What's new with the AIA?

What is the single greatest need of AIA members today?

What do AIA members believe are the greatest three benefits of membership?

The greatest single benefit of membership is including AIA on company brochures, business cards, etc. However, it can also be a detriment. Many folks think they can’t afford an architect, but the reality is they can’t afford not to. As I tell my residential clients with small budgets, “It’s easier to move a wall when it’s a line on paper or a piece of chip-board in a model than after your contractor has framed it and you want it two feet further one way or another.”

Another great benefit of membership is access to the many brochures and research documents that a firm can tailor to help sell its services. The third huge benefit is continuing education unit recording and documenting. The majority of the U.S. requires continuing education as a part of licensure. The AIA relieves each member from the burden of maintaining these records.

What are two of the lesser-known benefits of AIA membership?

AIA members can reduce the costs associated with the use of AIA’s contract documents. They are offered to members in a software package or as paper contracts for a reduced fee. Additionally, members have access to the AIA Trust, which is a separate entity governed by a group of six AIA members and one AIA component executive who serve as trustees. The purpose and the policy of the trust is to develop and make available at the greatest possible value, insurance and benefit programs for members and components of the AIA, and to serve as a risk-management resource for the practice of architecture in cooperation with the AIA.

What challenges do residential architects face today?

Potentially the greatest challenge is expanding their market and services offered to clients. Residential designers, interior designers and contractors each can offer some services, but most clients will be best served if a registered architect is at the helm of the ship. Competition is good when it is a commodity involved. But the services an architect offers go beyond the commodity of design services. Architects and their counterparts are not apples which can easily be compared and shopped for the best fee. The biggest challenge in my Atlanta market is continuing to educate my clients on the plethora of services that an architect can bring to the table and all of those other “things” that go on behind the scenes to make a final project beautiful.

Are there any promising trends in residential architecture?

Current trends for residential architecture indicate a solid footing in many parts of the country with several areas (the Southeast for example) showing strong signs of continued growth. A new survey has just been completed by the AIA focusing on residential architects, their practices, and what is going on with design trends. It was enlightening to see the housing trends developing in regional areas. We have fun trying to predict what will hit our area next by gauging what is going on elsewhere in the country. The survey results are available on the AIA website at http://www.aia.org/econ_designsurvey_results.

Do you see the design/build process gaining momentum in the residential market?

Absolutely. Many times, our clients have a huge list of wants, a smaller list of needs and a budget not related to reality that can’t support either list. The design/build process works well when the client understands that the process is iterative, in that it will include the ebb and flow of gathering pieces of each list and determining pricing/budgets for each.

The give-and-take is the important part. Some clients don’t understand that the first number is just that — a first number. Much can be done to tailor and adjust the project to the budget, or re-evaluate the budget so the project makes sense. Again, this focuses on the education aspect of what the architect brings to the table. It is also dependent on having a team of contractors that also is willing to work through the iterative process, not only expect a single set of pricing drawings, but rather approaching the process with a “What if and why not?” attitude to achieve the client’s goals, and have a good time as well.

How healthy is residential architecture? Is there enough creativity? Too much?

The houses that populate the suburbs appear to have many gimmicks and gadgets, but often times are not suited to the needs of the occupants. It appears that there is a lot of “keeping up with the neighbors” going on, rather than really looking at better ways to accomplish many goals. Creativity, good use of materials and sustainability seem to be in the back seat to “build it quick and get on to the next project.” This concerns me.

I have renovation projects where the goals are to “fix” some of the evils found in these types of residential single-family structures. I believe this is a problem that needs to be addressed. It goes back to education of the public, clients, contractors, etc. I have seen some wonderful examples in the Southeast where sustainability is expected and is good; common-sense design is a delight. I look forward to the continued and expanded inclusion of the ideas for design, material use and conservation in which architects have the ability to excel at providing complete services.

How has your career advanced to this point?

I have a bachelor of design and post baccalaureate bachelor of building construction from the University of Florida, and a masters in architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology. My first project was a residential renovation/addition for my car insurance agent. My mentor suggested I negotiate and design the entire project, and he’d be there as my support through the entire project. This led to a few other projects, each providing me with great experience, and opening many career doors.

What are your goals as chair of AIA SPP?

Members of the AIA Small Project Practitioners (SPP) Knowledge Community (KC) cite the collegiate atmosphere and sense of camaraderie as one of the most distinguishing aspects of membership. From a personal perspective, I know firsthand that many SPPs may also be small firms; we lack the 20 other architects down the hall to ask questions of, bounce ideas off of. SPP provides this opportunity for networking and “resourceship” that I focus on. My goal as chair in 2006 is to take the information and resources available in our national community and reinforce and support activities at the local level for the SPP. We are also engaged with a few select KCs of the AIA to cross-pollinate between interest areas.