Every five years, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the agency that accredits American professional degree programs in architecture, reviews its "Conditions for Accreditation." This document mandates the NAAB's expectations of architectural schools and provides the framework for school visits by reviewers.

As the cycle falls, those conditions are now under review. During an Oct. 22–23 gathering in Tucson, Ariz., the NAAB and six collateral organizations—the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Architecture Students, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, the Canadian Architectural Certification Board, and the National Organization of Minority Architects—reviewed a draft of what will become the new conditions document.

"The measures we engage are divided into two groups," says NAAB executive director Andrea Rutledge. "We discussed student performance criteria—or what students should know and how we should know they know it—and institutional measures, such as human resources, information resources, and technology."

The group developed 34 student-performance criteria. "Not all of these criteria are created equal," notes Rutledge, "so they need to be grouped together to have meaning. Some themes that emerged were stewardship and responsibility with the environment, leadership, collaboration, and inter- and cross-disciplinary studies."

The NAAB hopes to change the accreditation process, moving from a strictly curricular focus toward a more comprehensive and holistic model, so that architectural learning reflects the profession's broadening role. "The Arizona meeting was not a stand-alone occurrence," Rutledge says. "It was part of a process that has been going on for two years. We've been doing a lot of research."

After producing four new accreditation models, resulting from widespread input from the collateral organizations, the NAAB reviewed them, merging them into a collective draft known as the "fusion model." After making the draft available for public comment in September, the draft was re-edited and expanded by the NAAB. It was this document that was discussed in Tucson. After the NAAB board of directors reviews the proposed conditions, the draft will be open for comment from March through June 2009 before the NAAB finally approves it next July.

"It's important to understand that school visits won't be affected by these changes until 2011," Rutledge explains. "Schools with 2010 visits won't have to scramble to prepare for these revisions. Part of the process is to help programs understand what the changes will look like."

Responding to another change in architectural practice—its increasingly global reach—the NAAB recently joined several international accreditation agencies in recognizing each other's programs. In April 2008, at a summit in Canberra, Australia, the NAAB signed an agreement with organizations from Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, and Mexico, establishing "substantial equivalency" between their respective programs. Architecture degrees granted after Jan. 1, 2010, will be accommodated under this new agreement.