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Daniel McCullough via Unsplash
The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) has announced that the number of architects in the United States rose by 2 percent in 2018, bringing the total amount to 115,316 practitioners across the 55 U.S. jurisdictions: all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Through its annual Survey of Architectural Registration Boards, NCARB found that California leads the country with the highest number of total architects (both resident and reciprocal licensure-holders) with 21,828 people. New York and Texas take the following top spots with 19,582 and 13,229 respectively, while the smallest number of architects practicing today work in Guam (104) and the Northern Mariana Islands (38).

Here’s a further breakdown:

States with the most license-holders (after Texas):
Illinois: 10,310
Florida: 11,169
Virginia: 7, 412
Massachusetts: 7,507
Colorado: 7,804

States with the fewest license-holders (before Guam):
Alaska: 570
Puerto Rico: 887
South Dakota: 929
U.S. Virginia Islands: 1,111
North Dakota: 1,214

The survey also revealed that the number of architects in the 55 U.S. jurisdictions has risen over 13 percent in the last decade, which is 6 percent more than the total population increased since 2008, and there are currently 5,000 individuals finishing up their final core licensure requirements and nearly 41,000 candidates total on the road to licensure through NCARB.

So far, diversity data on the number of architects practicing per state has not been released, but NCARB will provide more information on the path to licensure in its upcoming annual NCARB by the Numbers. Due out next month, the report comes as NCARB celebrates its centennial. Founded in 1919, the licensure organization began with a group of architects representing just 13 states.
Thomas Hawk/Flicker
Why don’t architects often consider the ethics of what they do? Thomas Fisher’s new book, The Architecture of Ethics, digs into this topic in great depth and with engaging insight. At the recent AIA convention in Las Vegas, I sat down with Fisher—former dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, and now a professor in urban design at the school, as well as director of the Minnesota Design Center—to talk about his book and the ethical dimension of designing and building in the context of contemporary practice.

MJC: Michael J. Crosbie
TF: Thomas Fisher

MJC: The book’s title is The Architecture of Ethics, but isn’t your focus more on the ethics of architecture?

TF: I was trying to argue that architects have something to bring to ethics by virtue of how we work. We constantly deal with conflicts—undersized budgets, difficult sites—and we try to get to win-win solutions. We’re always looking for ways to accommodate differences. And that’s an important part of ethics: Understanding how our actions impact other people, how we think about problems and arrive at solutions that do little or no harm. The architect’s design mind brings a particular approach to ethics, and the title reflects that.

MJC: Right now seems like a good time for this book; we’re living through an ethically challenging time. How much did our current social/political climate prompt you to write it?

TF: In the introduction I write about political leaders—not just in the U.S. but in Turkey, North Korea, Russia—who are reflecting questionable ethical behavior and what that says about our culture. On one level, it’s making us realize that our system of government has holes that have rarely been exploited because we’ve always assumed that a president would act ethically. There has also been a lot of attention on unethical business practices—as we saw in the home-mortgage debacle—that have had major consequences. It’s made a lot of people realize that ethics matter.

MJC: Why do we tend to prefer to critique architecture primarily using aesthetic or pragmatic yardsticks, and rarely in regard to ethics?

TF: In the 19th century there was a divorce between ethics and aesthetics. Critics and writers like Oscar Wilde said you can’t have this overlay of ethics on aesthetics, because it confuses art with morality, condemning art as questionable if it was morally shocking. So ethics in art were not considered. In architecture programs, we didn’t even teach ethics for most of the 20th century, so it’s not surprising that architects wouldn’t know much about it, beyond a discussion you might have in a professional practice class. Now the National Architectural Accrediting Board requires instruction in ethics, as is the case in business, medical, and law schools. They realize that all professionals need to have some education in ethics as these questions arise in the conduct of practice. Ethics and aesthetics haven’t been reunited, but the environmental and social justice movements have infused architectural design with ethical considerations.

MJC: Most architects don’t give serious consideration to ethics in their design work. Why not?

TF: The revision of AIA’s Code of Ethics requiring members to discuss the environmental impacts of a project with the client really gets at that. In the past, architects have been wary to have such discussions because it questions the power of the client to do whatever they want, because they have the means to do so. Architects have been designing for people with power and money for a very long time. It’s easier to talk about aesthetics, function, or the pragmatics of a design, because it doesn’t question a client’s power.

MJC: “The pursuit of happiness” is a very strong idea in American culture. How do architects balance serving clients—in their “pursuit of happiness” through architecture—with the greater good of the community?

TF: In ethics, “the pursuit of happiness” is often misunderstood. Utilitarian ethics states that you strive to make the greatest number of people happy; the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham promoted “the greatest good for the greatest number.” But ethics is also about understanding how others view the world, and how our actions affect the lives and welfare
Wellness Within Your Walls bases its program on consumer response

Diagnosed with cancer that may have been traced to her long-standing interior design career, Jillian Pritchard Cooke decided to change her focus. Now, the founder of an organization focused on healthy buildings called Wellness Within Your Walls, she is putting her health experience and her design knowledge into action.

The aim of the organization is to educate. Pritchard Cooke has found that there is a lot of education that needs to happen with the consumer. She even has created a consumer-first approach, never approaching the health issue as a builder for whom product decisions may be prioritize the bottom line over health.

As she explains in this video from the Greenbuild Conference and Expo, very few home buyers know or understand the toxins associated with the things that they put inside their homes. She is listening to them to create a classification for builders that will be revealed this week at the International Builders' Show.

Another challenge she intends to tackle is simplifying the classification process so it has the opportunity to catch on. Her standard of classification is broken into three categories: natural, sustainable, and responsible. When builders are classified, they will receive tools to market and promote their healthier homes.

And just as Wellness Within Your Walls is learning from the consumer, builders are learning from the data that it’s providing. Pritchard Cooke also notes that building product suppliers are anxious and passionate about embracing this process. She says that they want to provide healthy products and that many of them want to change by choice, not because they are being forced to change.

Her prediction is that technology will lead a transformation for healthy homes in the next few years. Consumers will have access to tools that give them a much better understanding of the toxins in their homes, which will force builders into a new position to provide healthier solutions.

Pritchard Cooke understands that globally we cannot get rid of toxins. She says that the conversation shouldn’t be about getting rid of them, but rather it should be about how to deal with toxins in a positive way.