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Small Project Practitioners


Topic: AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

David H. Johnson AIA
Apr 08, 2013 10:07 PM   Normal 0 false false false EN-US ...

1.  AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

This message has been cross posted to the following Discussion Forums: Historic Resources Committee and Small Project Practitioners .
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This is a fascinating discussion on the value of AIA Membership for the dues, the communication of the organization within membership, and how the organization can improve.  The writers are long term members of the AIA with varying levels of involvement in the organization.  Thank you!  the current repositioning efforts underway by AIA National are having similar cathartic effects on what the organization should be in the future.  
the attached youtube link is from the Grassroots presentation on the repositioning effort

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x22D0po1h5Y&feature=player_embedded

Hopefully this will keep the conversation going.

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Mary Brush AIA
Brush Architects, LLC
AIA Illinois Past President
Chicago IL
soon to be WBE!!!
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2.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning


Once again the AIA is evolving to sustain us in the future.  In our history has any other such efforts improve the profession.  If so, why would such mannerism be employed

From my perspective as a small project practitioner, the only way to elevate our lot is to make our services a requirement.  The services of other professions like medicine, accounting, lawyering are used through need, not value.   Firms need accounts to figure taxes, partnership filing, etc.  To obtain eye glasses one first must see an ophthalmologist.  What I am saying is the the total legislative efforts of the AIA should be to pass the necessary legislation so than no construction in this country can be permitted without the services of an Architect.

The level of services that should be required should provide an sustainable life for architects.  Morover the benefits to society and the better built environment with make our value obvious.  As things are now the Institute will continue struggling trying to sell value while "need" is what can sustain us.
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Mark Robin AIA
Mark Robin Architecture
Nashville TN
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3.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

When I first joined the AIA in the early 1990's I was eager to be part of an organization that worked to promote Architects, first and foremost. I have, for the most part, been disappointed in this regard. For a long time, each time I paid the dues I was telling myself it was happening, but now, many years later, it hasn't happened.

The Architect and Architecture is struggling to survive. There is some great work being done, however there is far too much bad or no-design being promoted. Architects are quitting the profession and going to nearly anything else because their contribution to society is not valued as it should be. It should be the main focus of the AIA to promote this value head on.

While the AIA has promoted many issues that are noble, it has consistently gotten sidetracked on social issues and lost in the weeds of others that stem from personal political preferences - drifting wherever the current social trends take them. Those issues should be left to other organizations and architects left to join them separately as they choose. At best, the AIA has nibbled at the edges of promoting who we are as architects and how our service is essential to society.

And so, I can't shout loud enough my agreement with Mark Robin's comment: "the total legislative efforts of the AIA should be to pass the necessary legislation so than no construction in this country can be permitted without the services of an Architect."

This is long overdue to us as architects and to anyone who has any connection to the built environment. There needs to be a real change not just catharsis. AIA Leadership everywhere you are, I'm still paying dues are you listening?
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David Johnson AIA
Portland OR
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4.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Mark wrote "the total legislative efforts of the AIA should be to pass the necessary legislation so than no construction in this country can be permitted without the services of an Architect."

I disagree.
First of all, it's a state-by-state thing on registration and the role of architects.
Next, "you can't build unless you give me a slice of the pie" sounds frankly like extortion.

I think that the AIA needs to make the case for the value that an architect brings to the project.  IF part of that value is "you need me to meet minimum levels of safety and to get a building permit", THAT IS FINE, but "hire me or don't build" is not the most customer-friendly approach.  The message that's not getting out very well is "spend a bit of time (and money) with an architect and you'll get something really special and probably save what you spent in fees."

Some construction types are probably always going to be exempt from requiring an architect.  Plan-book houses, subject to dealing with local seismic, snow, and energy code issues - frankly, for that market, the buyer gets what they pay for.  Later, when it comes time to remodel, might or might not require an architect.

I'd say that promoting competent plan review, ensuring that standards are upheld requiring architects to be involved in larger commercial structures, and the like, are the lines in the sand to draw.

Finally, the AIA has a real place as a watchdog over liability issues, public policy regarding architectural practice, and taxation.  We're seen as consultants to the rich and to big companies, and it's assumed we line our pockets accordingly, and that those pockets are deep.  Not so, as most of us know.

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Joel Niemi AIA
Principal
Snohomish WA

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5.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

First, greetings to Mark Robin, glad to hear you are still out and about.

With respect to legislating that buildings, including residential buildings be designed by architects, there are downsides to that and I don't support the idea.

When I see a problem, my reaction is never, "Let's pass a law, set up a board, establish a testing regimen to fix this!"  5 states already have license requirements for someone who shampoos someone else's hair.  7 states requires licenses for someone who does upholstery repair.  Of 102 licensed occupations studied in a report from The Institute for Justice, only 15 were licensed in 40 states or more which means that either there is a lot of harm being done that could be prevented, or a lot of licensing is happening that is not vital---except that it is a source of state revenue and serves to protect the occupational opportunities of select classes of folks.  Usually the excluded ones are from low income backgrounds.

Now maybe one could contend that as architects we have more opportunity to do good or harm.  So, are we asking for homeowners to be required to hire licensed architects because of the havoc created by unlicensed designers and do-it-yourselfers, or because we'd like a special privilege, which has nothing to do with protecting society?

Or do we think that a license guarantees the best service?  In my state all plumbers are required a licensed by the state.  Are all those plumbers good plumbers?  Top notch plumbers?  Union plumbers are believed to have more rigorous training.  They ought to be somewhat better for that, especially in the early years of their career.  Should we require that all plumbing be done by union plumbers?

My state does also recognize that some structures require elevated skill, technical skill mainly.  So, hospitals, schools, police stations and the like, must be engineered by licensed Structural Engineers.  That is a higher standard than the more common Civil Engineer.  Yet it is the Civil Engineers who manage the "structural" engineering of all other structures, that is most structures.  If Structural Engineers are more capable, shouldn't all Civil Engineers be required to work under a Structural Engineer?  

Some theoretical advantages are not vital, even before the offsetting disadvantages are considered.

There is also the issue of restraint of trade.  If requiring all buildings be architect designed, in effect prices low cost designers out of the market, and AIA furthers this legislative effort, would AIA be open to the charge that it is engineering a floor under architectural fees?  AIA got its wrist slapped pretty hard by the DOJ for attempting to keep fees above a certain level once before.

Leaders are not victims in need of protection.  And how can we be so valuable to society if we clearly are working the system for our own benefit at the expense of others?  We will benefit if our work is seen as beneficial and cost effective.  The AIA can help with the messaging, but in the end each of us has to make the case if it can be made.  I think for most architects, it can be made.  Convincingly, but not in every instance.

Take care,

Donald

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Donald Wardlaw AIA
More Than Construction, Inc.
Oakland CA
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6.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I agree with most everything Joel Niemi says- No construction without the services of an architect is a state-by-state thing.  The AIA at all levels combined is not ready to take on the Home Builders' Assoc. and the Realtors.  We do not have enough guns!  As big and expensive as anyone may think, the AIA is, we do NOT have a big enough dog for that fight.
Promoting competent plan review and building inspections is a valid point.  Both of these are spotty, at best, in the Midwest.  Energy compliance for 1 and 2-Family Dwellings is a joke.
I find that codes are getting more complicated and many reviewers and inspectors are not up-to-date nor do not have a clue.  I see the time when a third party certifier will have to be hired to certify most all tasks.  Put the responsibility off on some one else.
 

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D. Cook AIA
Tipp City OH
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7.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I agree with Mark Robin that the AIA (and every licensed Architect) should push for ALL buildings to require an Architect's stamp, please read my thoughts. 

I primarily work in and around Chicago where most every municipality requires stamped drawings and it is not seen as "extortion".  These municipalities understand that a licensed professional who has been properly trained to review codes and structure is guaranteeing the building is safe and compliant to local codes.  In addition they have insurance in case something ever happens.  The City of Chicago now requires the Architect's certificate of insurance which I think is fantastic, I now bring my insurance certificate when I submit for permits in the suburbs and encourage them to make this a requirement (we should all do this).  I believe the AIA should work with the insurance companies and make them aware that many areas in this country have homes or buildings that were designed and built by people without an Architect's license and may not be insured.  I would ultimately hope they may increase premiums on buildings where this is the case, or decrease where an Architect stamp is in place.  I believe they could be our greatest ally to encourage all municipalities to require both an Architect's stamp and insurance.  It seems the profession has spent the last 30-40 years trying to shed the responsibility of stamping drawings so they don't get sued, I encourage the opposite.  
 
Please notice I have never mentioned "design", I work with many Designers who are extremely talented and I have great respect for them.  I do not believe that just because someone has passed the Architect's exam that they are good designers.  With this being said trying to sell Architect services on the "better design because I'm an Architect" principal alone is a tough sell especially when many Designers have proven they are better.  However, I do believe that Designers should work in conjunction with Architects for the reasons stated above.  I guarantee if we made this happen the occupation of Architects would be elevated.

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Christopher Walsh AIA
Tandem Architecture
Chicago, IL
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8.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I agree with Christopher and others that requiring an Architect's approval on construction projects is in no way extortion, and I argue is ludicrous.  The requirement can be made based on a valuation or sq. footage so that a certain scale of projects are exempt.  I would like to point to the other disciplines that are typically involved in projects and require approval from the engineer.  Why should we be any different?

In my state if I want to drive a car, I must carry the minimum insurance requirements, with proof of coverage.  One could refer to this as "extortion" I suppose, but the law is obviously in place to protect the general public with a minimum standard of protection, in the event of an accident.

Building failures occur for a variety of reasons, why would we not enforce and regulate the renovation and construction of structures with the same minimum standard for those directly involved?

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Gregory Holah AIA
Principal
Holah Design + Architecture LLC
Portland OR
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9.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Gregory,
I think that the starting point which Oregon places on projects (many small projects are exempt) to determine the need for an architect are quite reasonable.  And, a critical part of the Oregon statute is the requirement that the architect be involved during construction administration.
I do find in interesting that Oregon requires an architect, if involved in an "exempt" project, must still stamp and sign the documents.  Too bad it is not required that the non-architect projects don't include a statement like "this drawing was not prepared by an architect or under an architect's oversight".

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Joel Niemi AIA
Principal
Snohomish WA  (registered in Washington and Oregon

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10.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I'm with Greg.

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Richard Shugar AIA
Principal
2fORM Architecture PC
Eugene OR
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11.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning


Richard,, Greg, et al:

I have no problem with your ideas, but you appear to be looking for "AIA" to wave a wand and make it happen.  First, states control the licensing issue.  Have you spoken to your state legislative staffer about these ideas? 

We recently had our annual state lobby day.  A near record attendance of about 90 architects and interns showed up.    Think of that number for a minute.  90 architects and interns out of over 3,000 AIA members.  Not a very good showing. 

Do you have a relationship with your legislator(s)?  Will they listen to you and give you honest (not political) answers to your ideas?  Does your state organization know about that relationship and use it to benefit the profession? 

Then take a look at your state's PAC and the number of contributors and the amount in that PAC.  A PAC allows the organization to make contributions to candidates.  Dues don't go for that effort, and without financial support, it is very difficult getting your voice heard.  Especially when you are competing with all those home builders and non-licensed folks.

As I have said before here, three things influence legislators: Numbers (not enough architects compared to other consituants), Money (see above) and Credibility (something we usually have on our side.) 

My point is that the AIA is "us."  If it is failing, then we, as a profession and as practicioners, need to look in the mirror.  You want things to change?  Then step up and make a difference. 
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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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12.  AIA Pacs

Well said Walter!

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Joseph Hagan AIA
Past State President
Architecture Inc.
Memphis TN
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13.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning


Minor point, but I see the words, we "stamp drawings" or architects are required to "stamp drawings"  in some of these threads and I cringe.  In South Dakota it is illegal to stamp drawings . . . it's called plan stamping.  So we teach every one of or employees to clearly tell others (when the subject comes up) that we do not stamp drawings.  We do "seal our work", however.  See the difference?  If not, keep reading.

We have registered architects in this state that stamp designs and/or drawings that have created by others .  Some architects do partial services, leave off CA phase services (which are required in SD), etc.  Unfortunately, they get away with it.  Like several have implied, we are only as good as those who regulate our profession and enforce the regulations; and we (architects) are the ones ultimately responsible for much of the mess the profession is in.  Until we are unified behind bringing our profession up by our own bootstraps, I'm afraid not much will change.  The day I see an end to plan stamping, partial services, undercutting and providing inferior services, etc. is the day we'll see the kind of changes that are needed.
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Robin Miller AIA
MSH Architects
Sioux Falls SD



14.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Robin,

I disagree partially with your assessment. Rather than getting into hair-splitting over the terms "stamp" and "seal", I'd like to focus on partial services. Many of the potential clients I have contacted over the past several years have been reluctant to hire me because they don't understand the value of my services. Regardless of really excellent persuasion on my part (I'm modest and humble, too), most of them have a Wal-Mart mentality and are more eager to save up-front dollars than to receive the best value available in exchange. As a result, low-ball contractors are able to get the projects I don't get. The only way to reach that sector of the market is to lower the price of the services by reducing the scope of services. It is neither illegal nor unethical to provide reduced services and such services does not constitute "plan-stamping".

When the law tells these clients that their project must be designed by a licensed architect and when the state professional practice act requires architects to performing a full range of services on every project, they will see the value of our work quite differently.

This is no different than the requirement that a structural engineer design structures in high seismic zones (everyone here accepts taht). There are even areas in my county (airport zones) where an architect is required to perform acoustic calculations to verify that plane noise will not be harmful to residents. However, the same structures that require architectural acoustic calcs and structural calcs do not have general requirements for architectural design. Therefore, a huge pool of potential clients will never find it important to hire an architect.

Where I agree with you is this: We (collectively) have allowed low-ball contractors to exploit the Wal-Mart mentality unopposed. Unfortunately the AIA (the organization we pay to represent the "collective we") has been asleep at the wheel on this issue.

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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15.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I haven't figured out how to solve the Wal-Mart mentality either, but I'm not sure that legislation requiring using architects has helped with fees. Conversely, a study I did a few years back regarding the relationship between practice acts and prestige suggested that requiring services tended to result in potential clients on the bottom end viewing hiring a "required" professional as a necessary evil - part of the bureaucratic problem rather than the solution. What is the solution? I don't know. I try to prove my value to every client, every day, and I write a lot of limited service contracts that often gradually expand to full services as the bare-bones clients discover I bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the table. 

And the AIA in previous decades had more to do with fees .... can't anymore. See http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/06/us/justice-department-files-antitrust-suit-against-architects.html

--lisa

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Lisa Selligman AIA
Red Dot Studio, Inc.
Saint Louis MO
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Where I agree with you is this: We (collectively) have allowed low-ball contractors to exploit the Wal-Mart mentality unopposed. Unfortunately the AIA (the organization we pay to represent the "collective we") has been asleep at the wheel on this issue.

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16.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Good discussion points, Sean.

A couple of quick thoughts: My point was to pick up on the thread that architects are frequently our own greatest enemies.  It's not just contractors and owners.  We, as a group, assist them.  Plan stamping is a reality.  I have seen and experienced architects do all of the following, none of which helps the profession:  Stamp plans prepared by others, provide partial services and/or no CA (which is illegal in this state),  lowball fees,  undercut other's fees, steal projects from other architects who already have signed contracts by going back to the client and adjusting their fees or services.  Under the surface, it's ugly out here.

It may not be illegal and you have every right to go after it, but when you say, "the only way to reach that sector of the market is to lower the price of the services by reducing the scope of the services." I am afraid we are feeding fuel on the fire.  And then we blame contractors and owners.  Makes no sense to me.

How about we all refuse to lower our standards, services and prices?  It's up to us.  If I don't knuckle under and then you don't knuckle under, we stand a fighting chance of one of us getting the project for a reasonable fee for quality work.  I for one, refuse to reduce my services and scope to a point where I do a disservice to my clients or the public.  And I will seal only that which I am proud to put my name to.

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Robin Miller AIA
MSH Architects
Sioux Falls SD
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17.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I would be very willing to join the effort to not reduce services and prices--if I had an adequate amount of work to do. Since I have next to no work now, I would expect the result to be zero work in the future. "Not knuckling under" means my potential clients go forward with their projects without any architect at all. This is one of the reasons why a large percentage of us are still unemployed or underemployed and why the profession is not expanding and reaching new markets. Our business model only worked in the old economy, which ended four years ago for most of us.

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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18.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Thanks Sean.  What you say makes sense.  Those of us that are still around are still struggling.  I guess what I'm saying is that if you ever are competing against this firm, we won't be providing partial, reduced or otherwise inferior services for the sake of gaining a strategic price advantage over you.  Heck, we don't want to go out being known as the ones who dragged the profession even lower.

I hope I understand your need for work.  Not sure this will work, but how about one complete and well done project, compensated accordingly vs. three "reduced services" (with dramatically higher liability and potentially legal risks) and lower fee (with little to no opportunity to turn a profit) projects?  If we all subscribed to this, the bleeding would stop immediatly, would it not? I don't believe there are enough of us left to provide the kind of services that we should be providing for the projects that are out there.  
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Robin Miller AIA
MSH Architects
Sioux Falls SD
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19.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Robin,

The defining characteristic of the clients I'm trying to reach (middle-income homeowners who have never used an architect before) is that I'm not competing against other architects--I'm competing against the absence of an architect. They're not looking at two or more architects and weighing which one provides the best service or does the most zoomy designs or provides the best overall value or works for the cheapest price. They're looking at me versus no architect at all and trying to decide which will be best for them. 80% of them decide not to use an architect at all (and I realize that's a hit rate of 20%, which is good in the industry), mostly because of 1) cost and 2) their fear that the architect will take control of the project (cost, scope, aesthetics, etc.) away from them to pursue their own crusade. (This is what they tell me.) I realize that there are other markets to reach. Those markets are already saturated with architects. And by trying to reach large, underserved markets, I'm trying to expand the profession for all of us.

In this market, I would gladly pursue fewer full-service, full-fee, reduced liability, reduced risk projects, but there are none of those to be had. So it is not a choice between 1 good and 3 bad. It is a choice between 3 bad projects and no projects at all. Not pursuing those does not stop the profession's bleeding--20% of us are unemployed and by my estimation another 50% are underemployed. Keeping our hands off new, difficult, risky markets will not solve that problem. Someone needs to blaze new trails, take new risks and handle new difficulties or the profession will become irrelevant.

If there aren't enough architects to satisfy current needs, why are so many firms going out of business, getting acquired by other firms, keeping salaries low and avoiding hiring?

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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20.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Sean,
You and I have been on the same page when it comes to finding work. I have found that there is a HUGE need for Architects in the middle to upper middle income earner range and we are our own worst enemy when it comes to connecting with these clients. I rarely compete with other Architects or designers for that matter. I have established a reputation for taking on even the most undesirably small job for over a decade and I tend to make better money per hour the smaller the project. As you and I have mentioned before, you don't have to reduce your worth to reduce your fee to an amount most can afford. Some people just need a good idea and a permit, but can't afford to pay for every service ever invent. Reduce your services to reduce your fee. Is it unprofessional to provide just the drawings needed by the code official? Is it your ideas, concepts, and solutions that make you excellent or is it the documentation?

I feel we tend to limit ourselves to a small pool of clientele in an effort to be excellent, so we shun the majority of the housing sector. A design problem is a design problem regardless of scale or cost. Good for any of you who are swimming in too many millionaire house projects, but is it so wrong to figure out a way to include everyone rather than be exclusive? And we wonder why HGTV, home shows, and average people always think of the builder first. I'm proud to offer my services to anyone, regardless of how small the design problem. Right now I'm working on a 14' x 20' concrete patio project for a guy in his late 70s who just needs a permit, but can't find someone to provide a few simple concrete details. I'm also working on a high density single family development with 15 houses. One fee is in terms of hundreds of dollars, the other is in the thousands. I'll make more money per hour on the concrete job, but the development will gain more attention.

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Eric Rawlings AIA
Owner
Rawlings Design, Inc.
Decatur GA
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21.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I have built my practice on providing services to middle income and in some cases the lower income range earner.  In some cases the fees are small to nothing.  I have even accepted jobs that no one would take on to help the clients complete their permit processing because they got stuck by either a draftsman they hired or they did the drawings themselves.  What I have found by just providing services and gaining a reputation to help clients no matter how small the job that they have recommended me to their friends.  I look at what architects offer as a service to help people get through the building process whether it be consulting to provide guidance or just drawing up a patio with a roof to designing a custom home.  If as a profession we avoid looking at what we do as a service to everyone we are looked at as profession only people with money can afford.    There are more clients requiring minimal services than clients looking to build custom homes.  In the process of helping the small client it leads to larger projects.
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Michele d'Amico AIA
Owner
d'Amico Design Group, LLC
Honolulu HI
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22.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Well said Michele. 

I would also like to add a few comments in regards to the mention of the lowly "deck" project used as an example in earlier posts.  Small projects are not always the most exciting or glamorous project.  They may not be the projects we dream about nor the ones that make it into the monograph.  However, once the client wants to fabricate the deck out of glass and cantilever it 18 stories in the air, it gets a lot more attention from us.  From my experience, any project however small, done well will repay you in multiple ways, either through a future referral or a repeat client.  So I would just ask that to those that cannot swallow their pride and take on a small, gritty project, please don't turn away a potential client from hiring an Architect.  Instead, respectfully decline and refer an Architect colleague who would be happy to increase their workload.

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Gregory Holah
Principal
Holah Design + Architecture LLC
Portland OR
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23.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I want to reiterate what Greg just wrote. It's been said many times, but the residential clients are often choosing between an architect and nothing. So whomever of us out there are willing to take on these projects often overlooked by architects, then we all win.

If we choose not to take them for whatever reason, I won't judge you, but like Greg said, try to refer another architect to them rather than them going the contractor route. Everyone wins in the long run.

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Lee Calisti AIA
Principal
lee CALISTI architecture+design
Greensburg PA
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24.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning


I believe the use of an architect is a blessing not a punishment.  As long as the Institute emphasizes "value" no obstacles to providing services will be overcame.  The need is not to extort but to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

I understand that in states where services of a architect are required during the construction phase improvement are already been measured.  This result is a blessing not a punishment. 

It makes sense to me that the total legislative efforts of the AIA should be to pass the necessary legislation so that no construction in this country can be permitted without the services of an Architect.
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Mark Robin AIA
Mark Robin Architecture
Nashville TN
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25.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning


With all due respect, there are 3 things that iunfluence legislation: Money, Numbers and Credibility.  Architects have a lot of the last one, not so much the first two.  Do you really think we can out lobby the homebuilders?  If so, I know every state PAC and ArchiPAC will be looking for the maximum donation allowed by law from each of us.

Let me propose the following instead.  The AIA needs to focus on 3 things for a while:
 
First, we need to tell the stories of our projects from the CLIENTS perspective.  Awards are great, but they are primarily a pat on the back between ourselves.  Every project has a story, a problem the client percieved that we helped solve.  Who better to tell that story than the people we are truying to reach.  BTW, this has no cost.

Second, we need to suck it up and learn not how to avoid risk, but to manage it.  The demands of clients have changed.  They want to know that when they hire us we are going to meet their goals for their project, whatever they might be.  This is known also as Knowledge (Evidence) Based Design.  If you practice in the Health Care or Education markets you know what I am talking about.  The impact of this change means a greater emphasis on research and creating a culture of sharing, which the profession is very bad at.  Folks, there is a lot of knowledge out there on the internet.  How you validate it and apply it differentiates people today.  There are no trade secrets, but we still practice like there are.  If we don't change, others will take more of the risks and recieve the larger reward.

Lastly, we need to be taught how to quantify the return on investment our services bring in dollars and cents.  Its the language our clients understand, and offers the ability to win more work at fairer fees.  If, for instance, a design of a classroom results in higher test scores for a student, do you really think they won't pay for that value added?  However, you go to any conference, AIA or other, and you have mediocre business people teaching bad business people how to be mediocre.

This focus can happen, if we, as members, demand it.  To do that, we need to be involved.  The AIA is us, not someone in Washington that we expect to do it for us.  But if AIA didn't exisit we wouldn't even be having this discussion, would we?

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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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26.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Walter - well stated!  Your three points are right on.  We are not going to gain any ground competing against developers, unions and other interested parties that will outspend and outmaneuver us, and proposing legislation that requires an architect for every piece of construction is wishful thinking and not in the public's general interest.
Our only competition is ourselves - our willingness to articulate our stories, to exercise the discipline and integrity to turn away from undesirable clients, to embrace the open sharing of our knowledge.
While this thread has raised many issues and the dialogue is healthy, I content that we can harp on AIA and can complain about the dues - this has been going on for decades - or we can each contribute some of our time to help elevate the profession, the AIA, and the public's perception about the value we provide.  I might even go so far to say to some of the people who posted their views that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.
Paying your dues is not sufficient to making AIA a valuable organization.  We each need to determine what we can contribute, take a step back to determine how as individuals we can educate our clients, and offer constructive solutions to a struggling organization.

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Michael Strogoff, FAIA
Strogoff Consulting, Inc.
Mill Valley CA
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27.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I was reminded of this discussion on dues, value of membership and repositioning today when I opened the second e-mail in less than a week from the AIA national urging members to contact their senators about sustainability of federal projects. What value is it to AIA members to spend AIA national time and funds (our dues) on this? We have thousands of members who can't afford the dues, but sacrifice, save and go into debt to remain in the organization and the reward we get for that is to have our resources wasted by people with a political agenda? It's time and money down the drain that we'll never recover. Even if the effort were completely funded by ArchiPAC (which it's not) it would still be a black eye on AIA members with potential clients who aren't interested in increasing the costs of federal projects, thereby increasing taxes. AIA national's inside-the-beltway member-ignoring mentality has to stop or it becomes irrelevant to the real people who hire us and it takes us down with it.

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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28.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

OK, reading this has brought me to the position to post something...after almost 40 years practicing architecture, it really raised my BP. The AIA has to realize that promoting sustainable and green projects to our senators and house members at a time when green projects, such as Solyndra, A123, Fisker, etc. is bizarre, especially when the AIA should be promoting the sustainability of architects in the USA. 'Nuf said. ------------------------------------------- W. Douglas Gilpin, Jr. FAIA W. Douglas Gilpin, Jr. FAIA - Architect, PLC Charlottesville, VA and Block Island, RI -------------------------------------------


29.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Sean
The notion of Repositioning is in fact to create better alignment between the AIA and the profession (member and potential member).

With over 300 programs at National, one of the key steps in this effort is to determine what is most important to most members and potential members.  In other words, to FOCUS.

That will mean saying no to worthwhile endeavors. It will also mean saying 'yes' to some endeavors that every single member is not in favor of, as there is such a diversity among the member population that there are not many places where you would find 100% agreement.  

I encourage you to engage with your local component as it gathers member feedback on the priorities that should  be driving AIA National and the AIA at all it's levels.  This is happening right now, and the impact promises to shift the AIA to a 'new position' (aka Repositioning).

Cheers

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Michael Malinowski AIA
AIA Director - California Region
Applied Architecture, Inc.
Sacramento CA
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30.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Michael,

I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I still have questions:
1. If repositioning constitutes an admission by AIA national that they don't have an adequate understanding of what AIA members want, why would they go forward with a campaign not knowing whether or not members support it? If they think they know what members want, why go through repositioning?
2. If they believe they know what members want and they believe that a majority of members support this campaign, why not make the case to the rest of us about how beneficial it is to us? There's hasn't been a speck of discussion about how this is supposed to benefit AIA members.

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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31.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I just got something interesting in the mail: An offer to join the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for $168.75, including the remainder of 2013 and all of 2014 (regularly $225.00). It reminded me that the California Architects Board enforces their professional practice act, sponsors and regulates continuing education, maintains a website and publishes a newsletter for $150 per architect per year. So I'm not buying the idea that the AIA can't operate on lower dues.

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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32.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I would suggest that re-positioning is the start of an overall discussion and that you have to start somewhere. Like anything, there will be disagreement, but it will invite discussion. If you don't start with something, there's nothing to discuss.

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Stuart Chait AIA
Principal
Chait Studios
Rochester NY
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33.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Mike:

I appreciate your willingness to engage in this platform.  As a former National VP, I can tell you this proves what I know, leadership is listening.

The repositioning effort is a great idea.  I question, however, the execution.  It seems like a lot of navel gazing.  Rather than ask our members what AIA should be, aren't we better off asking non-architects what the profession needs to look like 10 years from now?  

I believe the AIA's role is simple.  To look across the landscape of the built environment and determine what skills architects need to lead in the sector.  What would clients value so much that architects are indespensible?  I view AIA National as the R&D engine of this effort, and the local components as the product delivery arm.  

I recently took a survey that was prepared in response to questions raised by AIA National.  I found much of it to be too much "inside baseball."  Only because I am an involved member do I know (or care) about the size and composition of the National Board of Directors.  Only my experience tells me that there is duplication between groups within AIA.  However, I do care if the Institute is making me more successful.  

I would urge the Institute leadership to concentrate first on what the profession needs to lead in the future and then re-vamp the organizational structure to be able to deliver those tools. 

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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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34.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Good questions Sean.  In fact, skepticism and mistrust were among the many disconnects that bubbled up in the Repositioning research.

Even though our consultants were hired originally to rework the "AIA Brand", they were good enough after completing their research to let us know that the task they were given was not the right problem to be focusing on.  You can find an overview of the facts uncovered from the 30,000 points of data collected, as well as the AIA's response, at aia.org/repositioning.  

To address this issue - which is as vast and complex as our organization, we cannot simply launch program number 301.  We must find a way to turn the organization on it's head - so that members are at the 'top'. 

To start moving in that direction, AIA national leaders are putting the 'virtual steering wheel' into the hands of the members.  That is what is behind the conversations happening at TownHall and other gatherings at components right now across the country.  

There is also money that will be flowing from National back to the components - a quarter million dollars allocated to an innovation grant award; and 'repositioning ambassadors' who are being nominated from every region of the country to decide where to spend that money and help lead us in alinging the AIA with a thriving future.  

I and others believe the AIA must enlarge its tent on this path - to embrace our emerging professionals, our partners, and the public that inhabits and uses the built environments we shape.  As we look beyond what we do, and tell the story of why we do it, we become the voice for Architecture, advocates for the public's interest in a sustainable, healthy and inspirational built environment.  

Please view the 100 second video that captures the essence of this mission here: aia.org/repositioning.  Then, if it strikes a chord, find out from your component how you can join the many shaping the member driven AIA of the future.

Cheers



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Michael Malinowski AIA
AIA Director - California Region
Applied Architecture, Inc.
Sacramento CA
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35.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Sean (and others),  Please pardon my paraphrasing, but I believe there's a common thread in many of the emails (I am borrowing from several authors) that goes something like this:  "Because I don't have enough work, I compete for the smallest work, I have to cut corners in order to cut my fees, sometimes giving my work away in order to get it.  I sometimes have to compete for the smallest (sometimes menial work) against contractors, pseudo designer, and others . . . and I will have to do this forever unless the AIA can convince lawmakers to force the use of architects on everything that needs a permit."

Correct me if I'm wrong but, if the above statement is close, then can somebody explain how forcing somebody to use an architect will raise the standards by which you/we offer our services?  Heck, I see architects doing the exact same thing on $10,000,000 projects and I'm wondering, "at what level does it change?"  If we (as professionals) are willing to cut corners, cut fees, reduce services etc, to get just about anything; why do we think we (as a profession) will change?

I am really having a disconnect this morning.

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Robin Miller AIA
MSH Architects
Sioux Falls SD
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36.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Robin,

I think you did a great job of capturing the major sentiment out there that was voiced through this discussion.  Many in our market area here have had a rough time, often resigning themselves to the compromises stated.
I think, in the end, we have to be careful not to lower our standards for the simple reason that it's all we're getting paid for.  It establishes a lower bar that people will point to as representational of what our value is, and they will forsake our true worth.  The public doesn't care what you were paid on a project when the building's up, they simply see the product and make their judgement on our worth.
  Our true worth is exhibited through the design process - that is what we need to hold the line on because we are the only ones in the system that facilitate it.  The better end result, when a true design process is utilized, is self evident. I've seen this over and over, seen the client's eyes widen during the process, and firmly believe in it and how it exhibits our true value.

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Adam Trott AIA
Adam J. Trott Architect
Erie PA
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37.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Adam,

I disagree with most of what you said, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "...when the building's up, they simply see the product and make their judgement on our worth." If the same building can be built regardless of how much time we spend drawing details and writing specs and regardless of how much liability we assume, then why not provide the same building at an affordable price and thereby expand our reach, rather than let 1/5 of us continue to go jobless?

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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38.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I have quietly if sporadically followed this thread.  I understand the frustration of defining oneself as an "architect" on the internet where the title has been usurped contrary to the legal definition as used for licensing by the states.  Who is Wikipedia anyhow?  They certainly do not define me.
What is more telling about our definition is my understanding (through the fog of time) of the Station Night Club fire a decade ago.  The building was an assembly occupancy.  There were complaints by neighbors of excessive noise.  To "save money," the owners went to the local building inspector who then gave recommendations to the owners so they would not need to waste their money on a professional - contrary to law.  As a public servant he too was immune from being sued for misdeeds in fulfilling his public duties. 
Through ignorance a purported sound deadening material was suggested such as found in marine engine compartments.  That stuff is very expensive but it LOOKS just like packing foam.  Packing foam is not a known building material, most certainly not an interior finish material and as turned out was very flammable.  It also has virtually no acoustical properties but the owners showed intent if anyone complained AND they saved lots of money.  This was then applied as an interior finish to an assembly space.  100 people died.
The local AIA wanted nothing to do with the discourse due to the high level of liability.  This wasn't really "architecture."  Last time I checked my local and state laws, this is exactly why we have building codes, why we license Architects and why we should protect the title.  If we act like this involvement is beneath us or legally frightening then we deserve the derision of the public.  We need to protect our responsibility and sell ourselves as the profession that will help protect the public  (to the best of our knowledge and belief and applying the standard of care, etc.) through clear understanding of the current Codes and not compromising on their use (despite what the owner or contractor might say - or what makes our buildings not look cool).  It just takes a bit of discipline.

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Christiaan Semmelink AIA
Christiaan Semmelink AIA LEED AP
Salem MA
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39.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Robn,

Well, that isn't the way I'd paraphrase my part of the discussion, but I take that to mean I haven't made my point clearly. Here it is in other words:

1. The number of projects available to architects in the U.S. is shrinking, resulting in lower fees, reduced salaries and joblessness for architects.
2. Simultaneously, at least 80% of all building projects undertaken every year in the U.S. are done entirely without the involvement of an architect.
3. If we can expand the profession by creating the opportunity to design some of those non-architected projects and serve the currently underserved, it could raise fees, raise salaries and create jobs for architects on a very large scale. It could also improve the architectural environment in which we live.
4. One way to reach that sector of the market would be to require architects on all projects, just as they are on all significant commercial projects in most places, on all multi-family projects in most places, on all comercial projects of any size in my jurisdiction, on all projects of any size or kind in airport zones in my jurisdiction, and just as structural engineers are required on all projects of any size in my jurisdiction. Personally, I prefer a less heavy-handed approach that would change the culture prior to changing the law.
5. The culture (in general) currently views architects as too expensive (whether or not that's reality and whether or not it takes into account the full value of our services).
6. One way to overcome that misperception is to offer a slate of services that makes certain parts optional, possibly omitting things like a design development phase of services, renderings, details not required by the authority having jurisdiction, specifications not required by the authority having jurisdiction, engineering not required by the authority having jurisdiciton, schedules not required by the authority having jurisdiction, sustainable design not required by the authority having jurisdiction, full construction administration services, full liability, etc.--in other words: as a baseline, provide only those services required to communicate with the client, get a permit, bid it and build it.
7. Once a significant number of people perceive that architects are affordable and that the value of our services is greater than our fees, I would expect the culture to shift toward tending to hiring an architect with or without legislation to force it.

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Sean Catherall AIA
Herriman UT
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40.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I would add that we need to provide real value to the industry. When you consider the spec house market that makes up more than 80% of all new buildings being built and generated almost 200% more GDP for the building industry than the commercial sector at the top of the boom, it's clear that this is a market place we can't continue to mostly ignore. There is a reason why the spec house is one of the least desirable building types for us to design. We're hardly designing them! 

Because I've made a point of designing spec houses for builders as about half of my project load, I've learned how to create the designs that sell for more and sell faster. These aren't lousy cookie cutters either. These aren't traditional boxes. I have builders and real estate agents passing my name around because of my consistent track record of designing the houses that sell. That's real monetary value, not sentimental value. This isn't the only project type I work with, but I do it for other reasons as well. In order to get my home owner commissioned houses to appraise to make the loan possible, someone has to bring up the appraisal values. Spec houses are the only houses that can generate the maximum value per sq ft as a NEW house sale. Our beautiful home owner houses are NOT SALES! They do not factor into the appraisals of houses in their market areas. That is not until they sell as a USED depreciated house. Only "arms length sales" of houses (sales between strangers) can count as a Comp on an appraisal. If you only design for wealthy people who can afford to go under water on their mortgage, then good for you, but we will NEVER capture the majority of the housing market if we can't design houses for people that can appraise without asking the owner to fork over more money than the appraiser says it's worth only to start out under water.

I know many of you are getting sick of hearing it, but this is the main reason we aren't designing more houses. It's all about real VALUE! All of this talk of requiring stamps is not only impossible from a man power stand point, but it will only create the problems we hear our friends in NY and NJ complain about. Structural Engineers and Stamps for hire dominate the home stamping business and doesn't magically guarantee Architecture will be improved. Last I heard, neither of those states boasts a significant majority of nicer houses in the country or more employed Architects making more money, but they require stamps. Only making design a competitive business venture will make a capitalist society/ economy value the designer. We need to do the hard work of asserting ourselves and proving we're valuable in terms of dollars and cents. Americans will pay a lot more for Gucci, BMW, Rolex, etc. Why not Architecture? Value is not earned by a forced stamping. That's putting the cart before the horse.

Designing a spec house that sells for more than average, faster than average, is just another design problem that happens to pertain to the majority of ALL of the buildings being built in the US. When we can show our skills can provide real dollar value across the country, we will get noticed. When agents can see the consistency, we will raise our worth! We simply choose not to participate. It's no one's fault but our own.

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Eric Rawlings AIA
Owner
Rawlings Design, Inc.
Decatur GA
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41.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

I probably was one of the first to post about reducing your scope of services to make you affordable to more than 5% of America. This strategy wasn't devised out of desperation. I've been doing this for over a decade as a means of getting quality design out to the masses that most Architects refuse to work for. Your "interpretation" of the conversation is certainly more pessimistic. First, I don't think anyone can claim that they were overwhelmed with work right after the Housing Crisis. Second, I often make better money per hour the smaller and, as you put it, menial work. One thing we Architects seem to lose focus on is that we are only servicing a very small sector of society. This isn't because builders and average homeowners are horrible people with no taste. Many of us seem to not understand that a design problem is a design problem regardless of scale or cost. Our business models and attitudes need a serious adjustment. Many of us only see a project as valid if the home owner can afford a large fee. 

It will be a very long time before every jurisdiction in America can require Architect's stamps on everything. There simply aren't enough Architects nor are there enough of us who are willing to design the most numerous of all building types in America, the Speculative House. As much as many of us detest the sound of the word "Spec House", we will never change the minds of average Americans when it comes to buying a brand new house without having to wait for it to be built custom. I know everyone is sick of hearing it, but at the top of the boom there were...

170,000 new commercial buildings
320,000 new houses commissioned by the owner (most of which come from catalogues)
1,300,000 new speculative houses

Because the spec houses dominate the building industry as a whole, we are designing a small fraction of all the new buildings built in this country and we have the audacity to actually wonder why no one thinks of an Architect first. That's why we called it a Housing Crisis and not a Stadium Crisis or Library Crisis. We have to prove we are willing or capable of getting the work done before we can lobby to make us a requirement in every state, especially rural states like Georgia.

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Eric Rawlings AIA
Owner
Rawlings Design, Inc.
Decatur GA
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42.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

Well said, Robin.  We prosper by providing our clients with a valuable service and managing our businesses to be profitable.  That means being good at what clients need us to do well and turning away work that we can't profit from.  Certainly not easy to do, but it sure beats trying to use the AIA to lobby government to force people to use our services.

What we really need from the organization is help in becoming better architects and occasional shelter from government mischief.  Neither is likely to come in quantity from the fever swamp on the Potomac.

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Christopher Carley AIA
C. N. Carley Associates
Concord NH
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43.  RE:AIA Dues, Value of membership, and RePositioning

This popular attitude amongst us is our undoing. I've been profiting just fine from smaller jobs. In fact I typically make more per hour from them. I profit just fine designing custom speculative houses for quality builders. Builders are so much easier to work for. It's all about adjusting your business model to incorporate a larger audience of clientele. "Turning away that work we can't profit from" happens to be the majority of the housing industry. How can we insist on requiring stamps when we turn our noses up to the majority of residential work? Why can't you profit from the majority of residential projects? Are we trying too hard to be excellent, not because of our ideas and concepts, but because we think being excellent is all about how much documentation one can provide? Why can't we best a residential designer without over documenting a project? What's wrong with providing a client with a great idea and just enough documentation for them to get a permit? What do you think is the minimum fee you're willing to work for and can YOU even afford yourself? Who is going to design all of these small additions to houses? Who is going to design all of those spec houses which happen to be about 80% of ALL the buildings built in this country? And we have a serious curiosity as to why most people think of a builder first.


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Eric Rawlings AIA
Owner
Rawlings Design, Inc.
Decatur GA
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