2021 Architects Speak Up!

There is an old proverb in politics; if you are not seated at the dinner table then there is a good chance, you’re on the menu.

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.

Architecture practice exists at the crossroads of Policy and the Built Environment. Architects regularly advance solutions that directly address our social, environmental, and economic challenges of today and tomorrow. Architects do not see empty lots as just places to build rather we see them as places of dreams and hopes.

ARCHITECTS SPEAK UP! will consist of virtual meetings for AIA Virginia members to acquaint themselves with their in-district legislator(s) and effectively articulate the importance of architects and architecture in the community. The anticipated result is a structured and coordinated outreach event that can occur simultaneously within each of the five local components. We want you to advocate and introduce yourself and AIA Virginia as a resource for industry issues in a relaxed virtual environment.  AIA Virginia is looking for your participation in these scheduled meetings this May.

Join us for ARCHITECTS SPEAK UP! by registering here>>

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? www.aiavapac.org

What Advocacy Means to Me

Krystal Anderson, AIA

As architects we must advocate for our profession and have a voice in our government. There are many ways for us to advocate for architecture including connecting with our local and state leaders. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Senator Glen Sturtevant at an event I was attending. After the event, I followed up with Senator Sturtevant thanking him for the conversation and expressing the desire for the Richmond chapter to become more involved in our local government. From that correspondence, Senator Sturtevant offered to come meet with our Community & Government affairs committee to discuss the state government and ways for our chapter to become more engaged in the state and local government.

Senator Sturtevant attended our August committee meeting and our committee had a wonderful conversation with him. He explained that becoming familiar with your local government opens up a line of communication to work together on issues that pertain to our profession. Active engagement is paramount to impacting our community on the local level. Throughout the meeting, we found topics that members of our committee could assist him with and let the Senator know that we are here to help. From this meeting, I hope that conversations with our representatives continue and that if Senator Sturtevant ever has a question or needs an opinion related to architecture, he knows that AIA Richmond will be here to help.

Krystal Anderson, AIA
2019 President
AIA Richmond

Speak Up

AIA SpeakUp | Denver, Colorado | July 19-21, 2017

The AIA’s second annual SpeakUp Event was held last month in Denver. SpeakUp is the AIA’s flagship advocacy training event. Influencing government policy is one of the AIA’s primary responsibilities, one of the primary reasons our AIA exists. Advocacy is about teamwork. Working together, AIA members carry a unique and respected voice to city halls, statehouses, and Congress. Working together at AIA Virginia we advocate for issues that are important to members. Working together we advocate for legislators to enact policies that stimulate the demand for architecture and invigorate members’ capacity to practice.

SpeakUp 2017 provided advocacy training for approximately 100 architects from around the country. The AIA Advocacy team put together a fantastic, well-organized and lively event consisting of compelling talks, roundtable discussions, breakout workshops and the highlight of the event, a “campaign exercise”. Attendees gained insights and skills to enhance advocacy efforts in their respective states.

Several interesting speakers provided useful perspective and insights on successful advocacy. We heard from seasoned veterans about the elements of a winning legislative advocacy program – from member engagement to coalition building. Just to highlight a few, Senator Chris Holbert (R-CO30) implored advocates to start with questions when engaging legislators: Are you familiar with (fill in the blank)? Have you taken a position with it? How will you vote? Veteran Colorado Lobbyist Jerry Johnson, Hon. AIA spoke to the value of having a strong lobbyist at the state capital who builds reliable, long-term relationships with legislators. Caitlin Reagan, AIA National gave a thought-provoking presentation on how architects can communicate more effectively. We heard from seasoned experts Sue Brown, Principal 4Front Strategies and Bev Razon, Vice-president Public Affairs, COPIC on PAC fundraising best practices.

SpeakUp attendees participated in a multi-phased group campaign strategy and team building exercise. Organized in teams of 20, participants were able to apply knowledge gained in the workshops to build a multi-faceted campaign plan that was presented to a jury of political and policy professionals on the final day. This intense, collaborative group work demonstrated that winning legislative and political victories requires a strong plan, teamwork and the ability to deal with the unexpected.

As a profession, we are a relatively small group that has the potential to bring tremendous value to people and their aspirations for a better, healthier life. Architects are not guaranteed a critical role in society. Advocacy allows us to strengthen our profession to the benefit of AIA members and society. The AIA gives us that voice. Through member engagement and coalition building the Government Advocacy team at AIA Virginia continues to build a culture of influence with an annual legislative agenda that fosters the design of healthy, vibrant communities, including: job creation and a growing economy; environmentally sustainable buildings that use resources wisely; public health; systems of mass transit; and responsible land development and urban infill. The Government Advocacy team at AIA Virginia continues to work hard to advance pro-architect policies before government decision-makers and help ensure that architects remain vital to society for generations to come.

Sean E. Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia Director
Government Advocacy Advisory Council

Photos: Sean Reilly, AIA

AIA Virginia Adopts Directory of Public Policies and Position Statements

In response to a directive in AIA Virginia’s Strategic Plan to “create an annual legislative agenda that drives the design of healthy and vibrant local communities,” the Government Advocacy Advisory Council determined that is was critical to first develop a comprehensive document outlining all of our existing public policies and position statements. Not only would a directory of this kind inform the development of our annual legislative agenda, it would also help ensure members and policy-makers understand the rationale behind our legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts.

The work to incorporate the principles of the Virginia Accord and existing national and state policies and positions into one document began in December 2016. Since then, the Advocacy Council, Board, and AIA general counsel worked collaboratively to compile and carefully review existing materials.

At the June 16, 2017, Board of Director’s meeting, AIA Virginia adopted a Directory of Public Policies and Position Statements.

The board also adopted a triennial sectional review process intended to coincide with — and inform — National’s review process. Each year, one of the three sections will be evaluated. Suggestions for refinements to existing statements or new proposed policies will be shared with National during their parallel policy review cycle, increasing the opportunities for AIA Virginia members to influence national policy.

If you would like to get more involved in AIA Virginia’s advocacy efforts, please contact Rhea George at rgeorge@aiava.org.

Grassroots Roundup

Paula J. Loomis, FAIA, R. Corey Clayborne, AIA, and Rhea George brave the D.C. weather at Grassroots last week
Paula J. Loomis, FAIA, R. Corey Clayborne, AIA, and Rhea George brave the D.C. weather at Grassroots last week

Spirits weren’t dampened by a winter snowstorm as Virginia’s leaders joined component leaders and executives from across the country for inspirational sessions, the exchange of ideas, and fellowship at the 2015 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference on March 4–6.

Despite the cancellation of the legislative session and closure of government offices, Virginia members still managed to meet with 5 of the Commonwealth’s legislators or aides.

The national advocacy agenda includes:

  • the preservation of Historic Tax Credits which have been a vital resource for development and preservation in Virginia;
  • the National Design Services Act which would help architecture-school graduates reduce student debt through community service;
  • the Safe Building Code Act, which would increase FEMA’s disaster assistance funding in Virginia by 4%.

We’ll work to schedule visits in the home districts of the remaining members of Congress. If you’re interested in participating in these meetings, please contact Rhea George at (804) 237-1768 or rgeorge@aiava.org

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.

Society Seeks Candidates for Gubernatorial Appointments

The governor will be selecting in 2013 several Virginians to serve as leaders of several agencies.  The Virginia Society AIA offers the governor a slate of nominees that the  Board believes is capable of leading the Commonwealth in becoming more responsive and more efficient in providing services to the public.

While some positions specifically call for an architect, others may be filled by anyone.  For those positions set aside for architects, the Society strives to provide a slate of three names for the governor’s selection.  For positions open to the public at large, the Society promotes one or more, depending upon member interest.

The agencies usually of interest to architects and the number of open positions are as follows:

  • Board of Housing and Community Development — one position open.  Candidates are chosen based upon residence in each of the 13 congressional districts.  The open position is from the 1st Congressional District.
  • Virginia Housing Development Authority — one position open.  The only restriction listed is that no more than three people in any one profession may be chosen.
  • Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority — three positions open.
  • Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation — two positions open.
  • Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects — four positions open: one for an architect, one for a professional engineer, one for a surveyor and one for a landscape architect.
  • Board of Historic Resources — one position open.
  • Fair Housing Board — three positions open.

Most appointments are for four-year terms with a maximum of two full consecutive terms.  For more information, contact Duncan Abernathy, AIA, at daber@aiava.org.