ANNA MARIA — An ambiguity in the code at the state, county and local
level has led to a move to clarify what profession should review plans
for commercial space.
The matter arose in the city when Robert and Nicky Hunt questioned
the legality of allowing the two existing Pine Avenue Restoration
structures to be built without an architect’s seal and signature.
The Hunts said an engineer reviewing the plans for the building they
plan to erect at 303 Pine Avenue noticed the problem with the PAR
When you build a residential structure, you don’t need an architect
or an engineer to sign off on the plans, but that’s not the case
with a business use.
“You need an architect to deal with the issues affecting health,
safety and human welfare,” said architect Brian Bradley, who is president
of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architecture. “That’s
what our training is. You need an engineer to sign off on the structural
The Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design and the Florida
Board of Professional Engineers have prepared a paper on how the
two professions interact in the planning and building of structures.
The word architecture means the rendering of services in connection
with the design and construction of a structure, which will be primarily
used for human habitation and use.
Architects are trained in application of the Americans with Disabilities
Act as well as plans for entrances and exits to the buildings.
Engineers, on the other hand are trained in the application of physical,
mathematical and engineering sciences to such services as the structural
elements of a design. Engineers deal with the the technical aspects
of the design such as air conditioning units the distribution of
air within the structure and electricity.
In a building that will be used for commercial purposes, an engineer
must draw up plans for his or her area of concern and then conduct
inspections as the elements are completed.
An architect should be on hand to do the same for areas of his or
The problem comes from a section of the code that states that architects
can sign off on “incidental” elements of the engineering details
and engineers can sign and seal architectural elements “incidental”
to the plans.
“This is a pretty widespread issue. There’s no definition of incidental
in the code, so it’s been a matter of interpretation,” Bradley said.
“Professional groups of both architects and engineers are working
on getting clarification to that word written into the code,” Bradley
The city of Anna Maria isn’t waiting for changes to the state code.
“We’re working to get a clear definition into the city code as soon
as possible,” said Anna Maria Building Official Bob Welch. “Other
municipalities and counties are seeing the same problem and are working
on their codes as well.”