What does that CPBD mean? So you’re not an architect?

What does that CPBD mean? So you’re not an architect? Normally, when asked those questions, I tell what the acronym means. Then I add, “For you as a client, hiring a CPBD is an alternative to hiring an architect.”

So what does that CPBD stand for again? Certified Professional Building Designer.

I’m confused. What’s the difference? In Texas, an architect is registered by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners. A CPBD is certified by the National Council of Building Designer Certification.

So you can do anything an architect does? Pretty much, especially when it comes to designing homes. Per the Texas Occupational Code and the Architects Practice Act, we’re limited to what we are allowed to do.

So what can’t you do? Well, rather than tell you the things we can’t do, how about I tell you this: Unless you want to design a commercial building with more than two stories or larger than 20,000 square foot, a CPBD can do the job.  There's a flowchart that spells out the details at the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners web site.

Do you take a test like architects? Yes. It’s a two-day test with ten different sections.

Do you have to get continuing education units? Yes, eight CEUs per year to maintain certification.

But I still have to hire an architect to seal my plans, don’t I? In most instances, no. But I’ll ask you where your project is located, and we’ll discuss your need for the plans to be sealed. Here in Texas, local governing and permitting bodies decide whether a CPBD certification seal can be used. A huge percentage of governing bodies in Texas allow the CPBD seal in addition to an architect’s or engineer’s seal.

So what do I get from you if I hire you? It depends on your project and what has to be done for it to be permitted and built. Also, it depends on what more you want or need beyond design and plans. An example would be construction review, but the services offered vary between CPBD’s.

Essentially, a CPBD does the architectural design for your project and produces a complete set of construction documents. Your builder uses the plans to do a construction estimate for your project, take the plans to the governing authorities for permitting, and uses them to build your house.

Just like architects, a CPBD is legally bound to follow all applicable international or national building codes, city building codes and ordinances, as well as HOA or deed restrictions that govern over any construction project.

What about the engineering? Do you do that? In today’s world, we’ve advanced where even the greatest percentage of architects no longer handle the engineering for their own projects. It’s done through outside engineering firms -- hired separately -- that specialize in their chosen field of expertise. So, no, I don’t do the engineering. Not because I can’t, but because I simply choose not to.

So what’s the real reason I should hire you instead of an architect? Did you know -- most homes in Texas are designed by building designers instead of architects? Rather fascinating, isn’t it? That may not be the reason to hire us, but you certainly can’t ignore it. Some home owners hire a CPBD because we’re generally less expensive than architects. Some home owners believe we listen better and give better personal service. A typical CPBD’s focus is on designing a home for you, not for a particular architectural style or to rack up awards. Some home owners hire a CPBD because they find we’re more reachable on a personal level and it’s just a good personality fit. Maybe it’s simply because you like us!

I’m writing this blog not to persuade you that a CPBD is better than an architect – that would be incorrect. Instead, I simply want you to know you have a choice.

So what should I look for when hiring someone to design my home? In my 30-year career as a building designer, my simple observation is that home owners are most satisfied when they get a high level of personal service and attention. So start there. Whoever you hire do you feel like you’re getting or will get the kind of personal service you want?

To me, it’s so much more than just a design. Yes, a home should be pleasing to the eye while following design styles and theories. But more important, a home must function for the inhabitants. It simply needs to be a place they love to be in, a place where they can live and grow.

Tell me what questions to ask. Whether you hire an architect or a CBPD, designing and building a home can be a daunting process. Make sure the person you hire can walk you through the process and explain the things you need to know. Here are some things to consider:

• How long will this design and construction document process take? • What will it cost? • What level of personal service and attention can you expect? • Do they listen to what you want for the design? Or do you feel invisible? • Do they ask about how you live in your home and what you need? • Do they take the time to explain the process to you? • Does it seem like a good personality fit? • Can they design a home that fits your budget? • Are they willing to include your builder at the beginning to go through the design process with you? • Do they explain what they're doing and why? • Do they discuss the importance of the orientation of your home on your lot? • Do they talk about how design affects your comfort and energy savings? • Do they ask about special methods or materials you want to use in your home? For more information on Certified Professional Building Designers, please go to www.aibd.org or www.ncbdc.com.