Toward 5600: Line of Site

The latest in a recurring series on earning Supplemental Experience toward the minimum 5,600 hours required to complete IDP.

The Intern Development Program has very noble goals — it aims to produce competent architects by exposing interns to all aspects of practice.  The ideal internship promoted by NCARB through the Experience Areas, however, is not always that easy to come by.  The reason is, quite simply, that architecture is a business, and businesses need to be profitable — assigning two people to perform the same task, which is an ideal training opportunity, doesn’t always make the most business sense.  The profitability of the firm and the development of the intern can be somewhat mutually exclusive to one another.

building tourThis can be most apparent when it comes to visiting construction sites.  It’s a natural phase shift in our basic services to go from documentation to construction administration — and with that shift comes weekly job conferences and site visits.  In theory, there are ample opportunities to visit the project while it is under construction and see, firsthand, how the vision, defined by the architect’s documents, become reality.  In actual practice, however, the project’s budget might not support two staff members attending the job conference, especially for a building with a signifiantly-lengthy construction period (where the architect’s stipulated fee needs to be stretched over several years’ worth of meetings).  The end result is that the more experienced professionals end up flying solo, and the interns often aren’t able to visit the construction site on a regular basis — if at all.

Building tours (also known as “hard hat tours” for the personal safety equipment that is usually required) are a great way to start to fill in these gaps.  They are also a great way to expose yourself to different building types, other than the ones that your office typically performs.  Interns can earn up to 40 Core Hours toward Construction Phase: Observation by participating in a Site Visit with a Mentor.

Yes, earning Supplemental Experience in this category requires a mentor, but that can be as simple as having the architect leading the tour sign off on your time.  That’s right — as long as there’s an RA on the tour with you, and that individual is willing to act as a mentor by approving your experience report, you can earn IDP credit for this activity.  This is where the concept of having many mentors comes into play; a mentor can be someone that you meet monthly for coffee, or someone that helps you out on one selected occasion.  Chances are you may never see that individual again, but that one additional credit will be well worth your time.


There’s a high liklihood that your local AIA chapter (or a companion organization like the Master Builders, or the Green Building Alliance) may already be organizing tours such as this on a semi-regular basis.  These will likely be after-work events, meaning that this time will be above and beyond those 47 working weeks.  If you’re able to participate in four tours in a calendar year, that’s another half-day’s worth of time — in one of the more difficult credit areas — toward your IDP.