The 8th A.R.E. Division: Practical Construction Experience

I come from a family of auto mechanics and contractors, so repair and construction are in my blood.

Before I was registered as a New York State architect, I worked as a carpenter and mason during summers and school breaks. As a child, I would hear my carpenter uncle speak negatively about architects and I wanted to know why, first hand. (…and boy, did I?)

One of the topics often debated over at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group is whether practical construction experience should be required for professional registration. The current Architect Registration Examination (A.R.E.) consists of seven divisions, which include multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and check-all-that-apply questions as well as graphic vignettes.

Not one hour of practical construction experience is required.

The lessons I learned swinging that hammer each summer are utilized every time I step onto a job site. Reading architectural drawings as a tradesman and executing each detail as documented, reinforced the importance of clear concise construction documents. As a member of a construction crew, I heard the unfiltered criticisms of architects thrown by disgruntled carpenters. I learned quickly how architects could build stronger relationships with the people responsible for bringing their designs to life.

Today when I visit a job site to review progress or meet to resolve an unforeseen condition, I come to the discussion with a very different point of view than if I had forgone these experiences as a young aspiring professional. My relationship with the people building my projects are based on mutual respect and understanding, and my projects are built better in return.

Practical construction experience should be the eighth division of the A.R.E. Jobsite relationships would be stronger and buildings built better.

What say you? Should practical construction experience be required for the registration of today’s architect?

photo credit: justinbaeder via photopin cc

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10 Responses to “The 8th A.R.E. Division: Practical Construction Experience”


  1. 1 Chip Wachter November 26, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    If we were to go to all the trouble to create an additional part of the ARE, maybe it should be a test of a prospective architect’s financial fluency. A few years ago I looked into getting a reciprocal license in Canada. They use the same ARE that Americans do with one additional part about the finance. I believe that it is time for our profession to recognize the financial forces that form a building. I have found that form follows finance far more often than function.

  2. 2 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP November 26, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Chip: Is the finance division in Canada focused on financing the project, to more business administration for the firm?

    • 3 Chip Wachter November 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Mark, please look at the following link. http://www.oaa.on.ca/the+oaa/admission+course/overview Every Provence has slightly different requirements and regulations. It has been a few years since I looked into this and things have probably changed.

      I would hope that if Americans were to create a Finance part of the ARE it would cover both introductory material relevant for running a practice and material for assisting a client with putting a project together. At a bare minimum Architects do not need to be fluent in these topics, but we do need to be able to hold a conversation about the financial forces that form our buildings.

      I believe that this blind spot that our profession has developed is the single greatest reason that Architects are not as well compensated as they think they should be.

  3. 5 randydeutsch November 26, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    I currently teach the undergraduate construction sequence of courses, as well as graduate seminars in construction management (both virtual and material,) at a major state university and research institution. In the past, I also taught proprac and A.R.E. prep courses. In its earlier incarnation, I believe the Materials & Methods and Construction Documents A.R.E. divisions adequately covered information and issues related to the test-taker’s experience with construction. In my experience, most architecture curricula today address the integration of design with technology and construction-related issues, in the accreditation-required comprehensive studio, where learning this information – and its application – is most beneficial to the emerging design professional. I would personally hate to see one more impediment placed between the would-be architect and attaining one’s architectural license. While the suggestion of an 8th A.R.E. division in either finance or construction has its positive points, I think we should be removing obstacles to licensure – not creating new ones.

  4. 6 nung November 26, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    Before graduation, every architecture student should knows how to write a simple proposal based on real zoning/ planing, and construction types for a small residential project.
    (The fee or profits should be compared to a pizza delivery job, a real estate agent’s commision….) They should also know about the cost of software, E & O insurances, and other office overheads per month.

    They should also work a few month at job site/architects office to learn the basic nuts of bolts of a small projects.

    There should also be a class/school for architects who want to start their own design offices too.
    These classes should give architects the core financial skill , negotiating skill , management skill for a small start-up.
    This will cut years of trial and errors in lerning about pricing fees, scope creeps and other real world nightmares most start-up have no experience.

    Without all these, architects are easily being taken advantages by clients.

  5. 7 nung November 26, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Mark, I apologize for spelling and grammar errors . I forgot to check before posting.

  6. 8 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP November 26, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    This has been a very popular post. Many have suggested that the requirement for construction experience would be better in the IDP program in preparation for the ARE exam rather than in the exam itself.

  7. 9 Henry Guarriello, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, CEM, MBA November 30, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Kudos to all!!! Training and practical experience in the industry is sorely needed, in addition to finance, business management, proposal writing, etc. If these things were well taught and properly tested, we would be a much different industry right now…

  8. 10 Norman Alston, AIA December 18, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    As part of the examination or registration process, no. I fear that the opportunity and temptation to take advantage of aspiring architects who need to fulfill such a requirement would likely create other problems. That said, I place no less value on such experience than you. Aspiring architects need to take ownership of their own development and always work to put themselves in position where they will get broad and well-rounded experience in the profession.


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