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N.J.A.C. 13:27-3.1, 9.2 and 9.4

Notice of Final Action on Petition for Rulemaking

Make Course of Study Accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) "Substantially Equivalent" to Council for Interior Design Certification (CIDA) Accredited Program for Certification of Interior Designer; and Definitions of "Non-Load Bearing" and "Building Systems"

Petitioner: AIA-New Jersey

Take notice that on September 7, 2007, petitioner, AIA-New Jersey, filed a petition with the New Jersey State Board of Architects (Board) requesting that the Board promulgate a new regulation at N.J.A.C. 13:27-9.4(a)5v. That regulation would make completion of a course of study accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) by a licensed architect "substantially equivalent" to the required interior design program accredited by the Council for Interior Design Certification (CIDA) for purposes of fulfilling the education requirement for certification as an interior designer pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:27-9. In addition, the petition seeks to amend N.J.A.C. 13:27-3.1 and 9.2 to include definitions of "non-load bearing" and "building systems" that are consistent with the meaning of those terms under the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code, the latest editions of the model codes of the International Code Counsel, Inc., and definitions established by sister boards. A notice acknowledging receipt of the petition and summarizing its contents was published in the October 15, 2007 New Jersey Register at 39 N.J.R. 4454(a).

Take further notice that the petition was considered by the Board at its October 25, 2007 meeting. At that time, the Board, upon Committee recommendation, determined that further deliberation was necessary by way of research and information gathering. Thus, the Board referred the matter for further deliberations pursuant to N.J.A.C. 1:30-4.2(a)3. A notice of action was published in the December 3, 2007 New Jersey Register at 39 N.J.R. 5132(b).

Take further notice that at its January 24, 2008 meeting, the Board heard the Committee's recommendation on the petition for rulemaking and has decided to deny the petition for rulemaking.

ISSUE 1 - Make Course of Study Accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) "Substantially Equivalent" to Council for Interior Design Certification (CIDA) Accredited Program for Certification of Interior Designer

The statutory language provides for an evaluation of a substantially equivalent education. The regulations promulgated by the Board set forth a process to accomplish this statutory mandate. The AIA, however, requests that any NAAB accredited program in architecture, which is typically a four- or five-year program, be considered as substantially equivalent to a CIDA accredited program in interior design.

The Board denies the petitioner's request for the following reasons:

1. The petitioner has set forth a list of courses for architectural and interior design programs. Petitioner states that NAAB accredited programs in architecture encompass most, if not all, of the courses in a CIDA accredited program in interior design. However, the Board notes that the Legislature, when determining that the Committee should be organized under the authority of the Board, did not specify that outcome. Rather, the Legislature provided for a meaningful review by the Board of each non-CIDA accredited program on a case-by-case basis. Accordingly, the Board rejects the approval of any non-CIDA accredited program, including an NAAB accredited program, without such review.

2. The Board is further concerned with petitioner's request to promulgate a regulation that automatically approves a NAAB accredited program since interior design and architecture are evolving professions. Even if the Board accepted that a NAAB-accredited program today is substantially equivalent to a CIDA accredited program, NAAB is a third party entity that monitors and changes its process for evaluating educational programs on an ongoing basis. Thus, the Board, in properly discharging its statutory duty, would have to evaluate all past and future changes in the NAAB process to ascertain whether they are substantially equivalent to a CIDA accredited program. The Board is not in a position to monitor the ongoing evaluation process of NAAB. In addition, changes to CIDA accreditation would necessitate a review of NAAB accreditation. Automatic acceptance of NAAB accredited programs would result in the evaluation process focusing on changes to the accrediting bodies rather than a review of the applicant by the Board on a case-by-case basis, a process that was not contemplated by the statute. Additionally, all other applicants with non-CIDA degrees would have to undergo the case-by-case analysis as contemplated by the statute. That creates an unnecessarily complex process of review by the Board. Finally, the petitioner has not demonstrated that the NAAB accreditation process, which evaluates each educational institution's architectural program, reviews and/or requires the quality and quantity of interior design courses required in determining whether the program is substantially equivalent to a CIDA accredited program. Therefore, it is not clear that every NAAB accredited program would meet the substantial equivalency requirements of the statute.

ISSUE 2 - Definitions of "Non-Load Bearing" and "Building Systems"

"'Interior design services' means rendering or offering to render services, for a fee or other valuable consideration, in the preparation and administration of interior design documents, including, but not limited to, drawings, schedules and specifications which pertain to the design intent and planning of interior spaces, including furnishings, layouts, non-load bearing partitions, fixtures, cabinetry, lighting location and type, outlet location and type, switch location and type, finishes, materials and interior construction not materially related to or materially affecting the building systems, in accordance with applicable laws, codes, regulations and standards." N.J.S.A. 45:3-1.1(emphasis added).

The petitioner has requested that the Board specifically define the terms "building systems" and "non-load bearing" (presumably relating to partitions) to be consistent with the meaning "established by the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code ('UCC'), N.J.A.C. 5:23 et seq. as well as the latest additions of the model codes of the International Code Counsel [sic], Inc., and definitions established by sister boards." The Board initially notes that there are no specific definitions for "building systems" and "non-load bearing" in the New Jersey UCC. Further, it is unclear why these two terms have been chosen rather than other terms in the definition of "interior design services." In any case, the Board notes that the definition of "interior design services" was enacted in 1989 and, since that time, there have been no issues raised, either through public correspondence or complaint procedures, concerning the definitions of "building systems" or "non-load bearing." Therefore, the basis for the petitioner's request for definitions for those terms remains unclear.

The terms "building systems" and "non-load bearing" (presumably, partitions) represent only two of the 10 basic areas in which an interior design professional who wishes to obtain a certification from the Board must demonstrate the requisite qualification through education, experience and examination. Further, the Board does not believe that it needs to define each and every basic term found in the statute, but rather, these are terms of art used within the practice of the profession of architecture and interior design. The petitioner also requests that the Board harmonize these definitions with other statutory and regulatory schemes, within and outside the State. The Board's rules however, only govern the practice of those individuals licensed and certified by the Board in these professions. The Board has no authority to enforce these rules as to any other agencies and, therefore, does not believe that attempting to harmonize with other statutory or regulatory schemes is beneficial or necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, or will provide any additional guidance to its licensing community. Again, the Board has not seen evidence of confusion by New Jersey registered architects or New Jersey certified interior designers, and, therefore, is concerned that attempting to establish such definitions would actually create confusion. Finally, in the event that there was a violation of the practice of the profession based on a lack of understanding of these basic terms, the Board has the statutory authority to take action against that licensed or certified person. That procedure establishes a precedent. However, that situation has not yet arisen.

For the foregoing reasons, the Board denies the AIA's petition for rulemaking. A copy of this public notice has been mailed to the petitioner.

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