Fundamentals of Running an Architectural Practice

OAA Continuing Education Course

Structured Learning Hours: 18

The OAA’s Fundamentals of Running an Architectural Practice course offers a comprehensive overview of the business side of architecture. Originally titled Starting an Architecture Practice, this refocused program is ideal for members who are either starting their own practice or taking on an associate or partner role. It is also especially suitable for experienced architects looking for a refresh on the basics and the best practices.
Consisting of five key lessons, the entire course is delivered on three consecutive days. Taught by 11 experts in the field of architecture and finance, discussions range from industry requirements in Ontario to the exploration of business principles versus the operation elements of a professional practice. Topics include developing and modifying your strategic initiatives as an architect in the marketplace, professional requirements, client agreements, and how to manage your finances and your projects.
For more details on the sessions and speakers, please refer to the lesson descriptions below.

April 1–3, 2020 sessions - CANCELLED

This fall’s OAA course, Fundamentals of Running an Architectural Practice, will not be offered in-person, but rather as a series of webinars. Members will be allowed to register for individual classes— there is no requirement to attend all course modules.

September 29 – December 8, 2020
Tuesdays and Thursdays (offered biweekly alongside the 2020 OAA Webinars)
Webinar Time 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Location: Zoom

See below for a complete listing:

September 29
Architectural Practice in a Contemporary Context

October 1 
Regulatory Requirements: Ontario Architectural Practice

October 13 


Lesson 1: Architectural Practice in a Contemporary Context

Speaker: Raymond Chung, OAA, PMP, FMP, SFP

The context of architectural practice is changing. New project delivery methods, new industry players, and disruptive business models are altering the landscape in which architects deliver design services. Architects are no longer as close to the centre of project decision-making as they once were, with the rise of paraprofessionals and the shifting priorities of clients.

This session will provide the participant with a contemporary view of the social, commercial, sectoral, and environmental contexts in which to make decisions about running an architectural practice.

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss the architect’s interests and influence in the context of the contemporary design and construction industry;
  • Identify the roles of the stakeholders in the design and construction industry and the architect’s relationship to each.

Raymond Chung is a registered architect in Ontario, Professional Project Manager (PMP), Professional Facility Manager (FMP), and Sustainable Facility Professional (SFP). He specializes in construction project management and has more than 30 years of experience in the design, supervision, and project management of various industrial, commercial, municipal, and post-secondary institutional projects.
His completed projects include a $60-million, 260,000-sf, new Cambridge campus School of Engineering and Informational Technology complex, a $15-million, 70,000-sf Health Science Building at Doon Campus, and a $2-million HRAC Building and $3-million Roofing Centre at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont. Raymond worked on various consulting engagements for some of Canada’s most respected architectural, engineering, design-build, real estate, and telecommunications organizations.
Raymond is currently professor of APFM at Conestoga College, an instructor and subject matter expert at Ryerson University’s Chang School, and a project advisor at Conestoga College. His current research interest includes the application of Agile project management methodology in design and construction.

Lesson 2A: Regulatory Requirements: Ontario Architectural Practice

Speaker: Christie Mills, B.Arch., B.Comm, CSC, OAA

There are mandatory requirements for operating an architectural practice in Ontario and Canada. This session will address those requirements that are specific to architectural practice. The next session will explore those mandatory requirements common to all businesses. The two main topics of this session are the regulation of architectural practices by their respective provincial associations and the requirements to maintain insurance.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the requirements of and process for obtaining a Certificate of Practice and licensure in the province of Ontario and the implication of practicing in other jurisdictions; and
  • Describe the requirements of and processes for procuring the practice insurance including errors and omissions, general liability, automotive, and workplace safety insurance.

Christie Mills is an Ontario architect and the OAA Registrar. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University and is a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Architecture. She practised for 15 years and was a principal with Moriyama & Teshima Architects (MTA) before commencing work with the OAA in 2017. Her current work with the Office of the Registrar allows her to explore the relationship of the OAA’s regulatory framework with the practice of architecture and how it influences the future of the profession in Ontario.

Lesson 2B: Regulatory Requirements: Pro-Demnity Insurance

Speaker: John Hackett, B.Arch., OAA, FRAIC

Although the purchase and maintenance of professional liability insurance is a mandatory requirement for an Ontario architectural practice, few architects starting a practice will have had meaningful exposure to the purpose and value of such insurance in their formal education and preparation for practice. The lesson will provide attendees with fundamental information about this essential tool and the features of the professional liability insurance provided to Ontario architects by Pro-Demnity Insurance Company. 

Content includes: 

  • What is professional liability insurance and why is it needed?
  • How claims against architects can arise;
  • Highlights of the program provided for Ontario architects;
  • Recognizing and reporting claims;
  • Common issues that show up as claims; and
  • How claims get resolved.

Time permitting, several case studies will illustrate how the insurance and settlement process works in practice.

Prior to the lesson, participants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Pro-Demnity website, and download or obtain a copy of the information booklet, Architects Insuring Architects: The Ontario Architects Professional Liability Insurance Program. 

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the purpose of professional liability insurance and its value to an architectural practice;
  • Locate important information about the mandatory professional liability insurance program for Ontario architects Provided by Pro-Demnity Insurance Company;
  • Recognize some of the common circumstances that give rise to claims against architects, and how they may be resolved; and
  • Apply the information to situations that may arise in practice.

As the vice president of practice risk management at Pro-Demnity Insurance, John Hackett counsels Ontario architects on questions about insurance and liability concerns. He serves as moderator for many Pro-Demnity Loss Prevention Events.

Prior to assuming his position with Pro-Demnity in 2004, he practised for 35 years with an Ontario architectural practice that focused on publicly funded institutional projects. From 2005 to 2015, he served as a member of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC), the organization responsible for oversight of the National Building Codes. John is a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and a licensed architect in Ontario. At various times, he was licensed to practise architecture in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Lesson 2C: Regulatory Requirements – Business Structures in Ontario and Canada

Speaker: Elaine Pantel, CPA, CGA

Operating a business in Canada requires compliance with federal, provincial, and, in some cases, municipal legislation, regulations, and bylaws. This session will examine the options available to a firm in terms of legal structures, and review the various taxes that may apply to a firm including income tax and GST/HST.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the functions, features, benefits, and drawbacks of sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation in establishing an architectural practice; and
  • Describe the regulatory federal and provincial regulatory requirements for operating an architectural practice in Ontario with regard to business registration and taxation.

Elaine Pantel provides business advisory, assurance, and accounting services to a broad range of owner-managed businesses and not-for-profit organizations. She advises clients in areas including succession planning, ownership agreements, business financing, cash flow management, bench-marking, and managing business operations and compensation strategies for employees and owners.

Elaine is responsible for the firm’s marketing and business development programs and co-leads the firm’s industry specialty groups for architecture, engineering, and design (AED) and investment management firms. Elaine is the firm’s expert for not-for-profit organizations. She has written widely and spoken regularly at the firm’s industry seminars and workshops. 

Elaine is the vice-chair of the North American Board of Directors of PrimeGlobal, and is also a member of the World Board of Directors, which is focused on supporting the regions, governance, strategy, communications, member interaction, and business development.

Lesson 3: Developing a Business Model for Your Practice

Speaker: Domenic A. Meffe, B.Arch., OAA, RAIC, Assoc. AIA, OPPI

Intuition and gifted design ability may lead to a successful practice, but this is not enough for a sustainable and profitable practice. A firm’s principal must make innumerable decisions about the practice’s focus and character by determining which markets, delivering services, means, methods and resources are necessary to shape what you do in a way that the customer values your services while also being rewarding to your firm.

A firms’ focus, and character is the objective of developing a business model. Most firms have shared the same business model for delivering traditional design services for many years. Today, the architectural profession is part of an increasingly, fragmented, competitive, and complex practice environment. Although you may desire to deliver traditional services in the traditional way, it is important to understand the complexities and anticipate disruption with changing trends affecting your practice—hence the need to understand the ‘design science’ approach to developing, managing, and implementing market changes for a firm’s focus rather than reacting after the fact. This session will examine the nine components to a structured business model and how it can inform your firm’s brand, which encompasses everything from; design sensibilities, values, marketing, methodology, and even behavior of the firm’s principals.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand what a business model is, and why it’s important;
  • Learn how to develop a business model for an architectural practice using the “design science” approach;
  • Understanding the relationship between the Business Model and Branding; and
  • Considering start-up budgeting for a new practice.

Domenic Meffe brings a broad range of experience in the areas of commercial, industrial, non-profit housing, institutional, and academic design. His extensive experience: from design concepts to construction and detailing that provides in-depth real-world knowledge. This experience includes planning and development work on numerous non-profit projects, perhaps as many as 100 commercial developments, and institutional projects throughout the province, including a provincial design award in 1995.

Lesson 4A: Practice Management: Operational Systems–Finance

Speaker: Basima Roshan, MBA, CPA

The effective financial management of a firm relies on establishing a financial system and applying discipline to manage financial resources. This session will help you develop an understanding of the relationships between income and expenses and being cognizant that much of the income of a firm must be set aside for expenses.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the four components of a financial management system in an architectural practice;
  • Develop a start-up budget for a new architectural practice; and
  • Establish the “book rate” for billable hours.

Basima Roshan leads Innovia Partners’ change and transformation practice. She joined Innovia after leading complex internal projects for a Fortune-500 company that delivered enhanced capabilities and increased effectiveness and profit. Basima guides Innovia’s clients through the changes in structure, processes, and people they need to meet business and market challenges.
Currently, Basima advises several leading architectural firms and creative businesses. She also serves as interim director of finance of a large Canadian architectural practice, providing focused counsel and leadership with the goal of optimizing operational and financial performance.

Basima has a Queen’s MBA, holds a Bachelors of Commerce (Finance), and is a Chartered Public Accountant (CPA).

Lesson 4B: Practice Management: Human Resources

Speaker:  Chrystal Fifield

Building a team that aligns with the firm’s strategic plan, outsourcing opportunities, and core competencies is essential to its success. Those factors inevitably influence the selection, hiring, and training of effective employees. As an employer, you will need to understanding federal and provincial regulations pertaining to employer obligations. Other responsibilities include setting up a human resource management system, employment contracts, and office policies.

Learning Objectives

  • Establish key policies and procedures for hiring and employing staff for a new architectural practice;
  • Learn key federal and provincial regulations associated with the hiring, retention and release of staff;
  • Describe the features/conditions, benefits and drawbacks of an employment contract; and
  • Develop desirable attributes of small firm culture and methods to sustain that culture.

Upon joining DIALOG in 2012, Devon Gracey managed the day-to-day activities of the National Learning and Development Program. In 2015, Devon moved into the Human Resources role for the growing the studio from 115 to 180 people in two years, was on the implementation team for DIALOG’s revised Performance Development Program, and managed human resources functions for the Toronto studio.

Devon has experience in recruiting, labour relations, employee relations, learning and development, and benefit administration. She also completed her certification in Adult Learning and Development at the University of Toronto’s OISE, her certification in Human Resources Management from Niagara College, and her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Northeastern University.

Lesson 4C: Practice Management: IT

Speaker: Yew-Thong Leong, B.Tech.(Arch.), B.Arch., OAA, FRAIC

There are many factors associated with the selection of technology-based systems that support both practice operations and project management. Other elements to consider includes the stability and service requirements of Information Management Systems, client-server verses cloud-based systems, backup systems, as well as design and production tools.

Learning Objectives

  • List choices of hardware and software systems;
  • Develop an information gathering, organizing the distribution system for the practice.
  • Establish an acquisition plan for essential technology systems needed by a start-up practice that aligns with a firm’s strategic plan.

Yew-Thong Leong attended Ryerson University and the Pratt Institute, New York, where he studied architecture and urban design with New York Grey theorist Raimund Abraham and U.S. Main Streets guru Norman Mintz.

In practice since 1986, he has designed and managed over 150 projects personally, spanning North America to Asia and Central/South America. His past Canadian projects include the award-winning projects Sharp Center at OCAD, the Schulich School of Business at York University, the Aviva National Tennis Centre, and the Life Sciences Building at York University; he is completing a multi-phased expansion to a historically designated building.

A full-time professor at the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, and the Yeates School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson University, Yew-Thong has been concurrently teaching since 1987.
Currently a managing director of SSG Architecture Inc. and SSG Beijing, Yew-Thong has also served on numerous boards and awards juries, including the Architizer A+ Awards 2016 + 2017 (New York), the 2017 WAN Awards (London), and the International Hi-Rise Awards 2014 (Germany). He is a professional member of the Ontario Association of Architects, a Scientific Member of the IAC (Belgium), a Fellow of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada and IIAS (Germany), and was the millennium chair of the Toronto Society of Architects.

Lesson 5A: Project Management: Proposals and Fees

Speaker: Gaby Aviad, M.Arch.

Project systems include those activities of a practice that are based on the life cycle of projects. Unlike ongoing practice operating systems, such as financial management, project systems are temporary in that they come to an end and have a defined, unique outcome. Project systems include project planning, project execution, project control, and project closer. Being a project-based industry, by far the majority of a firm’s resources are invested in project activities. The two project activities to be discussed in this lesson are project-related marketing (including responding to RFPs) and estimating project resources and analyzing market forces to develop an appropriate and competitive fee.

Learning Objectives

  • Develop a response to a Request-For-Proposals (RFP) for architectural services; and
  • Develop a fee proposal for a prospective project employing a bottom-up fee estimation process and market price comparison.

Gaby Aviad combines her dual expertise in both architecture and marketing as the director of marketing at DTAH. She holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Toronto, and over a decade of experience in proposal writing, architectural presentations, award-submissions, and publications. She has worked at some of Canada’s most prominent architectural firms, such as Moriyama & Teshima and Teeple Architects.  

Gaby is ultimately responsible for bringing new work to the firm, generating, strategizing, and coordinating proposals and marketing deliverables. Her successful pursuits include buildings, landscapes, and planning projects of all scales, across multiple sectors, both nationally and internationally, with a particular focus on community, cultural and academic facilities. 

She has developed an expertise in various procurement methods, in private and publicly-tendered projects ranging from traditional RFPs for Design-Bid-Build contracts to complex, multi-phased Public-Private Partnership (P3) pursuits. 

Over the years, she has successfully curated numerous awards submissions, including Governor General’s, Holcim, OAA, Canadian Architect, CSLA, OALA, and TUDA Awards as well as spearheaded national and international publications. 

Her architectural background, coupled with her marketing and business development expertise, allows her to effectively advocate and promote the firm with both design insight and market understanding. A storyteller at heart, Gaby takes pleasure in transforming any architectural fact—even the most technical or mundane—into an interesting and thought-provoking narrative. 

Lesson 5B: Project Management: Client Agreements

Speaker: Allen Humphries, OAA Practice Advisor

From the standpoint of practice and project risk management, establishing a system for quickly developing agreements and planning projects sets a solid foundation for firm growth and sustainability.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the functions, features, benefits and drawbacks of various client-architect agreements, including Document 6, Document 600, and client-created agreements; and
  • Identify insurable and non-insurable risks on client-architect agreements.

Allen Humphries is an OAA Practice Advisor, providing a broad range of practice advisory services in support of architects and their practices. He has Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Bachelor of Architecture degrees, and an Honours Computer Programming and Systems Analysis diploma, along with a broad range of Continuing Education credits. Allen brings a wealth of experience in all facets of practice, gained over the years in small, medium and large architectural practices as well as in corporate and government environments.    

Allen has also served on a number of CSA standards committees and OAA committees. He chaired the Construction Contract Administration Committee (CCAC) and was also a Practice Committee member. Allen is involved as an Admission Course instructor (live and online), and helped with developing the CCA course components. Allen has solid knowledge of both the internal and external operations of the OAA, and has valuable industry insight.

Lesson 5C: Project Management: Project Planning

Speaker: Roberto Chiotti, BES, B.Arch., MTS, OAA, FRAIC, LEED AP

This session in project systems explores starting a project on the right foot. Generally speaking, projects that go sour have often done so within the first 30 minutes of getting the commission. This is because there is a rush to get deliverables produced and an aversion to spending time on contracts, planning, and other activities that do not, on the surface, generate billable hours.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the scope, schedule, and cost management plan of a typical building design project;
  • Develop processes of quality assurance and quality control in architectural practice design and production operations; and
  • Understand the function and features of a stakeholder engagement management plan.

Roberto Chiotti has been a licensed member of the Ontario Association of Architects since 1981. After interning with firms such as Arthur Erickson Architects and Lett Smith Architects, he joined Larkin Architect limited in 1986 as senior associate and became principal in 1994. Since then, Roberto has been responsible for marketing and business development in addition to his design and management duties. His firm’s widely published St. Gabriel’s Church is the first worship space in Canada to achieve LEED Gold Certification and is the recipient of several awards, including an international AIA/IFRAA Merit Award and the 2007 City of Toronto Green Design Award.
Roberto has mentored interns in both the RAIC Syllabus Program and the Internship in Architecture Program (IAP). He has also taught core studios and professional practice courses for Environmental Design students at OCAD University.


2020 Webinar Timetable