AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

  • 04 February, 2020

A membership in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in any capacity brings with it an expectation for the highest standards in competency, professionalism, and integrity. The AIA lays out what is expected of its members through the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct ("the Code of Ethics"). It is important for both candidates taking the Architectural Registration Examination (ARE) and those with an AIA professional affiliation to understand this Code of Ethics because noncompliance can lead to disciplinary action. To understand compliance, the Code of Ethics must be understood. You can access this code for free on the AIA's website (

Code of Ethics

The AIA's Code of Ethics begins with a preamble which, among other information, includes descriptions of its three tiers. I am not going to elaborate on the rest of the information beyond the three tiers, with a little explanation, but what is interesting is the history of the AIA and antitrust. Due to this, they cannot control setting service fees, etc. I think it is a fascinating part of the AIA's history and recommend learning about it to any candidate or AIA member.

The AIA's Code of Ethics is separated into three tiers:

2.Ethical standards
3.Rules of conduct

There are six canons, which essentially note the larger topic with a bit of an explanation. They are listed in order of precedence. Beyond the general obligations, the obligations are to the public, client, profession, colleagues, and the environment. This means that the obligations to the public are listed first after general obligations, and that is the first order of obligation according to this Code of Ethics. It may seem odd that the public is considered before a paying client, but the AIA member is obliged to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public first and foremost. Often, in doing so, you are protecting the client as well, but the first order of responsibility is to the public.

The ethical standards, or goals, follow the canons. They list the goals in short and then follow up with a short expectation of the member.

The rules of conduct are what make the AIA Code of Ethics enforceable. To underscore that point, they are in bright red in the Code of Ethics-you can't miss them. The rules of conduct ("Rule(s)") note what is expected of the member. Sometimes a Rule includes a commentary, which is not always included, nor is it considered a tier. The commentary elaborates on a Rule giving more specificity/clarification to a point/term.

Knowing and understanding the Code of Ethics is essential, in my opinion, not only in preparing for the ARE but in understanding what could be disciplined by the AIA.

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