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Seals and Sealing

SEAL REQUIREMENTS

Ohio, like most jurisdictions, requires all architects to affix a seal to all of their architectural designs. The seal, or stamp, is the way of signifying to the public and to building officials that the architectural document has been prepared by, or under the direct supervision of, a licensed architect, thereby assuring that the person preparing or supervising the preparation of the document has met minimum qualifications for licensure and agrees to be held accountable for their practice by the Board.

All architectural work must be sealed by the architect, even residential work that is not required to be submitted by an architect for plan approval. The architect's seal should be affixed below the architect's printed name, license number, and expiration date of the architect's license, and an ink or electronic signature, to the title or first sheet of bound sets of drawings, to the title page of bound specifications and to other drawings and contract documents required for official filing with building departments for permitting purposes. The Board's laws no longer require each page of the document to be sealed, although building departments may still make this requirement.

Seal Design

Ohio architects may use a metal embossing seal, a rubber stamp seal, or other reproducible facsimile (e.g., electronic seal). The Board does not provide these seals. Architects may order the seals or stamps from any vendor they choose, so long as they comply with the following requirements: 

  • The seal shall be circular in shape and two inches in diameter.
  • Concentric with the outside of the seal there shall be a circle one and three-eights inches in diameter.
  • The words "State of Ohio" at the top between two knurled circles and the words "Registered Architect" or "Landscape Architect" in a like position at the bottom.
  • The individual's name shall be placed horizontally in the circular field accompanied by the certificate number.

Sample of required seal

                           Architect Seal                                          

                   

Electronic Seals

The Ohio Board allows for electronic seals and signatures in lieu of physical seals and ink or "wet" signatures. Electronic seals and signatures must meet the following criteria:

  • It is a unique identification of the professional;
  • It is verifiable;
  • It is under the professional's direct and sole control;
  • It is linked to the document in such a manner that changes are readily determined and visually displayed if any data contained in the document file was changed subsequent to the electronic seal and signature having been affixed to the document;
  • Once the electronic seal and signature is applied to the document, the document shall be not be able to be edited, except by the building official reviewing the electronically transmitted plans; 
  • (6) The graphic image of the electronic seal and signature shall contain the same wording as and shall have substantially the same graphic appearance and size as required of physical seals.
  • The electronic or digital signature must be an electronic authentication process attached to or logically associated with the document. The digital signature must be unique to, and under the sole control of the person using it; it must also be capable of verification and linked to a document in such a manner that the digital signature is invalidated if any data on the document is altered. OAC 4703-3-01.

Please bear in mind that while the Board allows for electronic seals and signatures, building departments are not required to accept electronically sealed plans, and may continue to require wet signatures and embossed seals. Check with the local building department to see if they are capable of accepting electronic documents and what types of seals are accepted.

Seal Violations

Only the architect who prepared the designs, or who actively supervised the designs, can seal the plans. Ohio law always requires that the individual sealing the documents have a written contract with the client for services; possess direct professional knowledge and direct supervisory control of the designs from inception to completion before applying their seal.

Architects cannot seal plans prepared by another person  even if they make a complete, comprehensive review and agree to take responsibility. This is considered "plan stamping," or aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of architecture. Architects also cannot, as a general rule, seal manufacturer's cut sheets, equipment or shop drawings, or HVAC hood drawings prepared by others. If the licensee did not prepare, design, create or author the work, it should not be sealed.

The only exception to this rule is the sealing of plans designed by another licensed architect. The sealing architect must have a contract with the client for the project, must have obtained written permission from the originating, licensed architect for the use of the drawings, and must make a complete, comprehensive review of the drawings. The drawings should reflect the title block of the individual sealing the documents. If the original architect is deceased, written permission must be granted by the estate.