Do I need to hire an Architect for a Small Scale Multi-Unit Housing project in the City of Vancouver


The answer is not as straightforward as one might think.

By hiring an Architect AIBC (as opposed to a building designer) as your first step in planning a multiplex project in the City of Vancouver, you bypass potential regulatory pitfalls that may not be evident to you at the beginning stages of a project.

Here is an overview of issues to consider:


What is an Architect? In British Columbia. Only those registered with the Architectural Institute of BC (AIBC) are permitted to hold themselves out as Architects or to offer/provide architectural services.  Those individuals are Registered Professionals, with the legal title of ’Architect AIBC.’

Other entities can design buildings in BC in some cases.  Building designers, building technicians, draftspersons, and foreign trained architects, all operate in a limited legal capacity within the province.  The permitted scope of work they are allowed is limited.  They are not regulated, and cannot operate as Architects AIBC.

Architectural Technologists AIBC, and Intern Architects AIBC are regulated by the AIBC, but are not Registered Professionals and have a similarly limited scope of permitted work.


Who can do what?

Vancouver Building Bylaw

Within the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Building Bylaw is the regulation for new building construction. It requires Professional Design and Review by a Registered Professional (an Architect AIBC or Engineer) for all residential buildings exceeding 3 storeys, or for buildings that exceed 600m2 (6458 sq ft) in building area.

(In all other jurisdictions in BC, the BC Building Code governs new building construction.)


Professional Governance Act

Professional Governance Act is a Statute of the Province of British Columbia. In it is The Architects Regulation which defines the practice of architecture and sets out which buildings require the services of an Architect by law.

The Architects Regulation stipulates that any building requiring an Architect retain an Architect whenever architectural services (including at the planning and design phase) are provided.  This includes residential buildings that have building heights of 4 or more storeys, and buildings that have 5 or more dwelling units.


The role of the Coordinating Registered Professional.

Sometimes it may seem that a project doesn’t require and Architect when it actually will. If your project is under 5 units and is not more that 3 storeys, is it necessary to hire an Architect to design it?   This may seem true, but there is something else to consider: the role of the Coordinating Registered Professional.

This is defined in the Vancouver Building Bylaw:

* A Coordinating Registered Professional (CRP) is “a registered professional retained to coordinate all design work and field reviews of the registered professionals who are required for a project”.

* The City of Vancouver requires a Structural Engineer for any multi-family building project with over two units.

* The City of Vancouver requires a Building Envelope Professional for any multi-family building project exceeding 2 storeys in height or exceeds 600m2 (6458 sq ft) in building area.

Generally, any project requiring more than one registered professional, must also have a CRP. A multi-family building over 2 storeys requires both a Structural Engineer and a Building Envelope Professional, and so requires a CRP.

The role of the CRP can only be carried out by a registered professional Architect or Engineer.  This role is typically carried out by an Architect as they are best positioned to provide the scope of services required.


The CRP must be involved from the beginning of a project. As part of their role, they are required to coordinate the work of all registered professionals, including their own, for ALL stages of a project, from design to the completion of construction.     

copyright gdp architecture 2021