In comparison to those professionals listed in
Table 2 (above) and with exception to those with certifications from the
Trade Associations, industry designers from Table 1 are essentially free to offer
unregulated design services unless the authority having
jurisdiction mandates otherwise; as is the case in British
Colombia, Alberta and Ontario.
Sample of a provincial government requirements for residential
design professionals and a
notification from a municipality enforcing the regulations.
I know of and have
worked with many
competent people working within Table 1 who conduct themselves
professionally and through experience,
licensing and with trade associations
certification have developed practical
design skills - full stop. I also know and have worked with many competent professional members
from Table 2 working within the businesses of those listed in
Table 1 which is recommended if design services are part of the
The challenge for consumers is - it is common in residential construction to find
designs by individuals who have no academic training in engineering
or engineering technology; there
is no formal way (exception to members of Table 2) of verifying the qualified from the
unqualified...and let me emphasize, having "certificates"
or being "certified" is not the
same as being "qualified". Just as there are qualified
individuals who may not be certified. Beyond these differences
there is also the important distinctions between
installation/fabrication or assembly work from "designing" and
these terms are not a proxy for the
practice of engineering.
It does happen where unqualified individuals
obtain certifications and meet the regulations but in
practice are not qualified to do designs. The regulations
allowing certified individuals to offer design services is not
strictly a quality control mechanism in the absence of the 4 years
of practice under a professional - as is mandatory requirement
for members from Table 2. In fact
academic training and four years of practical training is one of the
differentiating factors between those who design HVAC systems
or those who design Indoor Climate Systems.
So next to deciding
what type of system you
desire, the next biggest decision you have to make revolves around
your choice in engineering or design services and specifically how are disputes and conflict
handled. If you hire a
non-professional designer or rely on non-professional and
unqualified designs typically included with the builders
offering, you will have to
represent yourself or hire a
representative in the event of a dispute.
When you use
independent professionals from Table 2, they are ethically
obligated to represent your interest over the
interests of those in Table 1 (again exception to independent
having Trade Association Certifications). It is for this reason (for
example) why many
states now prohibit mould inspectors from also
offering mould remediation services or building inspectors from
offering building services after it became apparent that there
were wide spread conflict
So why would you rely on those in Table 1?
The #1 rationalization is convenience and cost.
Because there is a relatively low or no entrance fee to the design, i.e. there is
no mandatory academic requirements, nor mandatory experience,
nor a Professional Practice exam to pass, the service is usually
seen as a higher risk service for those on a "tight budget". Again with the possible exception of those
with Trade Association certifications, design fees will often be
included in the sale of products or systems as a service to the
project. This means in part, the design is motivated by
incentives to sell equipment most favourable to the installer,
wholesaler or distributor. This is one way for consumers to gain
access to designers without having to pay for professional
services but clearly this is not without its own conflict of
When you boil it down - it is a risk assessment. You need to
evaluate your expectations, consider
what you'll spend to meet
those expectations and then decide what you are willing to
invest to protect your interest.
If you are somewhat confident
in your construction knowledge and
HVAC skills then at the very least insist on
designer having Trade Association design certifications(3). If you have no ability to
technically and financially assess what is being provided to you, nor have the desire to engage in a
dispute should it happen, then hiring an independent professional from Table 2 is most likely the
best choice for you. The individuals in Table 2 represent varying
levels of professional design competency which can be verified
by academic requirements, experience, and passing of a
Professional Practice exam.
Some states and provinces for some
projects will accept the design certifications from Trade
Associations and for basic projects these certifications in the
hands of qualified individuals are more than adequate. But what
is often missed is the certifications only apply to the contents
of the course curriculum. For example if a home has an indoor
swimming pool, there is not a Trade Association certification
for the HVAC systems required for this application. The same
would apply to radiant cooling or snow melt systems or hybrid
system in large homes.
The process: if drawings have already been prepared, it will
usually be the authority having jurisdiction which will rule on
whether the project needs a professional; or it will be the
non-professional recognizing the limits of their skills that
will advise the client to hire a professional. If you do not
address this in the beginning, in both cases you will, by your
actions (or inactions), have removed yourself from the decision
what it cost for an HVAC system and ask yourself, "am I ok
1. For all but the basic home,
hire a professional before the drawings are prepared by an
architect. Why? Because a competent indoor climate engineer can
help you assess your needs beyond
the minimum requirements of
the code. This includes developing an energy budget as well as
indoor environmental quality specification. Once these areas have been defined then you are
well prepared to engage the services of an architect. If the
project goes into a dispute you have an independent third party
to represent your interests.
See this page for
budgeting HVAC design fees.
2. For the basic homes with "Built to Code"
systems use those who have HVAC certifications through the Trade
Associations. You'll get good value and in most cases a
reasonable system but the caveat is - it will likely be based on
meeting the minimum requirements and it likely won't include a
comprehensive assessment of the indoor environment such as
modelling VOC emission,
thermal comfort modelling,
energy modelling etc. Also if the project goes into a dispute, and the
designer is an independent third party they can represent your
interests. If the designer is the contractor, wholesaler, agent
or manufacturer they will be obligated to represent their own interest ahead of
yours in a dispute.
3. For all others, unless you know for certain
what their qualifications are, I would advise avoiding their
services. They may be completely competent but you have no way
of knowing unless you are skilled in evaluating the engineering
skills of another...and if you can do that - you likely don't
need their services.
Design professionals from Table 2, can often
be found working in industry at the manufacturing, distribution,
agent, wholesale and trade categories.
Most manufacturers offer product and
application training earning the student, "Certificates of
Attendance". Some are registered providers of Continuing
Education programs offering credit towards professional
development. Trades, wholesalers and agents/distributors who
attend these offerings are valuable members in the pre and
post construction process.
Some Trade Associations have practice guidelines
for those they have certified through education curriculums: ACCA,
Some Trade Associations offering certifications also have a
process if a designer’s competency is
Those from the non-professional world having earned design
certifications from Trade Associations and offering independent
design services are expected to remain impartial even though
they may not subscribe to a Code of Ethics.
With the possible exception of those doing independent design
work and holding certifications
through the Trade Association, those from Table 1 will represent
there own interest in a dispute or conflict situation.
The Association of Science and Engineering Technology
Professionals of Alberta (ASET) has phased out the R.E.T.
designation and replaced it with the R.P.T. designation. Members
holding an R.E.T. designation continue to be recognized in
Alberta as senior-level practitioners of engineering
technology or applied science technology.
The professional associations also have TT (Technologist in
Training) and EIT (Engineer in Training) designations which are
for those in training. Those having these designations are not
allowed to professional practice until they have completed the
mandatory experience and passed the professional practice