Chapter 1.7
International Architectural Organizations


Most nations have some form of professional or legal organization for their architects. This Handbook cannot outline them all, but will briefly describe one international body, three multilateral organizations that have relations with the architectural profession in Canada, and those organizations within North America that affect the Canadian architectural community.

In the past, Canadian architects were closely affiliated with Britain and the Commonwealth, and many were members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Today, however, many Canadian-based architects are working in countries outside of Canada by associating with resident firms in those countries. Canadian architects should be cautious in the way they present themselves in other countries in matters of licensure, and most often cannot call themselves “architects.”

Canadian architectural practices, both large and small, are finding opportunities in the international marketplace. International projects do not constitute a significant percentage of work for all except the largest multinational firms with Canadian offices. However, small firms with highly specialized knowledge and capabilities are entering into joint ventures to provide unique expertise. Large Canadian-based and -owned firms have offices in the United States, China, the Middle East and elsewhere. Competing for international design commissions is not for every architectural practice, and the business model adopted by the firm needs to address the specifics of the international marketplace.

International Organizations

International Union of Architects (UIA)

The International Union of Architects, or Union internationale des architectes (UIA), was founded in 1948 in Lausanne, Switzerland, as a federation of professional societies from several countries.

From the 27 delegations present at the founding assembly, the UIA has grown to encompass the key professional organizations of architects in 131 countries and territories, and now represents, through these organizations, more than 1,300,000 architects worldwide. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada is the member section for Canada within the UIA.

The UIA’s mission is to represent the global community of architects and to promote the profession within the following organizations:

  • the UIA Member Sections;
  • other non-governmental organizations (in order to develop interdisciplinary contacts):
    • ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites);
    • ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design);
    • ICOGRADA (International Council of Graphic Design Associations);
    • IFI (International Federation of Interior Designers);
    • ISOCARP (International Society of City and Region Planners);
    • INTA (International Trademark Association);
  • intergovernmental institutions (in which the UIA is the only officially recognized association for architecture):
    • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization);
    • UNCHS (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements);
    • ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council);
    • UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization);
    • WHO (World Health Organization);
    • UN Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme);
    • UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe);
    • IOC (International Olympic Committee).

The UIA has also established the Professional Practice Commission, which has developed a basic framework regarding international standards of professionalism for architects. Adopted at the 1999 UIA Congress in Beijing, this framework assists nations and professional architectural associations in developing national standards and reaching mutual recognition agreements for the practice of architecture.

Architects Council of Europe (ACE)

The Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), as the only representative organization at the European level, aspires to speak with a single voice on behalf of the architectural profession.

It is based in Brussels, and its members are the regulatory and professional representative bodies of all European Union (EU) member states, accession states, Switzerland and Norway.

Through them, ACE represents the interests of over 450,000 architects in Europe.

The principal function of the ACE is to monitor relevant policy and legislative developments at the EU level, seeking to influence those areas of EU policy that have an impact on architectural practice, and on policies affecting the overall quality and sustainability of the built environment.

In Fall 2018, the ACE-CALA Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) for the Practice of Architecture among the member states in the European Union and Canada was finalized. The year of implementation of the agreement is 2021. For more information, visit the International Agreements section of

APEC Architect Project

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) operates as a co-operative, multilateral economic and trade forum. The APEC Architect Project was endorsed by the Human Resources Development Working Group of the APEC in 2000 following a proposal by the Australian government to facilitate the mutual recognition of skills and qualifications of architects in the provision of professional services between member economies. The project is self-funded by the respective architectural organizations. A Secretariat rotating amongst the 14 member economies provides the necessary support to APEC Architect Project members and maintains a website. Member states include Australia, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and the United States of America.

The purpose of the APEC Architect Project is to establish a common basis for the recognition of professional competence that will simplify access to independent practice as an architect in other participating economies.

The Architectural Institute of British Columbia is the Secretariat for Canada and updates the register of Canadian architects who have obtained the APEC Architect designation. Additional information can be found at

North American Organizations

The American Institute of Architects (AIA)

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) was founded in New York City in 1857. The AIA is a representative body rather than a governing or controlling body. It divides the United States into regions, each of which is represented by a member on the Board of Directors. The regions have chapters; the number of chapters per region depends on the population density. The chapters’ bylaws are set by the national body.

The AIA has more than 73,049 licensed architects (in 2018) and is a voluntary professional association dedicated to organizing and uniting the profession. The AIA requires its members to commit to a code of ethics and professional conduct, as well as to professional development through its program of continuing education.

Members of the RAIC may become associate AIA members. See Chapter 1.6 – The Organization of the Profession in Canada for information on the RAIC.

National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is a not-for-profit corporation. All the legally constituted architectural registration boards of the 50 U.S. states and five territories are members. The NCARB assists its 54 member boards through the following activities:

  • preparing and delivering a uniform examination;
  • offering the Architect Registration Examination (ARE);
  • establishing standards in education and training;
  • verifying qualifications of applicants and certifying architects;
  • developing standards for professional conduct;
  • administering the Intern Development Program.

The provincial and territorial associations of architects work closely with the NCARB, and, in 1994, an Inter-Recognition Agreement was signed between the NCARB and the former Committee of Canadian Architectural Councils (CCAC). This agreement facilitated reciprocal licensing for architects in Canada and the United States in specified jurisdictions in Canada and the United States. In 2014, the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) between the 11 provincial and territorial members of the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authority (CALA) and 29 member boards of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) came into effect. The MRA identifies the details of the reciprocal relationships for licensure between those licensed in the two countries. Over time the number of U.S. member boards who have signed on to the MRA has increased. For details about the relationship, refer to the following information:

National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc. (NAAB)

Formed in 1940, the National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc. (NAAB) is responsible for accrediting professional degree programs in schools of architecture in the United States. This is similar to the accreditation function of the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB), which has adopted most of the NAAB’s accreditation criteria. The NAAB has a board of directors comprised of appointees from the following organizations:

  • AIA (The American Institute of Architects);
  • NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards);
  • ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture);
  • AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students).

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture is a not-for-profit membership association founded in 1912 to advance the quality of architectural education. The association is based in the United States.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is similar to the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA). The Association is comprised of over 250 schools of architecture in several membership categories, including all 12 accredited university schools of architecture in Canada. A forum for “ideas on the leading edge of architectural thought,” the ASCA publishes the Journal of Architectural Education (JAE) and a newsletter (ACSA News).

Federación de Colegios de Arquitectos de la República Méxicana (FCARM)

The Federación de Colegios de Arquitectos de la Republica Méxicana (FCARM), or the Federation of the Colleges of Architects of the Republic of Mexico, is a national professional organization with headquarters in Mexico City. FCARM is comprised of 71 “Colegios” representing about 15,000 architects.

Most Mexican jurisdictions (states) have a professional association known as a “Colegio,” and these associations have united to form the national federation. The Colegios, which are responsible for establishing codes of ethics, deal with issues of professional practice and public complaints.

FCARM’s mission is to:

  • coordinate the needs and interests of its members;
  • encourage professional development;
  • develop standards of practice;
  • promote the profession to the public.

In the spirit of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and most recently the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), FCARM is the signatory organization to the tri-national agreement that exists between Canada, Mexico and the United States. This agreement allows for mutual recognition of licence between the three countries. Also signatory to the agreement is the U.S. National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities on behalf of all 11 Canadian architectural regulators. The Ontario Association of Architects provides the Secretariat function on behalf of CALA for the agreement.

For more information, visit the International Agreements section of

Asociación de Instituciones de Enseñanza de la Arquitectura de la República Mexicana (ASINEA)

The Asociación de Instituciones de Enseñanza de la Arquitectura de la República Mexicana (ASINEA) has a similar function to the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture (CCUSA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Comprised of 81 schools of architecture, ASINEA has a multifaceted objective: the exchange of pedagogic, administrative, social and academic information. As part of its efforts to continually enhance the several schools and facultades (faculties) of architecture within the Mexican Republic, ASINEA also deals with architectural criteria for education standards and curriculum.