Architecture is a global profession, explains the executive director of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), and a major agreement between Canadian, U.S. and Mexican architectural regulatory authorities now allows architects to work across North American borders.
The recently finalized Tri-National Mutual Recognition Agreement for the International Practice of Architecture allows qualified architects from each country, who satisfy requirements of the agreement, to be granted a credential that will lead to a license to practice architecture in the host country.
"It's a real sense of achievement I think from all three countries. It's the culmination of a lot of good will. It's a big milestone," explained Kristi Doyle.
"The difference between certain cross border trade is that with us there's a license that also goes with it. You can't just lift barriers to allow for free trade. You got to be able to meet the licensing requirements because we have a public safety responsibility."
These requirements include education and work qualifications, as well as submitting documentation to confirm the individual's credentials, explains an OAA release.
Some of the eligibility guidelines include the completion of a professional degree in architecture from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the Canadian Architectural Certification Board, Acreditadora Nacional de Programas de Arquitectura y Disciplinas del Espacio Habitable, or a recognized equivalent; a minimum of 10 years' experience after getting a license in the architect's home jurisdiction; proof of "Good Standing" in the home jurisdiction, as verified by the local regulatory authority; knowledge of the codes, laws, and other matters in the host country; a submission of a dossier of work with specific competencies outlined in the agreement; and completion of an interview before a review panel in the host country.
"We need to make sure that's being adhered to and we need to make sure that person has the competencies," Doyle said of the agreement.
"That's really the crux of this. We have a responsibility to ensure public safety, as does each country — those people who don't go under our domestic system, have the same level of competency coming out the other end."
This agreement was more than a decade in the making and was created in the spirit of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Initially there was an agreement signed in 2005 by the leaders of the profession in all three countries, which marked what many considered to be one of the first professional services recognition programs under NAFTA, the release reads.
Over the years, in order to iron out the details, there was a study of how each country looked at licensing, subsequent negotiations, a pilot program, and the final mechanisms for implementation.
"That's what those 10 years of negotiations and discussions are," Doyle said.
"We had to get comfortable and understand each others' systems."
The agreement was finalized by the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards in the United States and the Federacion de Colegios de Arquitectos de la Republica Mexicana.
Doyle stated that having this agreement in place removes barriers and opens doors for both Canadian architects looking to cross borders and vice versa.
"It's to the benefit of Canadian architects to be able to practice elsewhere. We see equal benefit in having other people from other cultures, other countries, bring new ideas to Canada," she stated.
"They (Canadian architects) see it as an opportunity to practice globally, and they understand that, you know, it's got to be reciprocal. I think it just enriches the profession."