A new law in Illinois that allows interior designers to stamp and seal certain plans is being called historic by members of the interior design profession.
By providing some permitting privileges, the law, which was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 10, expands the scope of what interior designers can do and defines them as professionals who protect and advance occupant safety and health in their work, according to the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).
"It finally recognizes interior designers as a critical part of design profession," said Lauren Earley, manager of government and public affairs for the American Society of Interior Designers.
The law allows interior designers to stamp and seal plans for non-structural redesigns that don’t involve movement of non-structural walls, and that don’t affect loads or safety, which helped the law earn support from the American Institute of Architects Illinois.
The law specifies that decisions on whether to accept stamped drawings rest with local municipalities or other regulators.
Illinois is not the first state in the U.S. to allow interior designers to sign off on non-structural plans. Other states that have passed similar laws include Wisconsin and North Carolina.
“While an interior designer’s stamp can now exist, this new law doesn’t mean it must be accepted anywhere,” said Stacey Pfingsten, executive vice president of AIA Illinois.
ASID's Earley said the required municipal oversight in the law is the same sort of approval of plans that architects' plans undergo.
She said the law provides professional autonomy for members of the interior design profession whether they work for small or large firms.
"They won't have to be babysat by the architects or engineers they work with to stamp and seal their documents," Earley said.
Those who work on their own also won't have to pay for architects or engineers to approve their plans, which Earley said can cost between about $100 and $200.
Like Earley, Pfingsten said her organization is happy with the law and participated in drafting and negotiations on the final draft.
“We believe it resulted in a reasonable balance between the projects that require the skill and expertise of an architect, versus those very limited situations that have no impact of the safety of a building or its structural capacities and that can be handled by interior designers," Pfingsten said.
The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Margaret Croke (D) of Chicago, who said it will ease challenges for those in what she called a traditionally female-dominated field.
"Interior designers are highly-skilled professionals who must have significant qualifications to pursue a career in the industry,” she said. “This bill will allow designers to stamp their own design plans for non-structural construction, removing an unnecessary barrier for those in the industry.”
Earley noted that the interior design profession is 65% to 70% women and that 50% of smaller firms (four or fewer employees) are made up of women.
Efforts to increase the scope of what interior designers can do does not have the support of all architects, as Architectural Record has reported.
Responding to the Illinois bill, Matt Tinder, senior manager of media relations for The American Institute of Architects, said architects are licensed and undergo rigorous examination.
“While other regulated or licensed professionals may participate or be responsible for specialized and focused components, architects are uniquely qualified to take responsible control for the coordinated integration of building systems through a comprehensive understanding of design, construction and the coordination of project teams from project inception to completion,” he said in a statement.
Pfingsten doesn’t expect the law to have an effect on public safety.
“It will have no impact on public safety if the law is followed,” she said. “We ensured in our negotiations that safety-related design remains only under the purview of licensed architects.”