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
As a Founding Member and Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Architects, I am excited to be the 2019 President. As the sixteenth president of the ACHA, I have some big shoes to fill, but am standing on the shoulders of many dedicated predecessors. I have been proud to be a member since the creation of the College and look forward to continuing to be a servant leader for our certificants and candidates. As we prepare to celebrate our 20th Anniversary, the College is positioned to continue to add value to leading healthcare environments around the globe. We are all ambassadors for the ACHA which is critical to grow our ranks and impact our profession like never before. The Board of Regents is committed to making the ACHA the best it can be, and I am humbled to be part of this high energy group of quality healthcare leaders from around the country.
Our Mission is “to distinguish healthcare architects through certification, experience, and rigorous standards”. We will continue to increase the visibility and value of the ACHA, and 2019 will provide us some unique opportunities around our 20th Anniversary to do just that. We have a Task Force looking at ways to commemorate that milestone as we plan for the next 20 years and beyond. We are planning to celebrate our Birthday and provide exposure for the College. Another goal for 2019 is to use our resources wisely. This is not only focused on our financial but also our human resources, which are by far our most valued resource. We will be aligning committee activities with College strategies and needs for clarity of purpose as well as well-defined goals.
The Pillars of healthcare architecture (ACHA, AIA AAH, FGI, and AAH Foundation) continue to embrace our combined impact as the key entities to creating valued healthcare environments. We will be identifying the proper Pillar to lead the efforts around certain activities and events such as education, awards, fund raising, research and others to eliminate any redundancy. I know what the College does now versus years ago is quite different, but the needs have changed and so have our initiatives and strategies. We are looking at opportunities to expand our candidate pool and ways to make the certification process better reflect the current needs of our candidates. We are looking at the possibility of engaging students in accredited healthcare architecture programs at universities across the country as well as exploring easier ways to build the required project portfolios by our candidates and will continue making the exam reflect current demands to meet our healthcare clients’ needs.
Board certifying architects as medical planners requires an ongoing rigorous effort to achieve and sustain that level of competency. The ACHA continues that commitment to have those resources available to ensure our certificate holders remain leaders in the field. We are continuing to explore opportunities to have our certification process recognized as the gold standard by other organizations. Our brand awareness continues to grow and is gaining visibility in our industry.
The practice of architecture continues to evolve, and as other organizations recognize the global opportunities to work on projects anywhere in the world, the ACHA is exploring certification in other countries and what impact that might have on international healthcare practice. As you can see, 2019 holds the promise of many ways to continue to grow and improve the ACHA. I am looking to all of you to be great ambassadors for the College, and together we will make the ACHA the best it can be!
Looking forward to continuing to work with you,
John W. Rogers, FAIA, FACHAPresident, American College of Healthcare Architects, 2019
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.