Notes on our 2013 conference in Denver

NAAB Accreditation Review Conference [ARC] UT 7/17 – 19/2013  ... notes from Randy Steiner, 8.6.2013

It was good.

We were recognized as a relevant and flourishing force that cannot be ignored.

To summarize Ted Landmark’s introduction, participants at the ARC were not only to review the process and the paths used to arrive at the framework, but also to examine how the Conditions for Accreditation may have to be revised or expanded. The conferees were asked to reflect on required procedural changes related to new conditions and the issues that should be considered well beyond this conference and into the next five-year review cycle. “This was a meeting for discussion, not decision making. Likewise, all those in attendance were considered participants and not observers” said Landsmark Phd, current NAAB President.

[I have attached herewith a list of the attendees with their affiliations, current positions, and email addresses.  Yes, I googled everyone as a crib sheet for myself.]

Brief History of the NAAB

As described on the NAAB website, the NAAB was established in 1940 with the “intention to create an integrated system of architecture education that would allow schools with varying resources and circumstances to develop according to their particular needs.” NAAB is supported by the AIA, NCARB, ACSA, and AIAS.  In order to become an NAAB accredited school, the school must offer either a B.Arch or a M. Arch. In order to sit for architectural registration exams in most states, one must have completed either of the named degrees at a NAAB school.  Schools are accredited on a 6 year, 3 year or 2 year basis.

Accreditation requires many procedures and data collection reports as well as a Visiting Team Report which consists of representatives from the NAAB Board, academics, students, and practicing architects.  Important in the process is the applicant school’s preparation of a report on how their curriculum satisfies a list of Student Performance Criteria [SPC] which I included below.

Every five years, the NAAB conducts research and requests recommendations as to how the standards by which schools of architecture are accredited.  This Conference was to examine the process and necessary changes since 2008.  Following the receipt of reports and recommendations [including those submitted by the CCCAP] to the NAAB, they identified items for review at the ARC.  A list of revisions based on the ARC 2013 will be presented in late August 2013 and will be subject to public opinion.  The final approval of the NAAB 2014 Standards will be published in March 2013.

What happened at the NAAB ARC 2013 Utah?

The following issues were identified by the NAAB prior to the ARC as “NEW/EMERGING ISSUES that must be addressed in the 2014 Conditions:”

·        Increasing rigor in the accreditation process without increasing expense

·        Changing demographic

·        Acknowledging the role of community colleges in preparing students for paraprofessional and professional education, particularly those less-well-prepared for traditional college and university settings

·        Aligning online and distance learning delivery models

·        Increasing and acknowledging the civic engagement of students

·        Balancing conventional and emerging visualization skills in studio

·        Using drawings as one method of learning and communication

·        Increasing the quality of building science education

·        Establishing student learning outcomes that expand on general education and are relevant to professional competencies

·        Refining expectations for student achievement in comprehensive design

·        Including information on student debt as part of public information.

The forty-four participants broke into several different groups over the two days of 9-hour discussions and exercises.  I distributed copies of the CCCAP “information postcard” to everyone on the morning of the first day.  I introduced myself as the newly elected president of the CCCAP who had 118 CCAP leaders right behind me.

The following two exercises were most relevant to CCAP efforts.


The participants broke into groups to identify hot buttons.  These “buttons” were discussed:

·        Draw academia closer to practice

·        Changing definition of architecture

·        Quick pace of global change, technology innovation, and communication systems

·        Alternate pathways into the profession … and student debt

·        Unhealthy studio culture … and presentation costs

·        Practice as more collaborative … education should be more collaborative

·        Leadership beyond the studio is important


The participants broke into different groups to examine and critique the existing SPC.  Each group included representatives from the ACSA, AIA, NAAB, NCARB, and AIAS.  Only one lucky group had a representative from the CCCAP!

I have included herewith the current SPC as described in the NAAB document available online at

The SPC encompass two levels of accomplishment according to NAAB documents. Some SPC satisfy one level and some the other.  The SPC are divided into three “Realms.” All of this was up for re-interpretation and revision!

UnderstandingCapacity to classify, compare, summarize, explain and/or interpret information.


Ability—Proficiency in using specific information to accomplish a task, correctly selecting the appropriate information, and accurately applying it to the solution of a specific problem, while also distinguishing the effects of its implementation.


Realm A: Critical Thinking and Representation:


A.1.    Communication Skills: Ability to read, write, speak and listen effectively.

A. 2.   Design Thinking Skills: Ability to raise clear and precise questions, use

abstract ideas to interpret information, consider diverse points of view, reach well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards.


A. 3.   Visual Communication Skills: Ability to use appropriate representational media, such as traditional graphic and digital technology skills, to convey essential formal elements at each stage of the programming and design process.


A.4.   Technical Documentation: Ability to make technically clear drawings, write outline specifications, and prepare models illustrating and identifying the assembly of materials, systems, and components appropriate for a building design.


A.5.   Investigative Skills: Ability to gather, assess, record, apply, and comparatively evaluate relevant information within architectural coursework and design processes.


A. 6.   Fundamental Design Skills: Ability to effectively use basic architectural and environmental principles in design.


A. 7.   Use of Precedents: Ability to examine and comprehend the fundamental principles present in relevant precedents and to make choices regarding the incorporation of such principles into architecture and urban design projects.


A. 8.   Ordering Systems Skills: Understanding of the fundamentals of both natural and formal ordering systems and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.


A. 9.   Historical Traditions and Global Culture: Understanding of parallel and divergent canons and traditions of architecture, landscape and urban design including examples of indigenous, vernacular, local, regional, national settings from the Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern hemispheres in terms of their climatic, ecological, technological, socioeconomic, public health, and cultural factors. 

A. 10.  Cultural Diversity: Understanding of the diverse needs, values, behavioral norms, physical abilities, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures and individuals and the implication of this diversity on the societal roles and responsibilities of architects.

A.11.   Applied Research: Understanding role of applied research in determining function, form, + systems + their impact on human conditions/behavior.

Realm B: Integrated Building Practices, Technical Skills and Knowledge:

B. 1.    Pre-Design: Ability to prepare a comprehensive program for an architectural project, such as preparing an assessment of client and user needs, an inventory of space and equipment requirements, an analysis of site conditions (including existing buildings), a review of the relevant laws and standards and assessment of their implications for the project, and a definition of site selection and design assessment criteria.

B. 2.   Accessibility: Ability to design sites, facilities, and systems to provide independent and integrated use by individuals with physical (including mobility), sensory, and cognitive disabilities.

B. 3.   Sustainability: Ability to design projects that optimize, conserve, or reuse natural and built resources, provide healthful environments for occupants/users, and reduce the environmental impacts of building construction and operations on future generations through means such as carbon-neutral design, bioclimatic design, and energy efficiency.

B. 4.   Site Design: Ability to respond to site characteristics such as soil, topography, vegetation, and watershed in the development of a project design.

B. 5.   Life Safety: Ability to apply the basic principles of life-safety systems with an emphasis on egress.

B. 6.   Comprehensive Design: Ability to produce a comprehensive architectural project that demonstrates each students capacity to make design decisions across scales while integrating the following SPC

B. 7.   Financial Considerations: Understanding of the fundamentals of building costs, such as acquisition costs, project financing and funding, financial feasibility, operational costs, and construction estimating with an emphasis on life-cycle cost accounting.

B. 8    Environmental Systems: Understanding the principles of environmental systems’ design such as embodied energy, active and passive heating and cooling, indoor air quality, solar orientation, daylighting and artificial illumination, and acoustics; including the use of appropriate performance assessment tools.

B. 9.   Structural Systems: Understanding of the basic principles of structural behavior in withstanding gravity and lateral forces and the evolution, range, and appropriate application of contemporary structural systems.

B. 10.  Building Envelope Systems: Understanding of the basic principles involved in the appropriate application of building envelope systems and associated assemblies relative to fundamental performance, aesthetics, moisture transfer, durability, and energy and material resources.

B. 11.   Building Service Systems: Understanding of the basic principles and appropriate application and performance of building service systems such as plumbing, electrical, vertical transportation, security, and fire protection systems.

 B. 12.   Building Materials and Assemblies: Understanding of the basic principles utilized in the appropriate selection of construction materials, products, components, and assemblies, based on their inherent characteristics and performance, including their environmental impact and reuse.

Realm C: Leadership and Practice:

C. 1.   Collaboration: Ability to work in collaboration with others and in multi- disciplinary teams to successfully complete design projects.

C. 2.   Human Behavior: Understanding of the relationship between human behavior, the natural environment and the design of the built environment. 

C. 3   Client Role in Architecture: Understanding of the responsibility of the architect to elicit, understand, and reconcile the needs of the client, owner, user groups, and the public and community domains.

C. 4.  Project Management: Understanding of the methods for competing for commissions, selecting consultants and assembling teams, and recommending project delivery methods.

C. 5.   Practice Management: Understanding of the basic principles of architectural practice management such as financial management and business planning, time management, risk management, mediation and arbitration, and recognizing trends that affect practice.

C. 6.  Leadership: Understanding of the techniques and skills architects use to work collaboratively in the building design and construction process and on environmental, social, and aesthetic issues in their communities.

C. 7.   Legal Responsibilities: Understanding of the architect’s responsibility to the public and the client as determined by registration law, building codes and regulations, professional service contracts, zoning and subdivision ordinances, environmental regulation, and historic preservation and accessibility laws.

C. 8.   Ethics and Professional Judgment: Understanding of the ethical issues involved in the formation of professional judgment regarding social, political and cultural issues in architectural design and practice.

C.9.   Community and Social Responsibility: Understanding of the architect’s responsibility to work in the public interest, to respect historic resources, and to improve the quality of life for local and global neighbors

There was lengthy debate on these criteria among the academics. 

·        One issue of contention was when students graduate from an unaccredited school which offers a BS [Architecture] and then, attempt to transfer courses to pursue a M.ARCH from an accredited school such as Penn State. Could the unaccredited schools which offer “Architecture” as a major but offer no B.Arch or M.ARCH such as Dartmouth, Ferris State University or a community college apply to the NAAB for accreditation of their programs according to the SPC?

·        A second issue of contention was how to group these criteria and discard the “realms.”  Could the criteria be divided into topics like “design”, “communication”, “building science”, “professional practice”, “understanding of human behavior and history”, and “externship/internship?”  I emphasized that many community college courses focus on these same topics.

·        I broached the topic of piloting projects in which CCAP which chose to participate could examine their courses in terms of the SPC for a form of accreditation.  The issue of costs to cover the time required to review such projects was discussed.  There was no final conclusion.

Personal Sense of the NAAB ARC 2013 Utah

I met a lot of people and listened to their ideas of “What are the problems with a CCAP in terms of a ‘real’ architectural education?”  Then, I informed them what a CCAP is like today. 

I mingled with several people who late in their conversations shared with me that they had started at a CCAP.  They were very supportive of our students.

I mentioned our vision and mission in many dialogues with people from industry, the AIA, and the NCARB who wanted to reach out and discover how the CCAP could be more involved with the profession. 

I made a lot of friends who understand better what the CCCAP can offer.

When I returned home, I mailed thank you messages to all forty-four participants.  I included access to our CCCAP Dropbox account and informed them that a PDF of CCAP Student Work was available on the site.

Here are some of the responses that I received:

1.      “Thanks for the email. We will be starting discussions at the upcoming ACSA board meeting next week. Engaging Community Colleges and other feeder programs is definitely on the ACSA Planning Committee agenda for the coming year.”  From a member of the ACSA

2.      “I'm going to begin introducing the emergence of community college programs, putting in context with the changes happening across the profession as they are much intertwined.  With your permission, I'd love to show some examples from the document you shared via DropBox.  The work is very impressive!”  From a member of the NCARB

3.      “I really enjoyed meeting you and learning more about the exciting work that is being done at a community college level.”  From a member of the NCARB

4.      “It was great to hear from you, and even better to become acquainted with you when we were in Snowbird together for the NAAB ARC.  I am so pleased by - and impressed with - the work you are doing at the Community Colleges and am thrilled that this important aspect of education is now officially and formally at the able.  Thank you for your important participation in the conference!”   From the incoming AIA President

5.     “I downloaded the community college student work and I was really impressed.  I always like looking back to see what other students are doing, especially when it is more advanced at a younger age.  It makes me jealous at times that I couldn’t produce such high caliber work myself, but it also makes me happy seeing those others do so well and knowing what all lies before them.”  From a member of the NAAB