Attorney General: Honorable Nicholas A. Cioffi & Gloria Schaffer, Commissioner of Public Safety & Commissioner of Consumer Protection, 1994-001 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

January 24, 1994

Honorable Nicholas A. Cioffi
Commissioner of Public Safety
100 Washington Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Honorable Gloria Schaffer
Commissioner of Consumer Protection
165 Capitol Avenue--Room 105
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Commissioners Cioffi and Schaffer:

This letter is in response to your joint request dated August 11, 1993, for a formal opinion concerning interior design. In particular, you have asked three questions:

1. What effect does the requirement of Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-293 that building officials only accept plans or specifications that are stamped with the seal of a licensed architect or licensed engineer have on Public Act No. 93-435,  23?

2. What is the scope of an interior designer's practice and is it limited to those activities exempted by Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298?

3. How does the definition of "interior designer" as set forth in Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-377k interrelate with Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298?1

Section 23 of Public Act No. 93-435 amended Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-263 to provide that a "building official shall review the plans of buildings or structures to be constructed or altered, including, but not limited to, plans prepared by an architect ..., a professional engineer ... or an interior designer ... acting within the scope of his practice," to determine code compliance. 1993 Conn.Pub.Acts No. 93-435,  23.2 Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-293 directs building officials only to "accept or approve" plans or specifications of buildings or structures that are stamped with the seal of a licensed architect or licensed professional engineer, unless those plans or specifications are exempted from the provisions of the architectural licensing requirements and, more particularly, Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298. Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298 exempts the preparation of plans and specifications of, for example, single family dwellings, farm structures and the erection of buildings that contain less than five thousand square feet total area.

Your first question presupposes that, when read together, there is a conflict between Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-293 and Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-263, as amended by 1993 Conn.Pub.Acts No. 93-435,  23. We conclude that there is no conflict. Both statutory provisions direct that building officials review plans or specifications for buildings and structures. However, Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-293 is more explicit: unless those plans or specifications fall within an exempted activity set forth in Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298, such plans or specifications must be stamped with the seal of a licensed architect or professional engineer in order to be "accepted or approved" by a building official. Likewise, consistent with this regulatory scheme, Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-276c mandates that plans and specifications for specified structures or additions of certain threshold sizes shall be sealed by a licensed architect or professional engineer, notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter 390, the architectural licensing chapter in which Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-293 and 20-298 are codified.

Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-263, as amended, however, recognizes that there are plans and specifications involved in building construction that building officials are directed to review that are prepared by registered interior designers and do not constitute the practice of architecture or professional engineering. In 1992, the General Assembly amended the definition of "interior designer" to indicate that interior designers prepare plans and specifications for, among other things, non-load-bearing interior construction. 1992 Conn.Pub.Acts No. 92-43. In the House floor debate on consideration of Section 23 of Public Act No. 93-435, the sponsor, Rep. Richard Tulisano, explained the purpose of this amendment to Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-263 as follows:

[T]his amendment clarifies the intent of Public Act 92-43, which is clear that after architects--interior designers can submit plans, that the plans will be reviewed by people they submit them to.

36 H.R.Proc., Pt. 39, 1993 Sess., p. 13979.

In an ensuing discussion, the intent was further set forth by Rep. Tulisano as follows: REP. TULISANO: (29th)

This just lays out clearly and we believe no substantive change at all, but makes it clear, it fulfills the intent of the act, 92-43, which says that interior designers registered and acting within the scope of their practice can submit their plan to a building official and that's what I think if you look at 92-43 it says that they may do plans and specifications for non-load bearing interior construction and this indicates that the only plans that can be submitted are those that follow 92-43.

REP. ANDREWS: (87th)

Through you, Mr. Speaker, line 31, the word "plans", can give me a better description or definition of the word "plans"? Are we talking about interior designer plans or are we talking architectural type plans?

REP. TULISANO: (29th)

Through you, Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, in the whole bill it says acting within the scope of their practice, in their practice as defined in 92-43 describes plans and specifications for non-load bearing interior construction materials, finishes, safe planning, reflected ceiling plans, furnishing, fixtures and equipment. It does not go any further than that and that's what it's trying to refer to.

36 H.R.Proc., Pt. 39, 1993 Sess., pp. 13980-81.

This discussion recognizes a distinction between interior design work and the practice of architecture. There may be some activities where it is difficult to make this distinction. The determination as to whether a particular activity constitutes either (a) interior design work, (b) the practice of architecture or (c) work that is exempt from the practice of architecture is initially within the purview of the building official as mandated in the review process set forth in Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-293 and 29-263 and Section 108.1 of the State Basic Building Code. The determination also rests with the Architectural Licensing Board. See, e.g., Conn.Gen.Stat.  4-176 (declaratory rulings). Review of a decision by a building official is available pursuant to Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-252(c) and (d) to the State Building Inspector. In your second and third questions, you inquire into the scope of an interior designer's practice and whether it is limited to those activities exempted by Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298. Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-377k(a)(C) defines "interior designer" as "a person qualified by education, experience and examination who prepares plans and specifications for non-load-bearing interior construction, materials, finishes, space planning, reflected ceiling plans, furnishings, fixtures and equipment relative to the design of interior spaces in order to enhance and protect the health, safety and welfare of the public." The legislature has noted the similar functions of an interior designer and an architect by allowing a licensed architect to use the title "interior designer," (Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-377l) and to waive the $150.00 application fee (Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-377m(b)). Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-288(3) defines the practice of architecture to include the preparation of plans and specifications concerning the aesthetic and structural design of building construction. This definition makes no distinction between interior and exterior design or load-bearing and non-load-bearing construction. Therefore, in answer to your questions, to the extent that an interior designer's work does not constitute the practice of architecture, Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298 has no application to that work. However, to the extent that an interior designer's work includes activities which constitute the practice of architecture, that work is limited to those activities exempted by Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298 that concern interior design.3

We trust this answers your questions.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Robert M. Langer
Assistant Attorney General

RB/RML/pas


Footnote:

1 In your letter, you refer to Conn.Gen.Stat.  29-298 in your third question. We have assumed that you had intended to refer to Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298.

2 The amended language is underlined.

3 For example, while any person may engage in any of the activities set forth in Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-298(h) concerning buildings which contain a total area of less than five thousand square feet, unless such activities fall within the definition of "interior designer" set forth in Conn.Gen.Stat.  20-377k, such activities would not constitute interior design.


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