In general, State Law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-2-101) requires that ALL structures shall have plans prepared by design professionals registered by the State of Tennessee. See below for exceptions to this rule. For more information or to verify a license see: Tennessee Architects & Engineers
One and Two-Family Dwellings/Townhouses Exemption
One-family, two-family dwellings, townhouses and accessory outbuildings pertaining thereto; and farm buildings not designed or intended for human occupancy are projects where a registered architect or engineer is NOT required where designed in accordance with the 2018 International Residential Code.
Assembly, Educational or Institutional Occupancies
In NO case can anyone other than an architect or engineer registered in Tennessee provide design documentation with regard to A-Assembly, I-Institutional, and E-Educational occupancies:
Assembly Occupancies (A) - buildings or structures, or any portion thereof, for the gathering of persons for purposes such as civic, social, or religious functions or for recreation, food or drink consumption, or awaiting transportation, having a calculated occupant load of 50 or more persons (Calculated in accordance with 2018 IBC Section 1004-OCCUPANT LOAD). A registered design professional is required to prepare plans and specifications for this type of occupancy regardless of the size of the facility. Examples include but are not limited to: amusement park buildings, auditoriums, churches, synagogues, mosques, dance halls, coffee shops, event centers, exercise gyms, martial arts studios, motion picture theaters, museums; passenger depots, public assembly halls, public pools and restaurants.
Educational Occupancies (E) - use of a building or structure, or any portion thereof, for the gathering together of persons for the purpose of instruction. A registered design professional is required to prepare plans and specifications for this type of occupancy regardless of the size of the facility. Examples include: public and private schools; colleges; universities, academies and daycare facilities.
Institutional Occupancy (I) - A registered design professional is required to prepare plans and specifications for this type of occupancy regardless of the size of the facility:
1. Unrestrained occupancy - use of a building or structure, or any portion thereof, for the purpose of providing medical care and sleeping facilities for four or more persons who are mostly incapable of self-preservation because of physical or mental disability; examples include: hospitals, nursing homes, mental institutions (restrained and unrestrained) and nursery facilities providing full time 24- hour care for persons under six years of age.
2. Restrained occupancy - use of a building or structure, or any portion thereof, for the purpose of providing sleeping facilities for four or more persons who are confined or housed under some degree of restraint or security; examples include: jails, detention centers, correctional institutions, reformatories, pre-release centers and other residential-restrained care facilities.
Other than One and Two-Family Dwellings/Townhouses
Structures classified as "business," "factory-industrial," "hazardous," "mercantile," "residential" and "storage" occupancies, as such occupancies are defined in the 1985 edition of the Standard Building Code, which are:
1. Three or more (3) stories in height; OR
2. Greater than five thousand square feet (5,000 sq. ft.) in total gross floor area.
MUST have plans/specifications prepared by design professionals registered by the State of Tennessee.
Design Professional Exemptions
The State of Tennessee has exemptions to the general rule requiring a Registered Design Professional; The following are situations where a registered architect, engineer, or landscape architect is NOT required unless the City of Knoxville deems it necessary (IRC R106.1/IBC 107.3.4/IEBC 106.6):
Tenant finishes and tenant improvements (alterations) to a building of B, F, H, R, M, or S occupancy may be designed by a non-registrant when meeting BOTH of the following conditions:
Each separate tenant space is less than 5,000 square feet and the tenant spaces are separated from other tenant spaces by the minimum fire-rated separation required by the applicable code.
Remodeling, maintenance, or renovation of any building or structure, which does not alter the structural system, fire protection systems, or means of egress requirements.
The following exemptions apply to buildings, structures and spaces of B, F, H, R, M, or S occupancy that are 5,000 square feet or greater in total gross area or greater than two stories in height:
Existing Interior Space. Normal maintenance or remodeling of existing interior space in an existing building where the occupancy or floor plan do not change but upgrades are needed, such as, remove and replacing finishes (wall, floor, ceiling, where these are not a part of a required fire-rated assembly), change light bulbs or filters, and rearrange prefabricated partitions.
Mechanical Design. 1. The design of a mechanical system for a building or structure of B, F, H, R, M, or S occupancy, and a temporary structure, wherein the HVAC system developed is not more than a total of 12.5-ton capacity and not more than a total of 500,000 BTU of heating per hour output. 2. Normal maintenance or replacement of defective mechanical equipment with like and kind equipment of the same size may be accomplished by contractors licensed in their respective trades.
Plumbing Design. Minor plumbing upgrades and additions up to the equivalent of three (3) fixture unit values, which do not require any change to the capacity of any waste, vent or supply system.
Electrical Design. Minor electrical additions, such as receptacles, lighting, or other circuits, not to exceed 20 amperes, may be designed without the benefit of a registrant, if the additional circuits do not require additional distribution panel(s) and/or the need for upgrading, resizing, or enlarging branch circuits and main feeders or the design of electrical installations of less than eight hundred (800) amperes.
Roof Alteration or Repair. Normal maintenance or repair of an existing roof where the weight, drainage, fire protection, and other code-related requirements of the original design are not changed or compromised; A registered architect or engineer is NOT required unless The City of Knoxville deems it necessary (IBC 107.3.4/IEBC 106.6).
A qualified registrant is REQUIRED for roof replacements or reroofs of all buildings of 5,000 square feet or more or greater than two stories in height. When a roof is replaced, structural loads during and after installation can change, energy requirements may be affected, drainage conditions can change, etc.
Landscape design drawings are required to be prepared and sealed by a State of TN registrant when:
Associated with new and existing construction of buildings of 5,000 square feet or more or greater than two stories.
For non-building/landscape-related projects where site improvements are 5,000 square feet or more in area, a registrant is required.
When sealed drawings are necessary, a registrant other than a Landscape Architect may prepare and seal landscape design drawings provided they are qualified by education or experience. The building official should not be called upon to judge competence but, if at any time he or she is confronted with the suspicion of incompetence, a registered Landscape Architect will be required. In addition, under Tennessee law, a registrant may not take over, review, revise, or place his or her seal on plans and specifications begun by other persons (landscape company/horticulturist/landscape designer). A registrant may seal only work that he or she has prepared or which has been prepared under his or her responsible charge.
Signs that exceed either of the following limits MUST have plans/specifications prepared by design professionals registered by the State of Tennessee:
(i) Any portion of the sign is twenty feet (20') or more above the ground level; or
(ii) Any portion of the sign is fifteen feet (15') or more above the ground level if the sign has more than one hundred twenty square feet (120 sq. ft.) in total sign face area.
Professional registration imposes on the registrant an obligation to protect the safety, health, and welfare of the public and to render competent service. A primary part of that obligation is the recognition on the part of the registrant of the limit of the registrant's professional competence and the voluntary limitation of professional assignments to activities for which the registrant is qualified by education or experience. The "Rules of Professional Conduct," which carry the enforcement of law, specify the proper conduct of practice (or title in the case of registered interior designers), service in areas of competence, the need for objectivity and truth in public statements, the avoidance of conflicts of interest and improper acceptance of work, and misconduct in practice.
Tennessee Architecture Reference Manual
The State of Tennessee has produced a handy reference manual: TN Architecture Reference Manual