Architectural Accreditation Takes the BArch Program to an International LevelMore in this issue
The accreditation of the Bachelor of Architecture at LAU by the National Architecture Accrediting Board sets the program at a higher bar nationally and regionally and gives its graduates a competitive edge.
In May of this year, the School of Architecture and Design (SArD) at LAU became the first in Lebanon and the third internationally (outside the US) to obtain full accreditation for its Bachelor of Architecture by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB), enhancing its graduates’ prospects worldwide.
The accreditation by the only agency authorized to accredit US professional degree programs in architecture “entitles graduates of the LAU BArch program to sit for the licensure exam in the US, provided they complete the required training, and places them in a better position to compete for architecture jobs in the region and internationally,” said Dean Elie Haddad.
While the process of obtaining a license is subject to fulfilling stringent milestones, a NAAB-accredited degree is the first step to meeting the education requirements set by NCARB – the agency that administers the licensure and professional registration in the US. It also gives graduates a head-start in the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and increases their chances of success in the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) – both of which are prerequisites for licensure.
After application to NCARB, graduates need to complete 3,740 hours of internship (AXP) in a range of disciplines, from design to project management, at the end of which they sit for the ARE. “Out of these,” said Roger Skaff, faculty member and consultant for NAAB Accreditation and NCARB licensing advisor, “the architecture graduates from LAU will have completed 400 hours or around 10 percent of the AXP rate in total in their fourth year through a summer and a fall internship, which were set criteria for accreditation.”
What the NAAB assessment team looks for is a concretization of the educational philosophy in the students’ output.
Through Professional Practice courses coordinated by Skaff, the students are introduced to the basic steps of starting and managing a practice, as well as the best practices of project delivery in different markets. They also gain hands-on experience with case studies delivered by well-versed faculty with international experience.
Once they obtain an initial license, architects can pursue an NCARB Certificate, which facilitates reciprocal licensure across US jurisdictions, as well as Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand.
Securing the accreditation, and by extension the great advantages it affords LAU graduates, entailed eight years of systematic and collective work on the part of the faculty, staff and students, which involved rigorous self-assessment, curricular revision and improvement of physical facilities.
“The faculty were required to update their teaching methodologies, introduce certain areas of practice that were not previously covered in the curriculum – such as international building codes and laws – and ensure better synchronicity between the various components of the curriculum, as in the integration of building construction and buildings systems within the design studio, and making sure that student learning outcomes are met across the board,” said Dean Haddad.
Other components that played a significant role were the teaching faculty’s practical experience and diversity, which raised the educational standards of the program, and enriched the students’ learning experience.
The students’ work, however “was the main gauge by which the NAAB accreditation team measures the levels of accomplishment, in each category and across the board, and the satisfaction of key components in the curriculum,” added Dr. Haddad.
What the NAAB assessment team looks for is a concretization of the educational philosophy in the students’ output. “In architecture,” he explained, “the key core of the program is the design studio, where a student’s ability to synthesize various aspects related to design, from composition to technical proficiency, supported by a personal theoretical position, is the concrete evidence of meeting the set standards.”
Testament to the growing strength of the program, as it worked toward the NAAB accreditation, are the LAU BArch graduates and alumni who have distinguished themselves in academia and the field, such as Maria Tarchichi (BArch ’19), Tarek Ibrahim (BArch ’12), Daniella Samira Maamari (BArch ’17), Anahid Simitian (BArch ’13), and Cindrella W. Semaan (BArch ’14). Many others, from the first promotion of 1996 until now, have moved on to either set up their own practices in Lebanon and the Gulf, or to integrate into prestigious firms such as Foster + Partners, or Zaha Hadid Architects.
Whatever current or future career paths architecture graduates might choose, they can do so with the confidence that they will have received an education on a par with US and international standards, from an institution that is expanding its academic and professional footprint beyond borders.