Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association AIA Continuing Education.

As an approved AIA Continuing Education Service Provider, the SMA offers AIA CES Health, Safety, Welfare Learning Units related to Stairways, Handrails, and Guards. Our AIA CES Provider Number is 50111239. Please look for additional courses in the future. To inquire about having an instructor lead a course at your company, organization, or AIA Chapter contact 

Attend the Next Session.

Earn Health, Safety, Welfare learning units through SMA courses offered during an SMA Workshop or by private booking. Design Professionals will find the registration discount code on the AIA CES course listing or may contact or call 877-500-5759.

Course Descriptions.

SMA101 – “Designing Safe, Code-Compliant, Residential Stairways”


The International Residential Building Code (IRC) is the most widely adopted model code for 1 and 2 family homes. Significant changes in the 2009 and subsequent editions of the IRC widely affect the design of stairways. Building codes applicable to Stairways, Handrails and Guards are a minimum standard of safety that can be easily exceeded providing an additional margin of safety for residential occupants and provide the aesthetic desired. Recent changes have clarified many issues previously subject to wide interpretation. Many of these changes have already been adopted by local jurisdictions or are being considered. An understanding of the intent and direction of the IRC model code and how it is applied to the design, specification and construction of stairways will be provided. This course requires completion of the AIA evaluation to receive credit and certificate of completion.

Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will be able to apply and employ the recommended critical path for compliant stairway design to any existing project.
  2. Participants will be able to distinguish between minimum safety standards and opportunities to exceed them using the IRC model code and essential elements of safe stairways.
  3. Participants will be able to identify the functions of a handrail and design/specify appropriate profiles in compliance with the IRC model code.
  4. Participants will be able to identify the significant changes occurring in the 2009, 2012, 2015 IRC model codes affecting residential stairway safety.
SMA102 – “Residential Balustrade Design and Specification Utilizing Common Stair Parts”

1.5 LU|HSW

Understanding the nomenclature and functions of the stair parts and their relationship to each other in a balustrade is critical to life safety and achieving the desired aesthetic. A balustrade can function as a guard to minimize the possibility of a fall and concurrently provide a handrail for guidance and support. Balustrades are an important safety element associated with stairways and raised walking surfaces that must meet minimum standards established in the building codes. Balustrades present a puzzle that can be solved using common industry stair parts to design code compliant Over-the-Post or Post-to-Post balustrades. This course identifies the functional elements, reviews the IRC code requirements and provides the tools to accurately design balustrades using readily available stair parts. You will learn how to specify the appropriate parts for almost any given project and produce a wide range of aesthetically appealing designs while meeting and exceeding building codes.

Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will be able to specify stair parts in both post to post and over the post guard systems in compliance with applicable codes.
  2. Participants will be able to identify handrail fittings by common industry terms and specify their use in code compliant continuous handrail systems.
  3. Participants will be able to identify the significant design characteristics of newels related to their vertical position in a stairway and specify the correct newel from available components.
  4. Participants will be able to determine the position of newels in compliance with handrail height and continuity code requirements and related exceptions, in any stairway configuration.
SMA103 – “Elements of Resilient Stair and Handrail Systems”


Why do some handrails become loose and rickety--and dangerous? Why do some stairs squeak? Is it the material? The materials in dangerous stairs are often quite resilient and exquisitely beautiful. Why do some stairs stand solid for 100-200 years without weakening and others are compromised in a few years? What was the difference in the approach to their design? The old world masters used methods we have failed to maintain in the modern world. They had stair design secrets that have largely been lost to history. Shop built stair design methods with furniture grade joinery possess elements that prevent these defects and provide superior longevity to high use staircases. You will acquire the ability to specify critical joinery, not just parts, as demonstrated in a stair shop/manufacturing setting and through presentation and classroom discussion with seasoned practitioners from the stair industry. You will learn the merits of integrating stair system design into building system design, simple methods that can render any staircase nearly permanent and how to apply the principle of "Inseparable Connection" between stair design and handrail design in future architectural practice.

Learning Objectives

  1. The participant will be able to identify and discuss 3 critical differences between a site built stair and a shop built stair.
  2. The participant will identify 6 key components and 3 critical joinery details essential to the design and construction of code compliant stair, handrail and guard systems.
  3. The participant will be able to identify the major factors that decrease staircase and handrail safe use and durability and identify the major factors that increase staircase and handrail safe use/durability after viewing installation options, parts, and connections.
  4. The participant will be able to identify and specify essential components in handrail systems and the advantages these systems provide to stairway user(s) in guidance, support and postural stabilization.

Become a Member.

Membership in the SMA is an invaluable resource that allows stair industry professionals of every type to advance their careers through networking, engaging in continuing education, keeping up with changes within the industry, and accessing new products.

Keep up to date with all of the latest code changes and design inspirations. No membership required.

Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association
PO Box 448 • Dalton, OH 44618
Toll-free US and CA (877) 500-5759

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