The practice of architecture requires a wide range of professional skills. These include the knowledge and skill to design buildings, a thorough understanding of sound and economical construction, proficiency in the application of business and legal principles, and the ability to motivate, coordinate, and manage a complex network of stakeholders. The architect must be designer, construction expert, manager, and leader. It is hoped that this new Third Edition of the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects will contribute to improving the practice of architecture and, consequently, help to improve the built environment and architecture in Canada.

The Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects is the result of a great collaborative effort by the architectural profession from every region of the country. This Third Edition of 2020 has been developed and published in both official languages.


Objectives of the Canadian Handbook of Practice

The Handbook is mainly for practising architects and those who plan on becoming architects. In addition, it is also meant for those non-architects who want to better understand the profession. With these users in mind, the Handbook’s objectives are to:

  • provide an instructional resource book for architectural students and interns working in the architectural profession;
  • establish a reference document to assist architects and others in Canada by providing concise and current information.

The Handbook includes information and advice, in the form of summaries, lists, checklists, charts and sample documents, as well as sources of additional reference material.



In March of 1974, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) initiated the production of a Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects, specifically tailored to Canadian architectural practice. J. Hugh Westren, the Editor of the first edition, was commissioned in June 1974 to start work on a Handbook of national scope. The first edition was published in 1976. In the early 1990s, some revisions were made to a few sections of the Handbook. Many of these revisions were reprinted from information provided by The American Institute of Architects.

In January of 1997, the National Practice Program — an alliance of the ten provincial associations of architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada — appointed a national Editorial Board to direct the creation of a new, updated edition of the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects. The National Practice Program approved a business plan for this venture in June of 1998 with the development costs being underwritten by all provincial associations of architects. Editors were appointed, and the writing and editing of this new edition commenced in the fall of 1998.  The First Edition was published in 1999.

In April 2004 the provincial associations of architects assigned the copyright for the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects and other documents of the architecture profession to the RAIC. In the spring of 2008, the RAIC Board of Directors appointed an Editorial Board to direct the updating of the First Edition of the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects. This Second Edition, primarily distributed in electronic format, was published in the spring of 2009. This edition incorporated all of the four supplements issued since the 1999 edition; as well, references were updated, new information was incorporated, and advice was revised to meet current standards of practice.

In 2018, the RAIC and the provincial and territorial associations of architects commenced the project to create the Third Edition of the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects. The RAIC launched open calls to select architects to participate on the Editorial Board and to recruit subject matter experts to revise existing and develop new content. The Third Edition adopted a new structure and format to better accommodate web-based and electronic book format delivery. New chapters were added to address changes in the design-construction industry landscape, emerging project delivery methods, and the needs of interns and emerging practitioners.



Part One: Theory and Background
The seven chapters of Part One present an overview of the architectural profession and the responsibilities, scope and pathway of career development of the architect.

Part Two: The Context of Practice
Part Two includes five chapters that summarize the needs and perspectives of key stakeholders of the design-construction industry.

Part Three: Management of the Architectural Practice
The 11 chapters of Part Three present an introduction to the business and professional environment in which an architect works.

Part Four: The Design-Construction Program
Part Four includes two chapters that describe traditional and emerging methods for design-construction program delivery and construction cost planning and control.

Part Five: Management of the Design Project
The five chapters of Part Five describe managing the design project from concept to post-construction.

Part Six: Phases of the Design Project
Part Six includes eight chapters that describe the scope and work involved in delivering architectural services through the traditional seven phases of the design-construction program.


Improving the Handbook

Our profession and society are experiencing constant change. As a result, the Handbook will require constant revision and improvement. Your suggestions about information that should be added, or existing material that should be revised, are welcome. Suggestions and comments should be addressed to:

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and



I thank all of those who contributed to the Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects Third Edition, as well as those who laid the groundwork by contributing to the 1974, 1999 and 2009 editions. For this Third Edition, dozens of subject matter experts reviewed content, authored new material, and engaged in discussions about architectural practice that were both detailed and enlightening. Numerous volunteers reviewed content at several stages to validate correct architectural practice and procedures, and helped make the Handbook more accurate and relevant.

The members of the Editorial Board are to be singled out for special thanks for frequently rising to the challenge of reviewing large volumes of content on short notice. The Steering Committee is acknowledged for their guidance and support.

Many hands make light work. I thank Janine Alyson Young, English language editor, France Jodoin, French language editor and translator, Vicky Coulombe-Joyce and Marc Joyce, Design TANDEM, graphic design and layout, Jacques Berger and Pascale Bourassa, Code3, web site design, Kate Murphy, proof-reader, and the staff of the RAIC Program Office for their work and support.

Donald Ardiel, OAA, MRAIC
June 2020
Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects