British Columbia

Hot real estate market leads to fake 'architect' claims

The extreme demand for design experts in Vancouver's out-of-control housing market has led to a glut of professionals falsely claiming expertise in "architecture." And the real architects are starting to take notice.

Extreme demand for designers leads to spike of citations against unqualified architectural experts

There's nothing to prevent pretenders from playing with scale models of buildings. But if they slap the word 'architecture' into a LinkedIn profile, they're playing with fire. (AP)

In housing-obsessed Vancouver, everybody these days is supposedly an expert in architecture. Except when they're not.

Extreme demand for home designers in the Lower Mainland has led to a glut of professionals falsely claiming expertise in "architecture." And the real architects are starting to take notice.

They're talking to you — 'arkitekt'

The Architectural Institute of B.C. has issued no fewer than 12 illegal practice findings against people for advertising expertise in either "architectural design" or something like it in the past three months.

The AIBC's general counsel, Thomas Lutes, says the institute also expects to file three civil suits in the next two weeks.

"There are certainly a lot of non-architects who can and do provide excellent design services," Lutes said.

"However, there is certainly a cohort of designers who are supplying low quality design, low quality services to members of the public. And when they go so far as to call themselves ''architects', we have the ability to step in."

As it turns out, the AIBC is mandated under B.C.'s Architects Act to ensure anyone who isn't a member of the institute can't hold themselves out in a manner suggesting they're a registered architect.

A bulletin issued in November 2012 says the prohibition included titles ranging from 'architectural technician' to 'architectural consultant'; even applying the prefix 'archi-' in a "building design/construction context such as 'architectonic' is forbidden.

Europhiles take note: 'arkitekt' and 'European architect' are also on the list.

"It's an interesting word, because unlike some other professions — including my own as a lawyer — the word 'architect' and the connotations around 'architect' are generally quite positive," said Lutes.

"And so, I think whether the person really means to hold themselves out to have professional qualifications or not, the use of the word 'architect' has cachet."

Just because you read it on LinkedIn ...

Many of the citations on the AIBC's website include descriptions made on LinkedIn profiles and Facebook. Almost all the people cited for illegal practice "took immediate steps" to address the institute's concerns.

"Social media and the ease of self-publication and marketing has increased the volume of what we call misrepresentations," Lutes said.

"The fact that a LinkedIn profile is available around the world means that the misrepresentation is there for everybody to see. And so we get more people reporting to us about these kinds of things — I believe — because of social media and the internet."

Lutes says complaints come from members of the institute as well as other designers and people within city hall planning and permit departments.

He says people who hire faux architects have no means of recourse or complaint beyond the courts when things go sideways on a project.