The American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA) seeks to distinguish health care architects through certification, experience and rigorous standards. The process of certification is designed to emphasize experience in health care design.

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To be eligible to sit for the ACHA exam, an individual must be a licensed architect in good standing with a minimum of three years’ experience working in a U.S. state or Canadian province. Applicants must demonstrate 6,000 hours of health care experience within the past five years.

Those who meet these licensure and experience requirements can enter the ACHA candidate program and receive select ACHA communications and mentorship from current certificants as well as participate in certain ACHA committees. Architects in the candidate program have five years to complete the certification process and pass the exam.

The next step of the process is to submit an application and portfolio. The application must include six letters of recommendation: three from architects outside the firm in which the candidate is employed and three from health care clients. The portfolio must include images or plans from three to nine health care projects from the past five years that demonstrate health facility design competence.

Once a candidate’s application, portfolio and letters of recommendation are reviewed and accepted by an independent panel of ACHA certification committee members and the required fees are paid, the candidate is notified that he or she is eligible to take the exam. Candidates determined to be ineligible for the exam, based on a review of their applications and portfolios, are refunded their exam fees.

The period of eligibility is three years. During this period, candidates who fail the exam may retake it without having to reapply. Candidates who pass the exam receive certification and 20 American Institute of Architects learning units from the ACHA. To maintain certification, certificate-holders must complete 18 learning unit hours each year, 12 of which must be specific to health care.