Can cities issue permits for buildings not designed by an architect? B.C. court decision provides answer

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      The Architectural Institute of B.C. got what it wanted.

      It’s a declaration about the proper permitting of buildings by municipal governments.

      Ruling on a petition by the AIBC, a B.C. Supreme Court has declared that it was “unreasonable” for the City of Langford to issue a permit for a building that was not designed by an architect.

      AIBC did not ask that the building permit be aside by the court.

      As Justice Stephen Kelleher notes in his reasons for decision, the regulatory body for architects argued that such a declaration would suffice because it has “significant practical benefit”.

      “It would provide guidance to municipal officials exercising their permitting powers,” Kelleher wrote about AIBC’s position.

      The AIBC has “no way of knowing when an unlicensed person is preparing and submitting drawings in support of the building permit application”.

      “Thus, in the absence of a declaration, the problem that arose in the present case will continue to arise,” Kelleher wrote.

      The dispute was rooted in a 2016 building permit for a residential and commercial strata development at 689 Hoffman Avenue in Langford.

      The permit was issued by the city’s chief building inspector, Jerry Worobec.

      The project did not involve an architect. The design and drawings were done by a person not licensed under the Architects Act.

      Under the law, no one can practice architecture unless the person is registered with AIBC.

      However, an individual can plan or supervise the erection or alteration of buildings that are for self-occupany.

      But if a building exceeds 470 square metres in gross area, an architect is required.

      According to Justice Kelleher, the building at 689 Hoffman Avenue exceeded 470 square metres.

      “There is no dispute that the Act required the involvement of an architect in this project and there was no such architect involved,” according to Kelleher.

      The building was completed, and occupancy permits were issued in 2017 and 2018.

      The city argued that while Architects Act required the involvement of an architect, the city’s building bylaw conferred upon it only the authority to enforce the B.C. Building Code, not the architecture law.

      The city acknowledged that the law is an “enactment respecting health or safety”, and the local building bylaw “permits the City to refuse to issue a building permit where the proposed work does not comply with an enactment respecting health or safety”.

      “The City took the position, however, that this power is discretionary and that building officials are not required under the City's Building Bylaw to take the Act into account when considering building permit applications,” Kelleher wrote.

      As far as the city is concerned, “it is sufficient that it reviews applications for compliance with the BC Building Code”.

      Moreover, the city argued that the Architects Act “regulates people”, but “not design or construction, per se”.

      “The Architects Act does not regulate work proposed to be constructed under a building permit, it regulates people,” Kelleher quoted from the city’s written argument.

      However, Kelleher did “not find that argument persuasive”.

      “’Work’ is performed by ‘people’,” Kelleher wrote.

      “The work here is construction of a building that exceeds 470 m2,” Kelleher continued. “The Act requires that the person who supervises such work be an architect.”