Attribution of credit

Architecture is a profession in which design capability is prized and intellectual property is the most common proof of worth, in terms of talent and experience. Contemporary practice is by its nature collaborative. And the more complex the project or the more prolonged the design and construction process, the more individuals may lay valid claim to credit for some part of the work.

Perhaps the most frequent violation of the AIA’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is failing to give appropriate credit and recognition. The National Ethics Council recognizes that these infractions are frequently due to an incomplete understanding of the Ethical Standards that advise members in this area:

  • Ethical Standard 4.2 Dignity and Integrity: Members should strive, through their actions, to promote the dignity and integrity of the profession and ensure that the conduct of representatives and employees conforms to this Code.
  • Ethical Standard 5.3 Professional Recognition: Members should build their professional reputation on the merits of their service and performance and should recognize and give credit to others for the professional work they have performed.

Associated Rules of Conduct mandate required professional conduct:

  • Rule 4.201 Members shall not make misleading, deceptive or false statements or claims about their professional qualifications, experience or performance and shall accurately state the scope and nature of their responsibilities in connection with work for which they are claiming credit.
  • Rule 5.301 Members shall recognize and respect the professional contributions of their employees, employers, professional colleagues and business associates.

These guidelines address only AIA members. The National Ethics Council has no authority over non-member practitioners. This document presents guidelines for parties to use in structuring how to give attribution of credit.

However, complying with the guidelines does not eliminate the need for members to demonstrate that they have not violated the Code of Ethics in the event a complaint is filed. Individual cases may present circumstances not explicitly covered in this document but still subject to the Rules of Conduct.

Guidelines for AIA members

These guidelines are recommended for members making any oral, written or graphic representation of their work. Such representations may be for marketing, awards entries, submittal for Fellowship in the AIA, websites, general public relations, competitions, publications, resumes or any other public or private representation of one’s work.

  • An architectural project, built or unbuilt, involves any of the services provided by or under the direction of an architect.
  • In analyzing attribution-of-credit issues, the National Ethics Council typically views the Architect-of-Record as the legal entity that has contracted for and completed the work in question. It can be a corporation, partnership or an individual architect. If the Architect-of-Record takes credit for a project, there is no further need to define the role or state “Architect-of-Record.” Unless specific attribution is noted, it is assumed that the Architect-of-Record is making a representation of complete responsibility for a project, including the design, the production of construction documents and construction observation.
  • A member taking credit for a project or a specific role on a project other than as the Architect-of-Record must clearly define that role. In addition to the member’s specific role, the Architect-of-Record must be acknowledged.
  • It is not necessary to present a complete or exhaustive list of all team participants. The acknowledgement of major team participants is recommended.
  • Designation of a member’s role and/or the Architect-of-Record must be obvious, plainly visible and legible at the anticipated viewing distance. The reference text should be no less obvious than the text used to describe the project. The description must be specific enough to make clear the services the member rendered on this project. In the instance of a mailer/postcard that shows only an image of a project on the front, it is necessary to give the appropriate credit on the other side. Members shall not overstate, actually or implicitly, their involvement in a project.
  • If attribution of credit is not previously defined in a written agreement, it is recommended that members open a dialogue between all concerned parties prior to making any representations, which may avoid potential conflict.

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