Bill to watch: SB 298, Interior Design Certification Amendments

interior-designerA new bill – SB 298 – is being heard later today in the Senate Business and Labor committee that would allow Interior Designers to practice to the full scope of their training.

It’s a certification bill that says that if they meet certain training requirements and national standards, they can practice in all spaces, including commercial spaces over 3000 feet.

The question everyone always wants an answer to is: “What problem is this solving?” and then the second question is “Interior designers?! Really?!”

Let me start with the second question. I’ve long been an outspoken opponent to unnecessary licensing – cat groomers, horse massage therapists (yes, really), hair braiders and interior designers. But – I was wrong on interior designers.

It’s not just about pillows and paint colors. Trained interior designers, looking for certification under this bill, can draw plans and work in commercial spaces. In fact, many public buildings have interior spaces designed by these professionals, trained in knowledge of fire-ratings, flammable materials, ADA requirements, egress and more.

Even then, I think it’s fair to ask if this certification is necessary.

The answer, which is the answer to the first question, is yes.  To be honest, it’s another sad, ongoing example in the turf wars we see on the Hill. I know I am tired of hearing of professions – largely dominated by women – being forced through statute to go to their direct competitor to ask for permission to practice.

I think any reasonable person can see the problem inherent in that model.

Utah prides itself on its free market stance and opposes (in theory) restraint of trade – and yet here we are again with another bill that has been made necessary because of unfair trade practices.

The  Architectural Practice Act prohibits any person who is not a “licensed design professional” the ability to submit plans for permitting purposes for commercial spaces above 3,000 sq. feet. An interior designer is not recognized as a design professional in Utah.

Previous to the addition of the 3,000 sq. ft. restriction, interior designers were able to bid and work autonomously. Now, we see interior designers who must go hat-in-hand to ask for someone (a competitor) to oversee their work. Additionally, these designers face flat-out gender bias, clearly demonstrated recently when a code official in a January AIA Government Affairs meeting said these women as “dumb as drywall.” For shame.

That, ladies and gentlemen should be enough. If it’s not, enough, then the free market should hold sway here. Certification would not be necessary if we did not have in code an outdated, restrictive barrier to practice. That is wrong.

This bill needs to pass – and the architects and code officials in this state need to stop refusing other professionals the right to practice.


  1. Evan Cindrich says:

    Great article! Just to clarify one thing – the code official that made that stupid and offensive remark and opposes interior design legislation is an architect and member of AIA (American Institue of Architects). Actually most code officials that do not have a warped bias, and understand the proposed legislation, are fully supportive of this bill.