Registration with the State Architectural Board
All states require individual architects to have an architect’s license. In addition, many states require businesses that provide architectural, interior design, or landscape architecture services to obtain an architectural business license or register with the architecture board of the State. State.
In states where your architectural practice is not required to be licensed, you may need to license someone from your practice in that state. In these states, you may only need to inform the architectural consultancy that you wish to practice.
As part of the process of registering or licensing an architectural firm, some states require that a firm have a “designated architect.” A Designated Architect is generally responsible for all final architectural decisions on behalf of the company regarding work performed in the state.
A Designated Architect must be registered to practice in that state and hold a position of responsibility within the corporate structure, such as a:
- Partner – if you operate a general partnership or a limited liability partnership
- Manager – if you operate a limited liability company
- Director – if you operate a corporation or professional services firm
- Main controlling of other commercial structures
The Designated Architect may be required to pass an exam or reciprocate qualification with a state in which they are already licensed.
Business structure restrictions
In some states, not all commercial structures can legally provide architectural and other professional services.
For example, in New York, licensed professionals generally cannot form a general business corporation (S Corp or C Corp) to provide professional services. They must constitute either a professional company (CP), or a professional design services company (DPC), or a professional limited liability company (SPRL).
In California, architectural services may be offered by a general corporation (S Corp or C Corp), a registered limited liability partnership, or a professional corporation. However, LLCs are not permitted to provide architectural services.
Name requirements and restrictions
When it comes to a company name, you need to consider a state’s business entity and industry-related naming requirements. Business architecture/design license applications may be denied if your business name conflicts with specific state requirements.
Legal entity naming requirements vary by state, but may include rules such as:
- The name of a legal business entity must be distinguishable in state government records. This means that it cannot be substantially like any other name already used by a company incorporated or registered to do business in that state.
- Your name should indicate your business type. Most states require that the company name be followed by a specific identifier, such as “Corporation”, “Incorporated”, or an abbreviation such as “Inc.” or “Corp” for corporations, “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviation of “LLC” for LLCs, “Limited Partnership” or the abbreviation “LP” for limited partnerships, or “Limited Liability Partnership” or l short for “LLP” for limited liability companies.
States may also have unique name requirements that may limit the names under which your architectural firm can provide services, such as requiring and restricting the use of certain words, requiring approval from the architectural board of State, etc.
For example, in Nevada, any request to use the plural term “architects”, “registered interior designers”, or “residential designers” must have more than one Nevada registrant employed by the company.
The rules can also depend on the entity type you choose. For example, in California, a General Stock Corporation (S Corp or C Corp) may use the terms “architect”, the term “architecture”, or some variation of the term “architect” or “architecture”. A registered Limited Liability Company (LLP) cannot use the word architect or similar in its business name.
Your company may decide to do business under an assumed name (or DBA, “doing business under”) rather than its legal entity name. Keep in mind that:
- You must follow state-specific DBA requirements for your type of business.
- You must follow specific state naming requirements for architectural firms.
- Some states even require registration in multiple places, such as the county or city where you do business.