Saturday, January 3, 2015

Establishing an Architectural Office: Legal Requirements

For anyone wishing to establish an architectural office in the Philippines, here are some notes to consider:

An architectural office or "Architectural Firm" is defined as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation registered with the proper government agencies.

Section 37 of Republic Act (RA) 9266 states that the practice of architecture is a professional service, admission to which shall be determined upon the basis of individual personal qualifications. However, a firm, company, partnership, corporation or association may be registered or licensed as such for the practice of architecture under certain conditions.

Further, it states that only Filipino citizens properly registered and licensed as architects may, among themselves, or together with allied technical professionals, form and obtain registration as a firm, company, partnership, association or corporation for the practice of architecture. In the case of association or partnership, the architect shall hold the majority of the shares (75%) of the architectural firm. For a corporation, the registered and licensed architects (RLAs) shall compose at least seventy-five percent (75) of the owners, shareholders, members, incorporators, directors, executive officers, as the case may be.

For a single ownership or single proprietorship, the company will have to be registered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as well as the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) - Professional Regulatory Board of Architecture (PRBoA). On the other hand, for an association, partnership, or corporation, the company has to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as the PRC-PRBoA. The office shall also secure a business permit from the municipal or city hall. Furthermore, the business shall also register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for securing official receipts as well as proper reporting of company income and expenditures for tax purposes.

The individual members of such firm, partnership, association or corporation shall be responsible for their individual and collective acts as an entity and as provided by law. The RLA who signs and seals documents shall carry the civil liability as provided by the Article 17 of the Civil Code of the Philippines:
The engineer or architect who drew up the plans and specifications for a building is liable for damages if fifteen (15) years from completion of the structure the same should collapse by reason of a defect in those plans and specifications, or due to the defects in the ground.
The contractor is, likewise, responsible for the damages if the edifice falls, within the same period, on account of defects in the construction or the use of materials of inferior quality furnished by him, or due to any violation of the terms of the contract.
If the engineer or architect supervises the construction, he shall be solidarily liable with the contractor.
The action must be brought within ten (10) years following the collapse of the building.
(Note: the engineer is for the engineering documents, that is civil/structural engineer for structural documents, electrical engineer for electrical documents, mechanical engineer for mechanical documents and so on, while the architect is for the architectural documents)

"Architecture" is the art, science or profession of planning, designing and constructing buildings in their totality taking into account their environment, in accordance with the principles of utility, strength and beauty. In the Philippines, the practice of architecture is limited to registered and licensed architects. 

For a person to be called an Architect, it means that person is professionally and academically qualified, registered and licensed with a Certificate of Registration and Professional Identification Card issued by the Professional Regulatory Board of Architecture and the Professional Regulation Commission, and who is responsible for advocating the fair and sustainable development, welfare and cultural expression of society’s habitat in terms of space, forms and historical context.

The practice of architecture in the Philippines covers the following services which only RLAs can provide:

"General Practice of Architecture" means the act of planning and architectural designing, structural conceptualization, specifying, supervising and giving general administration and responsible direction to the erection, enlargement or alterations of buildings and building environments and
architectural design in engineering structures or any part thereof; the scientific, aesthetic and orderly coordination of all the processes which enter into the production of a complete building or structure performed through the medium of unbiased preliminary studies of plans, consultations, specifications, conferences, evaluations, investigations, contract documents and oral advice and directions regardless of whether the persons engaged in such practice are residents of the Philippines or have their principal office or place of business in this country or another territory, and regardless of whether such persons are performing one or all these duties, or whether such duties are performed in person or as the directing head of an office or organization performing them.

The "Scope of the Practice of Architecture" encompasses the provision of professional services in connection with site, physical and planning and the design, construction, enlargement, conservation, renovation, remodeling, restoration or alteration of a building or group of buildings. Services may
include, but are not limited to:

(a) planning, architectural designing and structural conceptualization;

(b) consultation, consultancy, giving oral or written advice and directions, conferences, evaluations, investigations, quality surveys, appraisals and adjustments, architectural and operational planning, site analysis and other pre-design services;

(c) schematic design, design development, contract documents and construction phases including professional consultancies;

(d) preparation of preliminary, technical, economic and financial feasibility studies of plans, models and project promotional services;

(e) preparation of architectural plans, specifications, bill of materials, cost estimates, general conditions and bidding documents;

(f) construction and project management, giving general management, administration, supervision, coordination and responsible direction or the planning, architectural designing, construction, reconstruction, erection, enlargement or demolition, renovation, repair, orderly removal, remodeling,
alteration, preservation or restoration of buildings or structures or complex buildings, including all their components, sites and environs, intended for private or public use;

(g) the planning, architectural lay-outing and utilization of spaces within and surrounding such buildings or structures, housing design and community architecture, architectural interiors and space planning, architectural detailing, architectural lighting, acoustics, architectural lay-outing of mechanical, electrical, electronic, sanitary, plumbing, communications and other utility
systems, equipment and fixtures;

(h) building programming, building administration, construction arbitration and architectural conservation and restoration;

(i) all works which relate to the scientific, aesthetic and orderly coordination of all works and branches of the work, systems and processes necessary for the production of a complete building or structure, whether for public or private use, in order to enhance and safeguard life, health and property and the promotion and enrichment of the quality of life, the architectural design of engineering structures or any part thereof; and

(j) all other works, projects and activities which require the professional competence of an architect, including teaching of architectural subjects and architectural computer-aided design;


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