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.
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.
Please use our flowcharts for new construction and renovations and additions to help determine if you need a licensed professional on your next project.
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 is calculated in the state building code.
Nebraska state law requires that any structure that will exceed the square footages defined in the E&A Regulation 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 city and county 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 childcare facilities for five or fewer persons
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
Nebraska state law requires that all commercial structures must be designed by an architect and/or professional engineer, with the following exceptions. The following are general definitions. For complete details consult a professional engineer or architect, refer to E&A Regulation Act and Board Rules, or refer to the International Building Code (IBC) 2018 edition.
IBC Group Assembly (A-1 through A-5) – Less than 1,000 sq. ft. structures
All structures, or a portion thereof, intended for the gathering of persons for civic, social, or religious functions; recreation, or food or drink consumption or awaiting transportation. Some examples include, but are not limited to: theatres, banquet and community halls, restaurants, taverns and bars, gymnasiums, libraries, museums, places of religious worship, and arenas.
IBC Group Business (B) – Less than 3,000 sq. ft. structures
This includes any part of a structure, or a portion thereof, used for office, professional, or service-type transactions including storage of records or accounts. Some examples include, but are not limited to: animal hospitals (vet's office), banks, barber and beauty shops, educational occupancies above the 12th grade, post offices, print shops and professional services (architects, attorneys, dentists, physicians, engineers, etc.)
IBC Group Educational (E) - Less than 1,000 sq. ft.
This includes any part of a structure, or a portion thereof, which can serve six or more persons at any one time for educational purposes through the 12th grade. Examples include, but are not limited to: kindergarten through 12th-grade buildings.
IBC Group Factory (F-1, F-2) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.
This includes any part of a structure, or a portion thereof, for assembling, disassembling, fabricating, finishing, manufacturing, packaging, repair, or processing operations that are not classified as Group H hazardous or Group S storage occupancy.
IBC Group High-Hazard Structures (H-1 through H-4) - 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 are multiple definitions of high-hazard categories too numerous to list here. For details, please consult with an architect or professional engineer or refer to the International Building Code (IBC) Section 414 and Tables 307.1(1) and 307.1(2).
IBC Group High-Hazard Structures (H-5) - Less than 4,000 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. For details, please consult with an architect or professional engineer or refer to the International Building Code (IBC) Section 414 and Tables 307.1(1) and 307.1(2).
This includes structures or a portion thereof, in which care of supervision is provided to persons who are not capable of self-preservation without physical assistance or in which persons are detained for penal or correctional purposes or in which the liberty of the occupants is restricted.
IBC Group Personal Care (I-1) - Less than 3,000 sq. ft.
This includes structures or a portion thereof, for more than 16 persons, excluding staff, who reside on a 24-hour basis in a supervised environment and receive custodial care. Examples include, but are not limited to: alcohol and drug centers, assisted living facilities, congregated care facilities, group homes, halfway houses, residential board and care facilities, and social rehabilitation facilities.
IBC Group Inpatient Healthcare (I-2) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.
Structures used for medical care on a 24-hour basis for more than five persons who are incapable of self-preservation. Examples include, but are not limited to: foster care facilities, detoxification centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and psychiatric hospitals.
IBC Group Detention (I-3) - Less than 3,000 sq. ft.
Structures that are inhabited by more than five persons who are under restraint or security. Examples include, but are not limited to: correctional centers, detention centers, jails, prerelease centers, prisons, and reformatories.
IBC Group Day Care (I-4) - Less than 2,000 sq. ft.
Structures occupied by more than five persons of any age who receive custodial care for fewer than 24 hours per day by persons other than parents or guardians, relatives by blood, marriage or adoption, and in a place other than the home of the person cared for. Examples include, but are not limited to: adult daycare, child daycare.
IBC Group Mercantile (M) - Less than 3,000 sq. ft.
This includes a structure or a portion thereof for the display and sale of merchandise and involves stocks of goods, wares or merchandise incidental to such purposes and accessible to the public. Examples include, but are not limited to: department stores, drug stores, markets, greenhouses (sale of plants to the public) motor fuel-dispensing facilities, and retail or wholesale stores, sales rooms.
IBC Group Storage (S) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.
This includes any structure, or a portion thereof, for storage that is not classified as a hazardous occupancy.
IBC Group Utility (U) - Less than 5,000 sq. ft.
This includes any structure not classified in any specific occupancy. Examples include, but are not limited to: agricultural buildings, aircraft hangars, barns, carports, communication equipment structures, fences more than 6 feet high, grain silos, livestock shelters, private garages, retaining walls, sheds, stables, tanks, and towers.
Exemption: The provisions of the E&A Act regulating the practice of engineering and architecture do not apply to the construction, remodeling, alteration, or renovation of farm buildings, including barns, silos, sheds, or housing for farm equipment and machinery, livestock, poultry or storage, if the structures are designed to be occupied by no more than twenty persons.
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 in 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.
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 our License Lookup feature.
If you have any questions about whether an architect or professional engineer is required on your project, please contact us.