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State of Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects

Do I need an architect or professional engineer on my project?

Licensed architects and professional engineers are required to provide design and construction phase services for all projects regulated under the Nebraska Engineers and Architects Regulation Act.

These include:

  • Design services including the preparation of drawings, plans, specifications, and other documents that show the features and detail of the project to be constructed.

  • Preparation of plans required for the permitting process. These plans must include a seal, the design professional's signature, and date. Failure to obtain the proper seal with date and signature will delay your project.

  • Construction services including visits to the project site to determine that the project is being built as designed, and that the processing of technical submissions required of the contractor is being completed.

The practice of architecture and engineering is defined in the E&A Regulation Act as well as requirements for organizational practice and coordinating professionals.


When the E&A Regulation Act is not followed:

  • Property owners and developers may be liable if a structure was in violation of the act when built.
  • Projects may encounter extensive delays and cost over-runs.
  • Architects and professional engineers risk disciplinary actions, including public reprimands, fines, and license suspension or revocation.
  • Property owners may be subject to fines and civil penalties authorized by state statute. In addition, expenses related to compliance enforcement may be levied.
  • Remediation costs may be substantial, including post-construction design review, documentation, and construction revisions.

Many small-scale, one story building projects in Nebraska may be designed by persons who are not licensed as architects or professional engineers. The size limit on buildings that can be designed by non-licensed persons is based on three factors:

1) The size of the project in square feet.

2) The occupancy classification of the project as defined in the state building code.

3) The occupant load of the project as calculated in the state building code. 

Nebraska state law requires that any building that will exceed the square footages defined in the Act and Board rules must be designed by an architect and/or professional engineer. What follows is a summary of the square footage definitions. Occupancy definitions and examples are taken from the State Building Code (The State Building Code references the International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC), and International Existing Building Code, 2012 editions). Other local requirements may also apply. There are numerous exceptions and additions not included in this summary. We encourage you to talk with an architect or professional engineer and consult with your local building officials and inspectors to make sure your project meets all state and local requirements.

Residential Structures (R)

International Building Code Classification Group Residential (R-3) – Less than 10,000 sq. ft. structures

All residential structures 10,000 sq. ft. or larger must be designed by an architect and/or professional engineer. This includes:

  • Single family homes
  • Multiple-unit residences with four or fewer units
  • Congregate living facilities for 16 or fewer persons
  • Adult or child care facilities for five or fewer persons for less than 24 hours

IBC Group Residential (R-1, R-2, R-4) – Less than 4,000 sq. ft. structures

The following types of residential structures, if 4,000 sq. ft. or larger, must be designed by an architect and/or professional engineer.

  • Hotels, motels, boarding houses or any transient sleeping structures
  • Permanent dwelling units such as apartment houses, dormitories, fraternities and sororities, monasteries, convents, vacation timeshare properties, and non-transient hotels and motels
  • Residential care and assisted living facilities designed for more than five but no more than 16 occupants, excluding staff.
  • Multiple-Unit residences with five or more dwellings

Commercial Structures

Nebraska state law requires that all commercial structures must be designed by an architect and/or professional engineer, with the following exceptions. Following are general definitions. For complete details consult a professional engineer or architect, or refer to Nebraska Revised Statutes and Rules.

IBC Group Assembly (A-1 thru A-5) – Less than 1,000 sq. ft. structures

All structures intended for the gathering of persons for civic, social, or religious functions; recreation; or food or drink consumption.

IBC Group Business (B) – Less than 3,000 sq. ft. structures 

This includes any part of a structure used for office, professional, or service-type transactions.

IBC Group Mercantile (M) - Less than 3,000 sq. ft.

This includes any part of a structure used for the display or sale of any merchandise, including department stores, drug stores, markets, motor fuel-dispensing facilities, and retail or wholesale stores.

IBC Group Storage (S) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.

This includes any structure used for storage that is not classified as a hazardous occupancy.

IBC Group Educational (E) - Less than 1,000 sq. ft.

This includes any part of a structure which can serve six or more persons, and will be used for educational purposes or personal care services.

IBC Group Factory (F-1, F-2) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.

This includes any part of a structure used for assembling, disassembling, fabricating, finishing, manufacturing, packaging, repair, or processing operations that are not classified as high-hazard or storage occupancies.

IBC Group High-Hazard Structures (H-1 thru H-5) - Less than 2,000 sq. ft.

The high-hazard category includes any portion of a structure that involves the manufacturing, processing, generation or storage of materials that constitute a physical or health hazard. There is a 4,000 sq. ft. exemption for semi-conductor and similar facilities.

There are multiple definitions of high-hazard categories too numerous to list here. For details, plase consult with an architect or professional engineer or refer to International Building Code (IBC) Section 414.

Institutional (I)

Institutional structures include those in which people are cared for or live in a supervised environment, or in which people are detained or restricted.

IBC Group Personal Care (I-1) - Less than 3,000 sq. ft.

Structures housing more than 16 persons on a 24-hour basis, where occupants are capable of self-preservation without physical assistance from staff. This includes residential board and care facilities, assisted living facilities, group homes, and alcohol and drug centers.

IBC Group Inpatient Healthcare (I-2) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.

Structures used for medical, surgical, psychiatric, nursing or custodial care on a 24-hour basis for more than 5 persons who are not capable of self-preservation. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, mental hospitals and detoxification facilities.

IBC Group Detention (I-3) - Less than 3,000 sq. ft.

Structures housing more than 5 persons who are under restraint or security and incapable of self-preservation due to security measures. This includes prisons, jails, correctional facilities, reformatories and prerelease centers.

IBC Group Day Care (I-4) - Less than 2,000 sq. ft.

Structures occupied by persons of any age who receive custodial care for less than 24 hours. This group includes adult care and child care facilities. Some exceptions apply.

IBC Group Utility (U) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.

This includes any structure of an accessory character and miscellaneous structures not classified in any specific occupancy. It includes agricultural buildings, aircraft hangars, barns, carports, fences more than 6 feet high, grain silos, greenhouses, livestock shelters, private garages, retaining walls, sheds, stables, tanks and towers.

Exception: Any agricultural building or structure used solely for the purpose of housing animals or storing equipment is exempt.

Pre-Engineered Buildings

Plans for the basic structure, site work, foundation, interior finishing, or electrical/mechanical systems must be prepared and a seal affixed by an architect or professional engineer unless the building is otherwise exempt.

Public Works Projects

Roads, dams, landfills, bridges, water and wastewater systems must comply with the E&A Regulation Act.

Renovations and One-Level Additions

Renovations and one-level additions to an existing building, structure, or work do not require an architect or professional engineer to be involved if:

  • The total impacted area is less than the area set by Section 10.3 of the E&A Regulation Act; AND
  • The area of renovation or addition does not adversely impact the mechanical system; the electrical system; the structural integrity; the means of egress; and does not change or come into conflict with the occupancy classification of the existing or adjacent tenant space, building, structure or work.

Also, the Nebraska Fire Marshal or its delegated authorities must review plans for all commercial buildings, whether remodels or new construction, before construction work can begin.

To locate an architect or professional engineer in your area, use or License Lookup feature.

If you have any questions about whether an architect or professional engineer is required on your project, please contact us.