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He Designed Billion-Dollar Buildings, but the Government Wouldn't Let Him Work

July 27, 2020

July 27, 2020
By Mark Flatten

Erskine Gosling is about the last person who should have trouble getting his license as an architect in Arizona.

He’s been doing the job for more than 30 years, designing billion-dollar hospitals and other projects for the federal government. He’s already licensed in multiple states, brings impeccable references and has been living in Arizona for the past seven years.

Beyond that, he doesn’t even plan to use his architect’s license to design projects for other people.

But bureaucracies being what they are, Gosling faced daunting piles of red tape and expense when he decided to get an Arizona architect’s license so he could design his own home, utilizing his expertise in creating energy-sustainable facilities.

He’d already spent the better part of a year navigating the state’s standard process for getting licensed in Arizona. He was about ready to give up when a new law took effect in August that streamlines the process for credentialing those already licensed in another state.

The new law says that a person licensed in another state for at least a year without any disciplinary actions qualifies for an equivalent license in Arizona. Suddenly, the process that had dragged on for months under the old licensing law broke loose, and within a few weeks his license was approved.

“It was difficult, and then they passed that law, and it made it a much easier process for me,” Gosling said. “It became easy, which was perfect because I had almost given up on even getting a license. It just wasn’t worth the expense to me to spend a couple thousand dollars on a license when I’m retiring in a couple years and I’m not practicing for the public.”

Gosling, 64, was first licensed as an architect in New York 31 years ago. A year later, he moved to New Mexico and was licensed there. He’s maintained the New Mexico license since, but allowed his New York license to go to inactive status.

Gosling works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he designs and reviews massive federal projects such as hospitals for the Department of Veterans Affairs. As an architect in federal employ, Gosling is required to hold at least one state license. However, when he moves from state to state, he is not required to get a new license in the new state. So when he came to the Phoenix area seven years ago, he didn’t bother getting an Arizona license because he didn’t need one to do his job.

Gosling decided to get his Arizona architect’s license about a year ago, largely so he could design his own home and maybe, after he retires in a few years, to volunteer his services to a nonprofit such as those that build homes for low-income families.

At the time, he basically had two avenues to do that. As a longstanding member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), something of a national accrediting entity for architects, he could go through that organization to get approval through reciprocity in Arizona. Reciprocity is a process by which one state will recognize the license of another, but it often comes with additional requirements and restrictions. Going through NCARB also would have cost several thousand dollars, and it wouldn’t have been worth the expense, Gosling said.

The other route was to apply for a standard license to the Arizona Board of Technical Registration, which Gosling did. The process was less expensive but also slow and cumbersome, requiring mounds of paperwork that included such things as references from New York, where he’d not held an active license for more than three decades.

“I’m doing billion dollar projects. I’m more than qualified for it,” he said of his frustration under the old rules, which still apply for people who do not qualify under Arizona’s universal recognition law. “It was a little absurd for me personally.

“I was a little in disbelief that the state of Arizona was going to make it so hard for me, as an NCARB-certified architect working for the federal government, and I’m not competing with the private sector.”

Then Gosling was notified that the new law had taken effect in late August and everything changed. He had to file a new application seeking licensure under the universal recognition law, but it involved the same paperwork he’d already submitted for his standard application. His license was approved less than a month after the new application was filed.

“That was a snap,” he said. “It became a snap, and I was very pleased with that. I’m at the point in my career where I’m not going to drive myself nuts over chasing another license.
“It’s a really great thing. There’s probably a bunch of guys like me that are up toward the end of their careers or have retired who may want to dabble.”

Click here to read more of the story in 1,000+ Arizonans Get Freedom to Work under State’s New Universal Recognition Law.

Mark Flatten is the National Investigative Journalist at the Goldwater Institute.



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