San Francisco Institute
of Architecture
A Center for Innovation in Design and Education


SFIA/Berkeley Institute
of Ecological Design

Box 2590
Alameda, CA 94501
510-523-5174 • Fax 510-523-5175











Application and Enrollment


Tuition, Related Costs, Student Loans

International Students

Course Schedule and Study Procedures


SFIA Credentials and Qualifications



Q: Who can enroll?

A: Everyone is welcome. We have students of all ages and backgrounds, on every continent. There are no entry exams, language tests, interviews, residency, or visiting requirements to enroll. Visits to our school in Berkeley, California, can be arranged if or when you are in the area.


Q: What are the steps to enroll?

A: Two steps:

1) Review the course lists, and decide which course or courses you want to enroll in first. See "Distance Learning" links on this Web site.

2) Fill out the enrollment form at the end of the course lists, and send the required information to SFIA.


Q: Are transcripts required for enrollment?

A: No. Transcripts are useful for our files, but are not required in order to enroll. Students may submit transcripts and/or work resumés, if they want to document previously education and/or work experience that might substitute for SFIA courses. Students may enroll while awaiting SFIA evaluation of their previous education and/or work experience.


Q: Are drawing, computer drawing, or math skills required, to study architecture or ecological design?

A: No. These skills will be acquired during the course of study. Higher-level math beyond simple algebra and trigonometry is not required at any point.


Q: Is a computer required?

A: No, but it is highly recommended, to expedite course work and communication with SFIA.


Q: Does SFIA have a stated policy regarding discrimination?

A: Our school does not discriminate or allow discrimination against anyone at any time for any reason.



Q: Is the SFIA Distance Learning Program accredited?

A: Not yet. We are working toward accreditation of our Distance Learning Program with specialized distance learning accreditation agencies. Our ecological design program will be accredited through a new nonprofit organization, the Berkeley Institute of Ecological Design. The Distance Learning Architecture Program is not likely to be accepted by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, but students can start with SFIA and continue later at other, accredited schools. (See below.)


Q: Can one transfer from SFIA to an accredited program elsewhere?

A: This will depend on the policy of the other school and your portfolio proof of studies. A number of our students have transferred from the SFIA on-site program to other universities with no problem. To assist in the process, SFIA will provide a transcript and letter of recommendation .



Q: What are tuition and related costs?

A: Tuition is $350 for each 3-unit Architecture Distance Learning Course and $300 for each 3-unit Ecological Design Distance Learning Course. See the links on this Web site, for the number of required courses in each degree program. At least one textbook is required for each course. The average cost through book services is $30 - $50 per book, plus shipping. (International students pay higher shipping costs.) Drafting and drawing supplies depend on your local retailers. There are no additional fees.


Q: Do students have to enroll in an entire degree program all at once?

A: No. Students may take as few or as many courses as they choose, at any time. However, students committing to and paying for a full degree program of 12 courses at time of enrollment may deduct 20% of the tuition.


Q: Can SFIA assist with student aid or loans?

A: No, but our tuition rates are very low, and you can pay course by course as you go along. If you require a student loan, you can obtain such loans from most private lending institutions if you have a qualified co-signer. (As noted above, if you pay for a full degree program at time of enrollment, you can deduct 20% of the total tuition fee.)



Q: How does SFIA work with international students?

A: As noted above, all students are welcome. There are no special tests or other requirements for international students, and visits to the United States are not required. All other requirements are the same as for domestic (United States) students.


Q: Is proficiency in English required?

A: A student must be able to read and understand the textbooks and write simple outline course work notes.


Q: Are student visas available for on-site study in the San Francisco Bay Area?

A: We cannot assist with student visas at this time.



Q: When do Distance Learning Courses start?

A: There are no starting dates for Distance Learning. Courses can be started at any time and finished at any time. All courses are completely self-paced and do not coincide with the SFIA on-site class schedules.


Q: Can other SFIA event, conference, or class credits be applied to the Distance Learning degrees?

A: Yes. If a student attends an SFIA event and writes a report on the experience, SFIA will provide appropriate academic credit.


Q: How are courses taught?

A: All courses are textbook based; studio courses also include design assignments. The student responds to each textbook chapter with a checklist summary "tell back" of the chapter content. This is an efficient method of learning, and is far more effective for retaining content than the traditional lecture/cram/exam method. Studio design and graphics work is submitted by E-mail or postal mail.


Q: Do the courses have to be taken in sequence?

A: No. You can take any courses at any time in any sequence. There are no prerequisites. The complete lists of Architecture and Ecological Design Distance Learning Courses and the required textbooks are shown on the "Distance Learning" links on this Web site.


Q: What does a student receive, to start course work?

A: Study instructions, a three-ring binder in which to keep research notes and course work, and a log to record study time. Because of high shipping costs, binders are not shipped to international students, and study instructions are E-mailed instead.


Q: Is there a syllabus to review course content in advance?

A: Since all courses are textbook based, you can find content by reviewing the books at or other on-line book dealers. Textbook titles are shown with the course lists on this Web site.


Q: How long does it take to earn a degree?

A: Since the program is self-paced, this is up to the student. The average study time for each course ranges from 36 to 48 hours, so if one were able to study 6 hours a week, the total time per course would take roughly from 6 to 8 weeks. If one could study 12 hours a week, a course could be finished in 3 to 4 weeks. Some students who have ample time to study finish a degree program in a year or less.


Q: How does faculty feedback work?

A: Our faculty responds to the first course work submittals, then adds ongoing feedback as appropriate and/or as requested by the student.


Q: How do we communicate?

A: All course work assignments and communications between SFIA faculty members and students are by E-mail and/or regular postal mail.


Q: How does SFIA grade student work?

A: The grade depends on following the instructions provided for the course. If a student follows the instructions, he or she will earn a "P" for Passing. If the work is above average, the grade will be an A or A+. (Grading is based on completing the assigned work, not on whether SFIA agrees with it ideologically or aesthetically.)


Q: Is a dual degree possible?

A: Yes. The student may apply to take a combination of architecture and ecological design courses, and propose a program of intended study to SFIA for a joint degree. This will require a full program in the major subject of study and 25% of the courses in the minor.


Q: What do students receive, to acknowlege completion of their course work?

A: Upon completion of assigned course work, the student may request a Certificate of Completion. Upon completion of a full degree program, the student will receive a diploma. Transcripts can also be requested at any time.



Q: How does one become employed in architecture or ecological design without an accredited degree?

A: Most employers look at school transcripts and how they correspond to an applicant's portfolio of work, to determine employability. Ecological design and green building are becoming extremely desirable to employers, but most schools offer very few ecological design courses. This puts our SFIA graduates in a unique position.


Q: What else should students do to prepare for employment?

A: Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CAD) training is essential. Such classes are widely available in technical schools and community colleges.

We also recommend that U.S. students become LEED-Accredited Professionals. This requires study and testing through the US Green Building Council ( Architecture offices need people to certify that buildings meet green design standards, and the U.S. Green Building Council is the preeminent organization in this realm. LEED Accreditation, however, covers only about 30% of what is needed to know green building. The rest is covered in our Ecological Design Distance Learning study program.

We recommend that international students become acquainted with the Green Globes Design system of building certification that is widely used in Canada and other nations. See



Q: What are SFIA's credentials and qualifications?

A: The Founder and Director of SFIA is Fred Stitt, Architect, and author of 18 books and 70 handbooks on all aspects of architectural practice. He taught for several years at the University of California in Berkeley, and is the author/editor of The Ecological Design Handbook, published as a textbook for design schools by McGraw-Hill, and numerous other architecture books. Fred Stitt is the recipient of the "Excellence in Education" award from a regional chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The San Francisco Institute of Architecture is also a Registered Provider of Continuing Education for the American Institute of Architects and offers over 40 distance learning architecture and ecological design courses for professional development and education. Over 5,000 architects have used SFIA's continuing education courses.

SFIA workshops are presented to architects, engineers, educators and students in all major cities of the United States. Over the years, SFIA has sponsored national and international design conferences that have had an impact on thousands of educators and professionals -- especially those working in green building design practice and education.

SFIA instructors and lecturers include dozens of well-known and world-famous architects, engineers, authors, and design and technical experts. They're listed separately at the "Roster" and "Books" links on this Web site.


Q: How/where can I get more information about SFIA and its programs?

A: See additional links at, and do a Web search for the SFIA Director, Fred A. Stitt. Send questions to or to SFIA Information Office, Box 2590, Alameda, CA 94501, USA.




Box 2590
Alameda, CA 94501


Fax 510-523-5175



SFIA Information Office
Box 2590
Alameda, CA 94501
TEL (800) 634-7779

TEL (510) 523-5174

FAX (510) 523-5175

Copyright, 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Last revised January, 2007