OAA licensed members, if eligible to have a seal, must use the professional seal issued to them by the OAA in accordance with the rules governing their use in Regulation 27, under the Architects Act. The member’s seal and signature on a document represents that it was prepared in its entirety under the personal supervision and direction of a member or members.
In Ontario, governing legislation and regulations regulate architecture in the public interest. The practice of architecture cannot be performed within the requirements of the legislation unless an OAA licensed member maintains personal supervision, direction, and control over the provision of its services. This means the continual instruction, guidance, review, and examination of work in progress at intervals appropriate to the stage of development that the member/practice considers necessary to meet the requirements of both the client’s program and the authority having jurisdiction, reflecting reasonable skill and judgment in its preparation.
Dated and affixed with a signature to a document or other instruments of service, a professional seal remains the only verification the legislative requirements are met and that the document or other instruments of service can be relied on for planning and design purposes or utilized for the construction or alteration to a building. It is an act of professional misconduct for a member not to affix their seal to every design prepared under their supervision or direction.
OAA members have a professional responsibility to ensure sufficient supervision, direction, and control in order to fulfil their duties under the Architects Act and Regulation 27 with regard to the application of the seal. Further, as an underlying implication in applying a seal, members assume responsibility for the design and/or the review of the related construction for the explicit purpose of design compliance.
Instances where a member is requested to seal documents prepared by other professional or non-professional individuals or organizations and prior to the involvement of the member represents a circumstance carrying significant personal, business, and professional liability risk. It may be considered a violation of the Architects Act, Regulation 27, and other legislation if provided as a service.
Regulation 27 expressly prohibits a member from enabling or participating in unauthorized practice.It is an act of professional misconduct to affix a seal (or to permit a seal to be affixed) to a design that was not prepared in its entirety under the personal supervision and direction of a member.
Applying a seal to a document prepared under conditions where the professional responsibilities have not been completely fulfilled contravenes the Architects Act, Regulation 27, and Code of Ethics. Characterized as “selling one’s seal,” such a practice is not in the interest of the public and diminishes the value of the profession.
The OAA takes the issuance and use of seals very seriously as part of its mandate to regulate the profession of architecture in the public interest.
For further information regarding which documents MUST be sealed, as well as best practices, refer to the following Regulatory Notice—RN.01, OAA Professional Seal–Application (Usage).
OAA Seal Types
The OAA has two professional seal types: a physical seal and a digital seal. The OAA physical seal is purchased directly via the OAA Office of the Registrar. The OAA digital seal, which is a sealing process that embeds a digital certificate in the sealed documents, is acquired via subscription with Notarius. The official issuance type will be on record and forms part of the OAA Register.
To complement the use of the professional physical and digital seal types, the OAA will provide the applicant with high-resolution images of their seal.
Applying for a seal
There are three application conditions for a professional seal.
- An applicant for a Certificate of Practice may apply for a seal after their Certificate of Practice has been approved, or have a seal when applying for the Certificate of Practice.
- For an employee of a holder of a Certificate of Practice to be eligible for a seal, the Certificate of Practice holder must provide confirmation in writing to the OAA indicating the seal will be used only for projects under that holder.
- For an employee of other than a holder of a Certificate of Practice to be eligible, the architect and the employer must provide confirmation in writing to the OAA indicating the seal will be used only for projects that are owned, and continue to be owned, by the employer.
Once you have a seal:
- The employer must notify the Office of the Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org of any changes that may affect whether the employee is entitled to a seal; and
- The employee must immediately notify the Office of the Registrar at email@example.com of any changes that may affect whether they are entitled to a seal.