- Report Published -
|Need for Licensing Landscape Architects|
|Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation; Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation|
|SJR 431 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|Senate Joint Resolution 431 requested the Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation (the Board) to examine the need to increase the level of regulation for landscape architects from voluntary certification to mandatory licensing. The Board was asked to determine whether voluntary certification provides the necessary public protection. This report will explain the methodology used in studying this issue and the information generated. It will summarize the public comment received by the Board, and conclude with recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.|
Virginia established a voluntary certification program for landscape architects in 1980. The law permits local and state authorities to accept plans and specifications, submitted under the seal, stamp or certification of a certified landscape architect in connection with both public and private projects. The law prohibits the use of the title "certified landscape architect" unless certified pursuant to § 54.1-410 of the Code of Virginia. The regulations require passage of the national Landscape Architect Registration examination after meeting education and/or experience requirements. However, the law clearly states that the definition of landscape architecture shall not be construed to restrict or otherwise affect the right of others including nurserymen, landscape designers, land planners, landscape gardeners, etc. from engaging in such occupation. There are currently 411 certified landscape architects in Virginia.
Numerous public comments were received demonstrating the critical role of landscape architects in designing commercial and industrial facilities, new communities, urban revitalization, open space and public lands, waterfronts and marinas, parkways, recreational areas, parks and playgrounds, schools, universities, and pedestrian systems. Proponents argued that the scope of the work performed by landscape architects poses a potential for harm to the public and that the current law provides limited public protection because anyone may use the term "landscape architect." They also purported that not all jurisdictions allow certified landscape architects to prepare site plans and perform work for which they are properly trained and educated.
Comments were also received from numerous landscape designers and nurserymen who questioned the need for a licensure program. Opponents argued that there is no threat to public safety, and that mandatory licensing would restrict the practice of many individuals in the landscape design, nursery and horticulture industry and therefore limit competition. Trade associations representing allied professions (professional engineers, architects and land surveyors) also argued that the current law provides public protection, and warned that certain activities should be excluded from the practice entitlement of landscape architects whether they are certified or licensed.
It is obvious to the Board that there are thinly drawn lines for defining work performed by various practitioners and professionals in this industry. While such competition is in the public interest, those individuals who have met state certification standards should be so identified. The Board finds that the current regulatory system provides public protection, but may be misleading to the consumer. The Board concludes that a licensure program is not warranted, but recommends that the General Assembly amend Section 54.1-400 et seq. to protect and reserve usage of the terms "landscape architect" and "certified landscape architect'' only for those individuals who have been certified as landscape architects by the state.