The goal of the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA or "the College") is to transform health care through better built environments. To that end, ACHA provides board certification to architects in the United States and Canada who specialize in health care. The certification process is rigorous and overseen by an independent testing agency, in order to establish a professionally sound, legally defensible standard by which people can identify themselves as health care architects.
The tagline of the College is Experienced, Certified, Preferred, but what does that mean and how it that relevant to the C-Suite, the industry, and most importantly, the patients?
The College is comprised of certified healthcare architects with a deep knowledge of design and the impact on the healthcare community. According to a survey of its certificants in 2014, the College found:
- ACHA certified architects have 28.7 years of healthcare design experience.
- Nearly 90% of all ACHA certified architects focus primarily on healthcare design.
- ACHA certified architects have published an article or a book on a healthcare topic an average of 4.5 times.
- ACHA certified architects have presented a topic at a healthcare conference or similar event an average of 8.7 times.
The first step in certification is having that experience reviewed by an independent body of peers who carefully examine the portfolio submitted by a candidate. Once the level of required experience is confirmed, the candidate is approved to sit for the examination.
To preserve the integrity of the testing process, it continues to be overseen by an independent, third-party testing company. Questions are developed by the ACHA exam committee, which is chaired by an ACHA certified architect and appointed by the College's board of regents. These questions are reviewed for clarity and properly framed with input from the testing firm. This process ensures questions cover the needed material, are not ambiguously worded and conform to scientifically appropriate models for examining candidates. Because test takers must be licensed architects, the exam is geared towards topics related specifically to health care projects, as opposed to architectural domains already covered by architectural licensure organizations. Unlike many other certifications, the ACHA examination is based on experience and much of the content cannot be studied.
The certification exam is divided into four major sections with questions falling into the categories of analysis, application and recall. The first section covers the forces that drive the business of health care, including economics, regulation and reimbursement, health care models and technology. The second section is about pre-design, with questions regarding programming and master planning. The third section, on design, has questions about facility design, departmental design and detailed design, like coordinating equipment layouts, requirements and manufacturer specifications or developing room data to align with patient and staff safety, experience and privacy needs. The final section covers delivery and implementation, with questions about contracts; construction documents; reviewing owner-provided fixed medical equipment and technologies for coordination with contract documents; assisting the owner with approval, licensing and certificate of occupancy processes; and post-occupancy evaluation and research. Each item on the test is linked to a specific health care setting: general, acute care, post-acute care, outpatient care or behavioral and mental health care.
The entire certification process is designed to recognize the expertise of architects who have substantial experience in all aspects of health care architecture projects. Architects who earn the ACHA credential have had their health care experience and knowledge independently evaluated and approved through the application, portfolio and testing process. It's a stamp of approval that differentiates architects with specialized health care skills for their clients, employers and colleagues.
While there are many highly qualified and experienced healthcare architects in the industry, some discerning industry leaders are more comfortable going with an ACHA architect who has been through the rigorous certification process. The College encourages professionals with this specialty to do the same, whether emerging professionals or icons in the field.
Message from the President
Coming of Age
It began in 1999 as a visionary group of seven who had quickly organized a group of 50 highly respected architects specializing in health facilities to birth the ACHA stroke of midnight at the turn of the millennium. In 2018, that number will surpass 500 architects who have demonstrated to an independent board that their experiences, knowledge, and skills have crossed a well-defined threshold of excellence in our profession. While steady numerical growth is one measure of an elite organization’s success, it only symbolizes the unique value of the larger whole. In recent years the Board had rediscovered its value as simply a distinction among peers.
Your ACHA Board of Regents drilled into what this value means to four groups: to the certified, to young practitioners, to healthcare architects outside of North America, and to other allied organizations. That deliberate choice to not simply maintain a certification process because it is good enough, but to proactively develop it and the people with whom we engage will multiply its value.
To those that are certified we say: The value IS certification. To young practitioners: we know where you live, and will be seeking you out. To healthcare architects practicing outside of the U.S.: we are investigating an infrastructure to consider your experience, knowledge, and skills. To other allied organizations: we are directly asking how we can add our influence to advance your missions.
As the College begins to close its second decade and assert its maturity by leading on a global stage, now is a very exciting time to be part of our College. When the College began, the founders were selected based on their leadership within the profession. The first exam FAIA, FACHA hadn’t even been written yet – they simply led. The College is reaching a generational shift. The Board is now comprised of more Regents that had submitted to the current certification process than were among the 50 original founding certificants – a phenomenon that mirrors the College as a whole. Let us continue to demonstrate our leadership as those original seven founders did. As they had developed and hoisted us upon their shoulders, we must ask who we will actively develop to stand atop of ours.
William J. Hercules, FAIA, FACHA
President, American College of Healthcare Architects, 2018
Become a Certified Healthcare Architect
We appreciate your interest in the American College of Healthcare Architects. If you, or someone you know is qualified, the Regents invite submission of an application. Learn about the ACHA application process.