Small Firm Exchange (SFx)

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Who We Are

The mission of the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing in small firms. The objectives of the AIA SFx are three-fold:

1. Advocate the value of small firms, the national SFx, and local SFx groups, both within the AIA and to the public.

2. Curate and disseminate the most pertinent resources and information, from the AIA & elsewhere, that benefit small firms.

3. Inform the AIA of current issues facing small firms and areas in which current resources/information are lacking.

Approximately 75% of all firms within the AIA are small firms (less than 10 employees), which equates to 14,459 small firms within the organization.

~26.8% = sole practitioners = 5,173

~33.5% = 1-5 employees = 6,459

~14.7% = 5-10 employees = 2,827

For context, small firms share of staff is 16.0% and share of billings is 12.0%

We need to find ways to leverage that size for collaboration and influence, just like the individual large firms do.

   

  

The AI Age

By Dana L. Ellis AIA posted 03-11-2024 02:04 PM

  

William Martin, AIA and Brian Penschow, AIA both of AIA New Jersey are on a mission to get small architecture firms on board the Artificial Intelligence (AI) train. Their motivation for speaking to architects is profound: the best way to move the profession forward is to extract a seemingly complex concept in a way that small firm practitioners can immediately start to understand and apply. 

When a new technology seems complicated, it’s hard justifying taking time away from practical concerns to explore it. For many, AI has an added fear. Will this make designers irrelevant? What does it do to the value of creativity and design? William and Brian are dedicated to making sure that architects understand the value and limitations of AI and are not left scrambling to incorporate it after it becomes ingrained in our culture.

“Time is immutable” says Brian, “there is nothing I can do to slow it down.” 

When applied to the day to day of a small firm practitioner, time is also valuable, financially and personally. AI offers a big impact in a short amount of time. Let’s read that again, AI offers BIG impact in a short amount of time. There are not many tools that architects can leverage that make that big of an impact, which harkens to the time we transitioned from paper and mainlines to the computer. 

Design is iterative, it has always been. What William and Brian describe is how AI can become a part of that process: AI tools can express ideas, help win projects, and inform clients. In our brief session with them, everyone was able to download and immediately start experimenting with AI technology. By the time we wrapped up, the value of this tool was clear. AI won’t replace architects, but it can help us as we work with clients to solve their design problems. 

One question that resonated with their visit to the SFx was how AI tools could or should be taught in architecture schools. The response garnered a new understanding of the power of our future. Paraphrased, “Not all students will be able to travel. These tools allow them to be influenced by an infinite database of prompts, similar to how a trip to Rome to Japan may influence your personal design references.” 

The SFx invites you to get to know William and Brian, invite them to your chapters, and hear how they have transformed their architecture and creativity practices. 

Check out the recent AI links from the SFx for more information or reach out to William wjm@wjmarchitect.com and Brian brian.penschow@gmail.com

- Dana Ellis, AIA (The Outpost Studio - Carbondale, CO) + Julie Carpenter (AIA Cincinnati Staff)

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