Do I need an Architect?


californiaUnlicensed professionals may design a number of structures that are typically limited in height, size, or construction type (i.e. wood frame), with structural and/or seismic limitations. It is worth making a visit to the local building permit office to inform them of your plans and get their feedback. In deciding if you need a licensed architect, the building official will consider existing state laws, public health, safety, and welfare, local environmental and geographical conditions such as snow loads, winds, earthquake activity, tidal action, and soil conditions. Refer to your local jurisdiction for full details, but the following are common allowable structures:

• Two storey (+ basement), wood-frame single family dwellings;
• Two storey (+ basement), wood-frame fourplex;
• Two storey (+ basement), wood-frame garages or other structures appurtenant to buildings
• Wood-frame agricultural and ranch buildings, unless the Building Official deems undue risk.
• Non-structural or non-seismic store fronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinet work, furniture, or other appliances or equipment and their installation.

For further details download the Los Angeles publication: Policy on Building Plans Required to be prepared, Wet Signed and Stamped by a California Professional Engineer or California Licensed Architect.



Unlicensed professionals may design a number of structures in Alberta. The limitations restrictions are based on height, building type and gross floor area. It is highly recommended that you visit the Alberta permitting office to get feedback on your intentions. Refer to Section 2 of the Alberta Architects Act for important details, but the following is a general description of allowable structures:

• Assembly occupancy or institutional occupancy single storey limited to a gross area of 300 sq. m; double storey 150 sq.m or less on each floor; three storey 100 sq.m or less on each floor
• Residential single-family or fourplex
• Hotel, motel three storeys or less; single storey gross area limited to 400 sq.m; two-story gross area limited to 200 sq. m per floor; three storey gross area limited to 130 sq.m or less per floor.
• Warehouse, Business and Personal Services Occupancy for Mercantile or Industrial Occupancy: single storey gross area limited to 500 sq.m; two storey gross area limited to 250 sq.m or less per floor; three storey gross area limited to 165 sq.m on each floor
• Farm building not for public use
• Re locatable industrial camp building.