General course outline

Winter 2009

Membership in any profession, whether law, medicine, teaching, journalism, accounting, or architecture, entails not only the mastery of a body of knowledge and skills but at its best the honoring of a social contract to advance basic human values. Boyer, Ernest L and Mitgang, Lee D. Building Community: a new future for architecture education and practice: a special report. Ewing, NJ: California Princeton Fulfillment Services, 1996.(Cited in the RAIC Canadian Handbook of Practice for Architects.)

Course description

from the University Calendar

  • the Professional Code, the Architect's Act and the architect's responsibilities to clients, colleagues and society, professional ethics, responsibility in design, contractual arrangements, business conduct
  • construction supervision, issuing of certificates, construction and project management
  • concepts of architectural specification writing, building costs and life cycle costing.

Weekly schedule

  • lectures (room 212): Friday, 1030-1230
  • discussions, special presentations (room 212 and other sites): Friday, 1230-1330

Course content

Although the course places the emphasis on the practical aspects of professional practice, it also covers the theoretical basis of the subject. The course examines matters that are common to most forms of architectural practice. These include legislation and regulations governing architecture and related professions, professional ethics, the rights and responsibilities of those involved in construction projects, the role of the architect, the architects' consultants, the contractor and subcontractors, the nature of the regulations governing the design and construction of buildings, common forms of consultants’ agreements, construction tenders and contracts, construction bonds and insurance, specification writing, building costs, and the organization and the administration of an architect's office. Finally, less traditional forms of professional specialization, such as the role of the architect-as-developer, will be examined from both theoretical and practical points of view.

Please note: the course draws heavily from the RAIC’s CANADIAN HANDBOOK OF PRACTICE FOR ARCHITECTS (CHOP) which will be available in hard copy and circulated in electronic form.

Contact Hours

The course is divided into thirteen weekly three-hour meetings. Each meeting includes a two-hour lecture followed by a one-hour supplementary session. The supplementary sessions will accommodate lectures by visitors and special presentations, and are also seen as a valuable opportunity to revisit material covered in the lectures, to ask questions, to discuss the weekly reading requirements, and to review the progress of the term assignments.

Course objectives

The professional status of the architect rests on a foundation of highly specific responsibilities towards the client, users and society as a whole. Ethical practice calls for a profound understanding of both the nature of these responsibilities and their implications on the concept of professional conduct, and will remain a subject of concern and inquiry throughout the architect's career. This course will be for most students their first introduction to the notion of architectural practice as both discipline and profession.

Design as ethical and sustainable, Charles Eames, Paris, 1969.


Evaluation of achievement in the course will be based on assignments, the final exam, and participation in the discussion sessions. These are worth 60%, 30%, and 10% of the total mark, respectively. The final exam will be scheduled during the formal examination period at the end of the term.

Since Professional Practice is a graduate level course, the minimum pass mark is “B-”


Each student is expected to complete two term assignments.

The first assignment calls for an analysis of one aspect of professional practice, to be defined by the student and approved by the course instructors. The research may be done through literature review, questionnaires or personal interviews, but will be based on an exercise in which students will ‘shadow’ a selected architectural office over a period of 8 to 10 weeks. The task is submitted in the form of a formal written report and is eventually incorporated into the indexed compendium of past reports, which serves as a dynamic reference text for the course over time.

The second assignment is based on the professional tracking of a project undertaken by the student in a parallel design course. The design exercise will be treated as a real project, and the instructor will be treated as the client, and students will maintain a log of the project using standard forms and procedures that will be discussed in class. Design progress will be documented, hours will be logged for ‘office’ administrative and billing purposes, and minutes will be recorded of all meetings with design partners, clients (studio instructors), builders and fabricators (David Speller), and external critics.

Detailed requirements for both assignments will be distributed in class.

Course Prize

The Harold Fetherstonhaugh Memorial Book Prize is awarded to the student achieving the highest standing in the course.


Prof. David Covo:
Prof. Mark Poddubiuk:
TA Basil Schaban-Maurer:


Mandatory reading includes extracts from provincial and federal legislation concerning the structures, rights and responsibilities of professional associations, articles of the Civil Code of Quebec of interest to architects, regulations of the Order of Architects of Quebec, standard agreements and contract forms, standard tariffs of fees, standard forms of tenders as well as some course notes. These texts are assembled into a handbook and made available to the students at the beginning of the course. In addition, a number of related texts and manuals, as well as an indexed compendium of former students' essays are available for consultation in the School of architecture. See a list of the texts here.

McGill University :: School of Architecture :: © 2009