What is a specialty certification worth? I have my LEED AP, I will be a licensed architect, and I’m considering getting a specification designation such as a CSP (Certified Specification Practitioner). I’m all for studying to take the exams to get my credentials, the problem is maintaining my credentials with Continuing Education (CE).
As I researched material for our firm’s mental health prospectus, I discovered the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA) certification for Healthcare Architect. I was really interested in applying, until I discovered that I need at least 5 years of licensed architectural experience in healthcare architecture. In order to apply, I have to present a portfolio (3-9 projects) of my healthcare experience, including 3 reference letters from architects outside my firm, 3 letters of reference from clients, a passport photo, and a fee, all just to let me apply to take the exam for certification.
I want to update my healthcare architecture experience; this is difficult to do because I don’t work for a firm with significant healthcare experience. I developed some expertise working on hospitals during my work terms at school, and then in mental healthcare architecture while writing my thesis in 2005-2007, Supportive Housing for Mental Health Recovery: A Bio-Psycho-Social Perspective.
Since completing my thesis my experience in healthcare architecture has been limited to the Gathering Place (a community centre for the homeless and at-risk population in Vancouver), and as a 3rd party Deficiency Reviewer to CAMH’s Phase 1B building B2. But this isn’t enough for me, and though we try, my firm hasn’t yet secured any healthcare work.
This means that I can’t begin to apply for my ACHA designation for at least the next 5 years. It also means that I’m really looking at whether or not I really want to pursue Healthcare Architecture. For the first time in my life, I’m not just going for a designation because I should, but I’m actively deciding if its something worth pursuing. This has given me a few questions:
- How important are specialty designations? In an architectural practice where we’re supposed to be masters of many types of buildings, is it wise to pursue such a specialty?
- Is the ACHA designation worth anything in Canada? Are there any Canadian architects with the ACHA designation? Has it impressed clients? Or, has it just been an additional certification you’re simply managing within the profession?
- How much time should I spend on CE? Once I become licensed, I have CE requirements that I need to fulfill to maintain my architectural license. I need 70 hours every 2 years (35 per year) that I get through conferences, luncheon presentations, courses, etc for the OAA. In addition to that, I need to achieve 30 hours of CE experience to maintain my LEED AP BD+C designation every 2 years. Construction Specifications Canada requires CSPs to maintain 15 CE hours per year. The ACHA requires 18 Learning Units (US versions of CE hours); 12 units must be healthcare related each year. I either have to make every CE hour I do perform double (or triple) duty which requires time and effort for tracking, or I will be spending at least 83 hours per year maintaining those designations. That doesn’t even count if I want a license in a second province, like BC, where the AIBC requires 30 hours per year CE as well.
- Is this something I should pursue and does this affect my other goals? If healthcare architecture is my passion, then I need to look at my life and the time I spend on other items and decide how much effort I should devote to it. Should I let other goals affect my time maintaining my hours like fiction writing, knitting and running?
If anybody has any tips for managing time for CE hours, I’d love to hear them. Actually, I’d love to hear any tips you have on managing your goals and your time? How do you balance your goals, family and work life?