Estonian Association of Interior Architects seeks Building Code amendment to require certification of professional qualifications


On 7 March, the Estonian Association of Interior Architects (ESL) members gathered for a plenary session at the newly inaugurated Film Museum (interior by interior architects from the office of Ville Lausmäe, and exhibition design by Tarmo Piirmets) to discuss recent developments in the field of interior architecture. The most important discussion focused on proposed amendments to the Building Code aimed at requiring interior architecture designers working on building design projects to certify their qualifications as interior architects.

According to the Building Code currently in force, the various parts of a construction project must be signed by the lead project architect as well as by the designers of the projects for the various utility systems (including ventilation, electrical, etc.). However, the interior architect responsible for the interior architecture design project is exempt from the requirement, even though professional standards have been developed in this field as well.

Lausmäe briefed the ESL plenary on the objective of the legislative drafting working group to change over to certification of the professional competence in the construction sector, based on the practices widespread in other design development fields, and the provision of the new Estonian standard “EVS 932:2017 Ehitusprojekt” (Building design project): “A building’s interior architecture is a part of the building’s design documentation.”

“The working group is working to resolve a situation that is legally ill-defined for interior architects by making proposals to supplement the Building Code of the Republic of Estonia. The goal is to ensure quality, including safety, and to give interior architects additional rights for operating in their speciality,” said Lausmäe.

The Estonian Association of Interior Architects wishes to make interior architecture design projects an integral part of the building design project so that the actual compiler of the interior architecture project also has the right of signature. Currently, the architect holds responsibility for the interior architecture project, but in most cases, the architect is not the actual designer of that project.

“Starting in 2018, the signing of the interior architecture project has been made mandatory in legislation, but it stipulates that it must be signed by the project compiler, who is not necessarily the interior architect. At the moment, anyone has the right to execute the interior architecture project. However, in the case of projects that require a building permit, this should be done by a competent interior architect, as a number of safety issues are dealt with in the interior architecture part of a construction project that are not addressed in other parts of the building design project. We would like to ensure quality and safe spatial solutions and to allow competent interior architects to have the right to act independently in the eyes of the law. In doing so, we are also looking to establish the obligation for interior architects to certify their profession and qualifications through the Estonian qualification system,” added Lausmäe.

The legislative drafting working group’s activities pertain to the framework established by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure regulation no. 97, ”Requirements for building design projects” and primarily focuses on supplementation of the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology regulation no. 61 (previously 108), “Detailed categorization of construction areas of activity with the requirement of certifying qualification and detailed qualification requirements corresponding to these areas of activity”.

The ESL legislative drafting working group has held, in cooperation with the qualifications committee, close negotiations with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Culture and other pertinent professional associations. The outcome of the proposals to supplement the Building Code will be obligatory only for orders commissioned by local governments, although in practice, others will also proceed from it.

In parallel to the legislative drafting working group, the ESL professional standard working group led by Aili Aasoja has been dealing with the reform of the professional standard.

The professional standard for the profession of interior architect is a document that describes the work of interior architects and the competency requirements needed for successful performance of the work. The first standards for the profession of interior architect were established in 2006. In connection with the transition to an eight-level professional qualification framework, new standards were approved in 2012. In 2017, the drafting of newly updated professional standards for the profession of interior architect began. The following levels will be established in March 2018:

Interior architect, level 6
Statutory interior architect (diplomeeritud sisearhitekt), level 7
Authorized interior architect (volitatud sisearhitekt), level 7
Interior architect/expert, level 8

An education committee has also been set up at ESL. Their role is to ensure sustainability of professional education in the field. The chairman of the education committee, Eero Jürgenson, delivered a presentation on the subject at the plenary. As a result of the committee’s activity, an agreement has been reached with the Estonian Academy of Arts, the goal of which is to bring the master’s degree programme into conformity with the professional standard and to enable graduates of the master’s degree programme to receive qualification at the professional level “Statutory interior architect, level 7”.

“In 2018, the Estonian Academy of Arts and the ESL will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the interior architect’s profession. The speciality began to be taught at the higher education level in Estonia in 1928 at the predecessor of the current Estonian Academy of Arts, the Riigi Kunsttööstuskool. We are extraordinary when it comes to the school of thought in interior architecture on a Baltic and pan-European level. To ensure the survival of the interior architect’s profession and the knowledge amassed over history in this field in Estonia, we must establish a foothold in legislative drafting,” said chairman of the ESL board, Pille Lausmäe.

The plenary closed with a traditional honorary member investiture. This year’s honour went to interior architect Ülo Sirp. A grand old man of Estonian interior architecture, Sirp was born on 24 January 1927. He acquired his higher education at the Estonian State Art Institute, ERKI (the Estonian SSR State Art Institute) in 1954. Sirp’s most important works are the interior architecture for the Linnahall convention centre in Tallinn (in cooperation with Mariann Hakk) and the interior architecture for the University of Tartu library (with Linda Arike) as well as the Continuing Education Centre (Täiendkoolituse Keskus) in Tallinn on Sütiste Street. Sirp has received a number of awards, including a USSR state prize, the USSR Council of Ministers prize, the annual prize for interior design, the Saku Rural Municipality gold pin and the Estonian Order of the White Star decoration, fifth class. The ESL is an organization uniting Estonia’s professional interior architects and advocates for their interests and their rights and responsibilities. The ESL aims to develop Estonian interior architecture, contributing to the creation of an aesthetically pleasing and human-friendly living environment and enhancing the value of the interior architect’s profession in society. As of 2018, the association’s members are 209 professional interior architects and 21 supporting members. The board of the ESL comprises chair Pille Lausmäe, deputy chairs Reio Raudsepp, Loreida Hein, and members Mari Koger, Eeva Masso, Maarja Varkki and Raul Tiitus. The ESL is represented on the board of the ECIA by Tüüne-Kristin Vaikla and on the board of the international counterpart IFI by Urmo Vaikla, who this year became the first Estonian to be elected to this post. For more, see