Utah First in the Country to Embrace Voluntary Certification for Commercial Interior Designers

Utah First in the Country to Embrace Voluntary Certification for Commercial Interior Designers

 The Utah State Legislature enacted the Commercial Interior Design Certification Act, removing significant barriers for Utah’s interior designers

Salt Lake City, Utah --- The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing is now accepting applications from interior designers who qualify for the newly enacted Commercial Interior Design Certification.

Since the early 1990’s, Utah’s interior designers have been prohibited from independently practicing to the full extent of their education and experience. This meant that an interior designer was barred from performing design work on their own in any code-impacted commercial space above 3,000 square feet.

During the 2016 legislative session, the Interior Design, Education, and Legislative coalition of Utah (IDEAL for Utah) advocated for interior design to be recognized as an independent profession and removed barriers to practice in specific commercial spaces. The Commercial Interior Design Certification is the result of collaborative efforts including representation from the design community, trade organizations, educators and students, Utah Legislature, the Women in the Economy Commission, the Disability Law Center and more. 

Commercial Interior Designers typically have a four-year degree, experience through a supervised internship, and have passed the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination; an independent, non-profit testing body nationally recognized as the industry standard examination for interior design.  Utah has several accredited interior design programs, including Weber State University and Utah State University.

Utah is the first state in the country to pass legislation for Commercial Interior Designers and has adopted certification as a less burdensome regulatory designation recommended by many in the legislature. Certification not only helps define the profession as separate from decorating, it also provides a pathway for interior designers to compete for design projects in commercial spaces that are subject to the International Building Code. Opportunities to bid on state and federal contracts will increase competition, anchor design firm expansion as contracts are won, and diversity within the professional designer workforce in commercial spaces will provide additional options for consumers.  Certification clearly defines commercial interior design from interior decorating, yet because it is voluntary, will not limit designers from working in the space.

Amy Coombs, IDEAL-UT lobbyist said, “Misconceptions abound concerning what professional interior designers do, and clearly if investigated you would quickly find out they do so much more than paint and pillows.  For example, many public buildings have interiors exclusively designed by interior designers who are trained and educated in our state universities regarding health-safety issues. These health-safety issues include applied knowledge of fire-ratings, flammable materials, Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements, egress and much more.”

To become a Certified Commercial Interior Designer individuals must submit an application found on DOPL’s website, pay a fee, provide satisfactory evidence of good moral character, and qualify and pass the NCIDQ examination. The cost to apply for the Commercial Interior Design Certification is an initial $70.00 and thereafter the renewal fee is $40.00 every two years. Certified Commercial Interior Designers are also required to complete 20 hours of continuing education for their renewal, with at least 10 continuing education credit hours dedicated exclusively to heath-safety issues.

Interior Design is a female dominated industry yet women entrepreneurs still face challenges getting fair access to capital. Only 4 percent of the total dollar value of all small business loans goes to women entrepreneurs according to a US Senate hearing on July 23, 2014, which focused on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs. Additionally, women entrepreneurs still face formidable challenges gaining equal access to federal contracts. When interior designers choose to start their own business instead of finding employment in architectural design-build firms, these small businesses are often owned by women. With the enactment of the Commercial Interior Design Certification, these small women-owned businesses will have the ability to bid on state and federal contracts within a newly defined scope of practice.

Recently, the U.S. Government made a goal to award five percent of federal contracts to women-owned businesses, yet the federal government has not been able to achieve this goal. States that take a closer look at the construction trades industry will often find opportunities to increase competition by broadening “A & E” contracts to include Commercial Interior Designers in the bidding process, all of which will assist in reaching these federal goals.  If states help in reaching that five percent goal, women-owned businesses would have access to marketplace opportunities worth at least $4 billion each year.

Developments regarding women-owned businesses include a change in federal law that gives women-owned businesses the opportunity to win sole source federal contracts. This rule makes changes to the regulations governing the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) program. Specifically, this rule implements the authority set forth in section 825 of the 2015 NDAA allowing sole-source awards to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) in appropriate circumstances.

IDEAL for Utah advocates for the interior design profession and promotes competition for state and federal design contracts, yet barriers still exist for the majority of interior designers including access to adequate capital, contract availability, and other antiquated policies. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) has developed Closing the Gap: AEO’s 2016 Policy Platform to educate policy makers on issues most important to small business and IDEAL for Utah supports this vision. In particular, IDEAL for Utah favors AEO’s efforts and values their platform when applied to the construction trades industry to specifically ensure transparency, maintain availability of aggregate lending data with respect to minorities and women for the purpose to identify gaps in lending, values and recognizes self-employment as job creation, consideration of legislative proposals that bring federal programs into the 21st century, and supports federal initiatives that invest in proven lending and counseling programs that support needs across the continuum of entrepreneurs.

Utah’s gross domestic product has grown from $106.3 billion to $152.5 billion in the last 10 years, according to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and this positive growth not only catapults the state to the top ranks of the CNBC’s 10th annual Top States ranking but highlights the innovative partnerships and climate that attracts large businesses to the state. With considerable economic development and ability to attract new business to Utah, Commercial Interior Designers are now able to collaborate and win design projects for new commercial construction spaces in B and M occupancies that accompany such growth. Utah should be proud of creating an environment that allows for its own small business sector to creatively partner with new developments in lieu of outsourcing talent because of antiquated laws preventing competitive bidding for design contracts.

IDEAL for Utah President and Principal Interior Designer at Interiors West, Melanie Bahl said, “It was an exhilarating day to see 'Certified Commercial Interior Designer' on the DOPL website.  I encourage all professionals to register with the state.  What took years to put into law takes only a few minutes to register.  I wish to encourage working interior designers and students to take the NCIDQ exam, which is the best measurement of professional practice our industry has.  Congratulations to all who took part in opening opportunities for Commercial Interior Designers.”

For questions concerning the newly enacted certification, please contact the IDEAL for Utah lobbyist, Amy Coombs at amy@prestigegov.com or contact DOPL’s Bureau manager Stephen Duncombe , whose information is available on the DOPL website.


 About IDEAL for Utah- Originally founded in 2008, IDEAL for Utah continues to advance the interior design and Commercial Interior Design profession in the state of Utah through legislation, education, and advocacy.  IDEAL is a coalition of individuals from the design industry, vendors and consumers that support IDEAL’s mission. During the 2016 legislative session IDEAL proposed a voluntary certification for Commercial Interior Design Professionals who desire to work in code-impacted environments above 3,000 square feet. This bill passed and is now an active law in Utah. To learn more about IDEAL, sign up to receive our free informative newsletter, attend an upcoming event, or send us an email. Please send questions or media requests to Amy Coombs, IDEAL for Utah’s lobbyist at amy@prestigegov.com. Please check out http://www.idealforutah.org/ for information and don’t forget to visit our membership page and join us in our mission to advance the practice of Professional Commercial Interior Design.



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  • Patty Mattos
    commented 2018-04-18 15:11:30 -0600
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