Why are you involved with the AIA? What drives your involvement?
Throughout my professional career, the AIA has provided me with the information, knowledge, and resources I needed, first to enter the profession, then to practice and then to teach. It has provided me with a community of colleagues, a professional network with whom I enjoy spending time and to whom I turn for assistance and inspiration. And it provides me with the power of a collective voice in government and public advocacy.
Pragmatically, I am involved because I benefit from that involvement. Additionally, however, I am involved because I think it is a professional responsibility to be involved. Like all professional organizations, the AIA is its members, and thus is only as strong as its members make it. Right now, with record membership, strong leadership at many levels, a strong economy, and most importantly a clear public advocacy agenda, there are very tangible benefits to involvement.
What is the greatest need of residential architects today? How is AIA fulfilling this need?
Like all architects, those who specialize in residential work need the knowledge and tools to provide the best expertise and services to their clients and communities. AIA fulfills the knowledge need through continuing education and its knowledge communities. Those of special interest to residential architects include housing, design, small projects, the environment and sustainability, and practice management, to name just a few. Special tools needed by these practitioners that the AIA provides include contracts specific to this market, housing market data, and even things like access to affordable healthcare policies for employees.
What is the greatest threat faced by residential architects? By all AIA members?
The greatest threat faced by residential architects and all AIA members is the lack of demand for their services due to a lack of understanding from clients and potential clients about the value architects bring to projects. To overcome this threat, residential architects must consistently prove their value through successful projects that have measurable outcomes, such as saving money, energy, and/or time; improving resale value of individual buildings and neighborhoods; and enriching individual residents’ lives and health. The AIA then has the responsibility of promoting these stories, of advocating to the public about how design matters and that the design expertise of residential architects brings value to homeowners.
While a lack of demand is a historic and perennial threat to the profession, I would say that right now demand for the services of architects in most market sectors is outpacing supply. Almost everywhere I travel in this country and abroad, firms are having a hard time finding enough staff to meet demand. This is partly due to a periodic economic cycle, but I think it is also because we are in an age in which consumers are better educated about the value of good design in many consumer products, and many homeowners and other clients are understanding the value that architects bring to projects.
How can residential architects “leave the place better than how you found it” as you have said?
In addition to designing more beautiful and accommodating places for people to live, work, and play, all architects must take on the responsibility for sustainable design. For residential architects to “leave the place better than they found it,” they can and must drastically reduce energy consumption by designing more energy-efficient buildings in more energy-efficient communities. The AIA recognizes a growing body of evidence that demonstrates current planning, design, construction and real estate practices contribute to patterns of resource consumption that seriously jeopardize the future of the Earth’s population.