Advocacy Town Hall: a mid-session zoom update

Ever wondered about the purpose and function of the Advocacy Advisory Council, or the Joint Legislative Committee? And how, or if, those concern the AIA Virginia Political Action Committee? And how do those elements coordinate with other components of our organization? Or with the members?

An overview of our advocacy efforts at both the state and federal level will be offered during a Zoom town hall on Friday 16 February 2024 between 3 and 4 pm – a date that happens to coincide nicely with “Crossover” at the Virginia General Assembly.

We will provide an up-to-the-minute update on the bills we are tracking in the Virginia General Assembly. And an overview of the issues we intend to address during our “Hill Day” visit to the Capitol in DC during the AIA Leadership Summit on Wednesday 28 February 2024. I hope you will join us for this discussion.

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2022 Political Outlook in Virginia

On January 12th, the Virginia General Assembly gaveled into the 2022 session. In even-numbered years, the General Assembly convenes for a “long session” which is 60 days as prescribed by the Constitution. The COVID-19 pandemic still looms, but legislative business will be conducted in person with protective protocols.

A year ago, Democrats controlled both chambers and the Governor’s mansion making significant advancements in their legislative agenda without any legitimate opposition. However, the November elections cast a new narrative for this year. Republicans flipped the House of Delegates, commanding a 52-48 majority, and swept all three statewide offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General). Democrats still hold a narrow 21-19 majority in the Senate. However, all it takes is one Democrat to break ranks and the scales tilt the other way with a Republican Lieutenant Governor casting tie-breaking votes.

Please note the following key dates of the session:

  • January 12 – General Assembly session convenes
  • January 21 – Bill cut-off (last day to introduce bills and certain joint resolutions)
  • February 15 – Bill crossover (last day for each house to act on its own legislation)
  • March 12 – Session adjourns sine die
  • April 11 – Last day for Governor’s action on legislation
  • April 27 – Reconvened session

AIA Virginia’s Legislative Priorities

AIA Virginia will be introducing HB 429 carried by Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax) which drastically simplifies the Virginia Public Procurement Act regarding architectural and engineering term contracts. The bill provides that the sum of all projects performed in an architectural and professional engineering contract term shall not exceed $10 million, and the fee for any single project shall not exceed $2.5 million. In addition, the bill allows a contract for multiple architectural or professional engineering projects to be renewable for up to three additional terms at the option of the public body. Currently, there are numerous project and fee limits based on locality population size, type of work, and a host of other factors. The companion to this bill is SB 225 carried by Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Woodbridge).

In addition, we have played a strong supporting role in the legislature’s bipartisan Commission on School Construction and Modernization. Several of the Commission’s recommendations are being presented as bills in which we will be prepared to lend our support as needed. Finally, as a follow-up to our inaugural ARCHITECTS Speak Up! event last year, we will be following legislation related to the program’s key topics of Design of Healthy and Safe Schools; Energy Efficiency and Sustainability in the Built Environment; and the Design of Affordable Housing.

Please support our advocacy efforts by investing in our PAC at Virginia American Institute of Architects PAC.  We can’t do the great work we are doing without your support.

Architects Speak Up!

During the development of the current strategic plan, there was an overwhelming agreement that there should be a concerted effort made to invest and develop future generations of leaders for service for the AIA and the community. As such, the plan sought to launch a Virginia event that provides advocacy training and connects members with state legislators. Advocacy means taking the steps to make a difference. Good advocates organize themselves to take steps to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. As architects, we engage in advocacy regularly during our practice, sometimes we do not even know when we are doing it.

Therefore, we want your participation in AIA Virginia’s first ever ARCHITECTS SPEAK UP! event. Sign up below the recorded training sessions.

Advocacy Training Sessions

Were you unable to join us for the training sessions? Check out the recordings below.

Get to Know Your Legislator
Visit to input your home or firm address to find and get to know your State Senator and State Delegate.

If you are not able to participate in ARCHITECTS SPEAK UP! that is OK. There are other ways you can support AIA Virginia’s legislative objectives. We are embarking on building up our PAC for 2021 and we really could use your help and financial support in closing our fundraising gap for Q1. Can you invest today?

What Advocacy Means to Me

Jeremy Maloney, AIA

As architects, we have an inherent social mission to better the world, but it takes more than design to elevate the profession. Investing in the AIAVA PAC is an opportunity to empower our leaders, increase awareness, encourage growth, and ensure that all our voices are equally valued, appreciated, and heard. It is this faithful and honest support of our advocates that will promote, preserve, and increase the vitality of our profession.
Do more; support our advocates! Donate to the PAC.

Jeremy S Maloney, AIA, NCARB, SEED
Architect, President
Altruistic Design

Architects as Leaders

The AIA Virginia board issued a statement of our unwavering principles and values as we closed out 2016. Our beliefs and values are enduring guidance that shapes our actions and we, as architects, continue to be guided by these principals.

  • The value of non-partisan unity.
  • The responsibility to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • The urgency of sustainable design.
  • The necessity of livable communities.
  • The obligation for civil exchange.

2017 AIA President Bill Brown, AIA

Architects must “speak up” and be engaged in the public discourse that shapes our society, communities, and neighborhoods. “Citizen Architect” usually is imagined as an architect that serves in an elected position or volunteers on a public board but can also be imaged as being individually involved in the public dialogue that influences decision making.

AIA Virginia advocates on behalf of our members in the legislative process and needs to have a place at the table when legislation is discussed that affects our communities and practice of architecture in the Commonwealth. Through the efforts of our legislative advocacy, we have developed relationships with a wide range of legislators from both sides of the isle that have reveled track records of which legislators are in alignment with our support or opposition of proposed bills that affect our profession. Architects need to support those legislators that can continue these efforts and we can only do that through the AIA Virginia PAC. Contributions to incumbents up for reelection are the way that we can show our continuing support of their efforts. Know that your AIA dues do not and cannot support these PAC efforts and only by supporting the PAC can we be heard. This year all 100 House seats and three statewide offices are up for election. Please contribute today

The Grassroots leadership conference is happening now in D.C. and architects from around the country will be making Hill visits to deliver the AIA national legislative agenda. The conference emphasizes component leadership and workshops designed to help component officers become more effective chapter and civic leaders. Members are given the opportunity to provide input on AIA initiatives, share information and ideas, and best practices with their counterparts from around the country.  In addition to the regular programs devoted to building stronger component leaders, this year’s event will introduce attendees to the role of architects in shaping lives through design.

You can review the Issues Brief linked here;

Issue brief – Support federal sustainability goals
Issue brief – Support the preservation of historic buildings and spaces
Issue brief – Investing in our nation’s infrastructure
Issue brief – Help young architects serve their communities
Issue brief – Reform procurement laws that inhibit good design
Issue brief – Help communities prepare for natural disasters
Issue brief – Promote a comprehensive, fair, pro-growth tax code

I hope to see you at Grassroots, in Washington DC, and A’17, the architecture & design event of the year in Orlando FL. Take time to reach out to your representatives, either local or national, and offer your opinions and expertise as architects who have unique understandings and perspectives on the qualities we want to see in society, communities, and neighborhoods.

Bill Brown, AIA
2017 AIA Virginia President

President’s Report To The Membership

Greetings Colleagues,

We are pleased to report on the activities of AIA Virginia for the first quarter of 2016. Truly, it has been a memorable quarter with excellent efforts on many fronts for the benefit of our members.

Nick Vlattas, AIA
Nick Vlattas, AIA
2016 President, AIA Virginia

We tipped off April in fine fashion with DESIGN FORUM XII held at the Slover Library in Norfolk designed by the partnership of Newman Architects and Tymoff + Moss Architects which provided an inspirational setting. It was a rainy weekend in Norfolk, but it did not dampen the spirits of the 160 in attendance and it kept us focused on our theme, TRANSFORMATION: The Turning Point, and the issues of sea level rise and resilient design.

Dr. Z Smith, AIA, Principal and Director of Sustainability and Building Performance at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, winner of the 2014 AIA Firm Award served as our dynamic moderator, orchestrating DESIGN FORUM XII which included keynote presentations by Jason Long of OMA in New York, Anne Fougeron, FAIA, of Fougeron Architecture in San Francisco, Archie Lee Coates, IV, of PlayLab Inc. in New York, and Stephen Kieran, FAIA, of Kieran Timberlake in Philadelphia.

Jason Long presented many examples of connecting the virtual world to the actual world while Anne Fougeron, FAIA, made the connection of architect as artisan and activist. Archie Coates spoke from his heart on inspirations that change our lives, while Stephen Kieran, FAIA, in “Power of Tens” style, opened our eyes to sea level rise in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and challenged us on what we were going to do about it in our own practices.

In addition to the four keynotes, we were welcomed by Christine Morris, Chief Resiliency Officer of the City of Norfolk, who told us about the $120,000,000 resilience grant for Hampton Roads from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We were also treated to four DESIGN FORUM TALK XII’s by Mel Price and Thom White of Work Program Architects in Norfolk on “Living at Sea Level”; Thomas Quattlebaum of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the new Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach on the building as an experiment in net zero sustainability; AIA Virginia’s Emerging Leaders Class of 2015 presentation on the “Porous City”; and Jackie Parks’ presentation on Parklets in Norfolk. It was wonderful to see the engagement of our Emerging Leaders in Architecture at DESIGN FORUM XII. I hope you will continue to encourage the participation of our Emerging Professionals in AIA programs at the local, state or national level for the future of our profession.

Thank you to the Design Committee chaired by Camilo Bearman, AIA who planned an outstanding event and our many sponsors who helped to make it possible. In addition, our AIA staff including Education Manager Marshall Dreiling, Special Projects Manager Rebecca Lonadier, Managing Director Rhea George, and Executive Vice President Helene Dreiling, FAIA, deserve special recognition for working tirelessly before and during the event to ensure the success of the Forum. It is also worthy to mention Jim Ritter, FAIA, Bob Steele, AIA, and Greg Hunt, FAIA, who inspired the creation of DESIGN FORUM I in 1994, at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, the tradition of which has continued as AIA Virginia’s premier biennial conference on architecture and design in the Commonwealth.

See photos from Design Forum XII.

Leadership from AIA Virginia and local components attended AIA Grassroots 2016 along with approximately 625 other leaders of the American Institute of Architects from around the country, February 23-25, in Detroit. This was truly an inspiring and motivational event to learn and collaborate with other AIA components and leaders.

AIA Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Ivy, FAIA unveiled the next video in the #ilookup media campaign, “Look Up to America’s Future”, to air primarily during election coverage on major cable news networks to promote the value of architects to the public. More information on the campaign can be found at

A keynote panel which included architects, educators, and elected leaders who participated in the rebuilding of cities such as Detroit, Tampa, Birmingham, and Seattle was very informative on the impact architects can have on the quality of our cities when they are able to collaborate with civic leaders.

In his opening keynote, entrepreneur and author Josh Linkner shared the story of the decline and renaissance of Detroit and motivated us to rekindle our spirits. He gave us five big ideas to take home from Detroit which included: “get curious, crave what’s next, defy tradition, get scrappy, and adapt fast.” Josh challenged the audience: “I want you to recapture the reasons you got into this business in the first place: to rise to challenges, make an impact on your community, and build terrific organizations.”

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm delivered one of the most memorable keynotes which I have ever heard to close out the conference. She opened by outlining trends in politics, the work force, and smart buildings and made four predictions: (1) Forget the Feds, Congress isn’t working; (2) A new Federalism will come in which State and Local governments will drive policy and education will race to the top; (3) Policy will be focused on jobs and the economy; (4) Political consensus will revolve around funding for infrastructure. During a brief interlude, the Governor shared the Super Bowl Commercial from 2012, “Halftime in America”, about the downturn and the comeback in Detroit. She then shared the tragic story of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which led to her call for “Help Wanted! What can architects do to lead the way in encouraging, in rising from the ashes, and in rebuilding the hardest hit?”

The General Assembly began its 60-day legislative session on the second Wednesday of January. Thank you to our Government Advocacy Advisory Council led by Tim Colley, AIA, and staff liaison and Managing Director Rhea George for monitoring bills and working with our lobbyists on bills of interest to our members. A detailed report on the session is included in this newsletter.

It was clear at AIA GRASSROOTS in Detroit and DESIGN FORUM XII in Norfolk, that architects make a difference in our community. We need to continue to up our game to bring the perspectives of architects to the decision makers in our community. In this election year, it is even more important. Our policy makers and politicians are stewards of our built infrastructure, but most of them are not expects in design and planning. They need your advice. I am begging you to get involved: volunteer for a campaign, speak with your legislators, serve your community on a board or council, and please reach in your pockets and contribute to the AIA Virginia Political Action Committee. PAC money doesn’t buy influence, but it does help us gain access to legislators, so we can educate them on issues that are important to us and important to our communities. We don’t get resilient, sustainable, healthy cities without a strong advocacy program and strong advocates like the architects in Virginia. We have over two thousand members in AIA Virginia. Please consider giving to AIA Virginia PAC (, even if it is a small amount, many voices will help us be heard by our legislators.

In the months ahead we look forward to continued advancement on our Strategic Plan and the principles of the Virginia Accord which include commitments to job creation and a growing and thriving economy, to constructing environmentally sustainable buildings, to public health, to systems of mass transit, and to responsible land development and urban infill. We also are planning the convening of the next meeting of the Large Firm Roundtable, visitation by AIA Virginia leadership of several of our member firms, and an informative virtual membership meeting. There is still time to register for AIA Convention 2016 May 19-21, in Philadelphia.

AIA Virginia continues to work hard to bring significant value to our members, provide programs and services which are relevant to our fast-changing profession and to celebrate the prosperity of our members. Our mission is to be the voice of the architecture profession in the Commonwealth, dedicated to serving our members and through a culture of innovation, AIA Virginia empowers its members, advances their value, and inspires the creation of a better-built environment.

Congratulations to Ann Kosmal, FAIA, a member of AIA Northern Virginia, and David Oakland, FAIA, a member of AIA Central Virginia for being elevated to fellowship.

Thank you for being a member of AIA Virginia! It is an honor to serve the architects of Virginia.

Nick Vlattas AIA
AIA Virginia President 2016

Gubernatorial Appointments 2015

The VSAIA offers its support to candidates who wish to serve the public by leading the various boards that oversee the work of state agencies. All agencies below — and many others — are led by gubernatorial appointees.

While only a few positions are reserved for architects — such as the regulatory board and the Fair Housing Board — many agencies would benefit from an architect’s insight and ability to see several steps ahead, similar to a chess grandmaster. To some, this would appear to be magic. To architects, it remains a daily exercise in rational thought.

For boards requiring architects, the VSAIA is asked to provide a slate of nominees. For other boards, we may support as few or as many as are interested. Board openings beginning July 1, 2015, requiring gubernatorial appointment are as follows:

  • APELSCIDLA — three positions are open, one reserved for an architect. The other two are for a landscape architect and a land surveyor. This board regulates architects, professional engineers, land surveyors, certified interior designers and landscape architects.
  • Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation — one position open, not reserved for an architect. This board oversees the actions of the department that regulates licensed professionals including architects.
  • Board of Historic Resources — two positions are open, none reserved for an architect.
  • Board of Housing and Community Development — two positions open, one each from the 8th and 10th Congressional Districts. No positions are reserved for architects. One of this board’s primary duties is to approve updates to the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.
  • Fair Housing Board — five positions are open one of which is for an architect.
  • Virginia Housing Development Authority — two positions open, none reserved for an architect.

While other boards may be considered, these are more often of interest to architects.

To submit an application to the secretary of the commonwealth, go to the website: and click on the link. Members who wish to receive the support of the VSAIA must send a resume and a letter of interest to Duncan Abernathy AIA at for review by the Government and Industry Affairs Committee.

For more information about the process or an individual board as well as the commitment of time required by each, contact Abernathy as well.

New Federal Design-Build Laws Passed

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) today praised Congressional passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The language reforms military procurement rules so that leading edge design and construction firms can deliver projects that are safe, productive and sustainable – without fear of losing money in the process. The bill now goes to President Obama for his expected signature.

“This legislation provides more certainty and opportunities for design firms of all sizes who wish to enter the federal marketplace. It will ensure that military agencies have the ability to select the most qualified design-build teams who will deliver the best buildings for agencies and taxpayers,” says AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA.

“We would like to express our thanks again to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who worked to advance this important legislation.”

“And we all owe a deep debt of gratitude to the AIA members who made our views on Design Build Reform known with their Congressional delegations. It shows what the AIA can accomplish on any issue as long as we speak with a strong, unified voice.”

A Look Ahead to the General Assembly 2015

Those with a military background know the drill:  hurry up and wait.  The VSAIA and its legislative partners in the American Council of Engineering Companies/Virginia are waiting.  Waiting for the bills that will attempt to adjust the Virginia Public Procurement Act (VPPA).

The two-year study of the act basically boiled down to a six-month session of wrangling by various constituencies within a citizen work group.  The consensus document — drafted by the Department of General Services — was reviewed by the legislative subcommittee on October 24.  The VSAIA, ACEC, and our legislative counsel participated on the work group and agreed with most of this draft.  During their review, the legislators agreed with our positions and adjusted the draft on two issues.  With these changes included, the bill that clears legislative services should:

  • Ensure that architects and professional engineers cannot be hired through a job-order contract and
  • Ensure that price competition is not used in term contracts.

In addition to the our professions, the work group included people representing contractors, localities, higher education institutions, public utilities, and state agencies.  Other issues we introduced at the work group included deleting the non-binding clause in the procurement process and the possibility of developing an enforcement mechanism.

The VSAIA has been an opponent of the “non-binding estimate” for years as it can be misused in at least two ways.  First, it cannot be accurate unless substantial conversations have been held to ensure that both client and professional agree upon the entire scope of the project.  Without such agreement this “estimate” can be no more than a guess.  Further, if these discussions have been held, then there is no need for the “estimate.”  The official negotiation phase should begin with the top-ranked firm and the real figures placed on the table.

Second, if an estimate is non-binding, what is its purpose?  If public bodies use the figures to rank the firms rather than delve deeper into the qualifications of the firms, it might delay the identification of the most qualified firm.  The elimination of the clause received little discussion and no support in the work group.

The procurement work group seeking consensus on changes also was interested in an enforcement mechanism short of a lawsuit that would allow professionals, contractors, and vendors to correct interpretations of the VPPA.  This will come up again, but probably not in 2015.  At least three methods were mentioned:

  1. establish a review board with the authority to stop a project,
  2. establish an advisory board similar to the Freedom of Information Act Council that has public exposure of wrong doing as its weapon, and
  3. have DGS monitor the procurement process for fairness

The work conducted by staff, members, and legislative counsel in the interim between General Assembly sessions was invaluable in educating many legislators on the intricacies of public procurement.  This is required because more than half of House of Delegates members have fewer than five years at the Capitol.  The laws they write affect the profession’s business from initial licensure through the statute-of-repose period when the architect’s liability for a specific project ends.

The VSAIA’s members on the Joint Legislative Committee — Robert Burns AIA, Lynden Garland AIA, Kenney Payne AIA, David Puckett AIA, Rhea George, and Duncan Abernathy AIA — and the ACEC members will work with our legislative counsel Reggie Jones Esq. and Patrick Cushing Esq. to address the legislation that affects the profession.

The session begins Wednesday January 14 and is scheduled to end Saturday February 28.  We anticipate more than 2,400 bills will be introduced.

Significant Changes to Federal Design-Build Laws

Despite two years of partisan gridlock, Congress is on the verge of passing legislation by the AIA to help architects design better buildings.

These efforts represent the culmination of years of work by AIA members like you who have written, emailed and visited with your elected representatives in record numbers, showing the power of the profession to advocate.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The House has passed and the Senate is about to pass legislation that includes the first significant changes to federal design-build laws in years. The bill would limit the number of finalists in the second stage of a military design-build procurement to no more than five in competitions worth more than $4 million, putting the brakes on a practice that leaves firms spending more and more to win work, with worsening odds of actually winning anything. Although the final provision does not go as far as the AIA had pushed, it puts into U.S. law for the first time protections for firms from increasingly expensive and unwinnable competitions.
  • Congress also is about to send to the White House legislation that restores the 179D energy efficient building tax deduction, along with other tax incentives. The 179D deduction expired at the end of 2013; the bill restores it for projects placed into service in 2014. This enables commercial building owners to claim the deduction for work completed in 2014, and design firms to claim the deduction for public buildings placed into service in 2014 when the public entity allocates it. Although a broad coalition of business groups pushed for a longer extension, there already is talk of Congress taking up these provisions again in 2015.

With Congress about to adjourn and go home, it looks like we’ve managed to stop two bills that would have set us back.

  • The end of the Congress means the end (for now) of legislation repealing federal 2030 targets. Despite a strong lobbying push by the fossil fuel industry, an AIA-led coalition of more than 1000 companies and organizations blocked the effort. Although the provision may come under attack again in 2015, the AIA and its allies showed the power of grassroots engagement in protecting sensible sustainability policy.
  • For the fifth year running, the AIA and its allies knocked down a proposal to raise taxes on architecture and other professional services firms that organize as S corporations. Although the provision may return to life next year, the AIA and its allies have succeeded in building a collation on Capitol Hill that stands with architects against punitive tax increases.’

These victories show that when AIA members like you work together, we can get things done – even in an extremely difficult political environment.

December 15, 2014 UPDATE: Congress has passed this legislation. see this update.