally recommended that you hire an architect; however, not every building project requires an architect’s services. Current California law provides that persons who are not licensed as architects or registered as civil or structural engineers can design certain types of buildings or parts of buildings, which include:
• single-family dwellings of conventional woodframe construction that are not more than two stories and basement in height.
• multiple dwellings containing no more than four dwelling
units that are of conventional woodframe construction, not
more than two stories and basement in height, and not
more than four dwelling units per lot.
• garages or other structures added to dwellings of woodframe construction that are not more than two stories and
basement in height.
• agricultural and ranch buildings of woodframe construction,
unless the building official deems that an undue risk to the
public health, safety, or welfare is involved.
• nonstructural or nonseismic storefronts, interior alterations
or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture, or other
appliances or equipment, including nonstructural work
necessary to provide for their installation.
• nonstructural or nonseismic alterations or additions to
any building necessary for the installation of storefronts,
interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork,
furniture, appliances, or equipment, provided those alterations do not change or affect the structural system or safety of the building.

At least in CA, it's about the complexity of the construction methods used, not the valuation or size. Here's an official government document (PDF) from the City of Perris that's a bit more specific and code-jargony. It seems like a PE can sign off on just about anything, but they typically wouldn't have experience with ADA regulations or occupant load/fire safety sections of the code.
posted by LionIndex at 1:09 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's some info from the NY Office of Professions, as atomicstone references. So, in NY, it looks like there is some size/valuation criteria, and they leave a lot of decisions up to the jurisdiction having authority (i.e. the local building department).
posted by LionIndex at 1:13 PM on October 11, 2012

Just a thought based on the wording of the question - I generally think of the phrase "sign off plans" to mean "approve the plans for construction", and that's not what architects or engineers generally do. They sign and stamp the plans for review by building officials at the agency having jurisdiction; the reviewers at the agency then approve the plans, or sign off on them. Having an architect or engineer sign your plans does not mean that a building inspector will consider them to be valid.
posted by LionIndex at 9:49 AM on October 12, 2012

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