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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

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



  • 1.  Question for Residential Architects

    Posted 10-26-2021 11:09 AM


    I am a licensed architect in Virginia opening a new company called PLANS4GOOD. The company consigns architectural house plans designed by licensed architects and sells them online to potential homeowners all over the country. The architect is compensated with one third the purchase price of the plans each time they sell. One third of the purchase price is used to market the company and cover payroll. The final third is donated to local chapters of non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity working to provide housing to those in need. The company is structured as a benefit corporation, a transparent structure dedicated to social and environmental change.


    I am looking for architects who would like to  become consignors of plans. The idea for architects is that they will be able to make passive income from plans already completed, while helping those on the bottom end of the economic ladder. We are focusing on plans that are energy efficient.  I am also very interested to get feedback from architects on the concept and ways to make it better.


    Please contact me if you have any questions, comments or interest.


    Pennie Zinn Garber, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB

    Principal Architect

    Lineage Architects PC

    98 Lee Highway

    Verona, Virginia 24482

    Phone: 540-248-3771

    Fax: 540-248-1628

    Primary email:

    Secondary email:


  • 2.  RE: Question for Residential Architects

    Posted 10-27-2021 06:27 PM

    Hello, Pennie -

    I suggest you review the professional practice statutes of all 50 states and determine a "safe" way to label the documents you'll be selling.
    In many, perhaps most, states, single family residences don't require an architect's stamp and signature.  But, in at least some, if drawings are prepared by an architect and submitted for building permit, they must be stamped and signed (even if otherwise exempt).
    There is also the near-uniform requirement that persons calling themselves "architect" or using magic words like "architectural" have to be registered to practice in that state.

    Similarly, you may need to limit buildings to ones which comply with the International Residential Code outright, and which don't require the services of a registered professional engineer.

    Energy code, snow loads, lateral loading, regional lumber availability and strengths, etc. will be other regional variations to accomodate.

    Hopefully you have looked at the offerings of some on-line plan services and seen how they handle requests for drawing modifications, adding a basement, etc. 

    The business/donation model sounds good.  Best wishes

    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA

  • 3.  RE: Question for Residential Architects

    Posted 10-28-2021 09:09 AM
    Hi Joel,
    Thanks so much for the excellent insight. This website will only be consigning the work of licensed architects. I have a rough draft consignor agreement that requires confirmation that 1) the architect consigning the plans is registered in their state of residence and 2) that the plans conform to the IRC. (It's so nice that now we have one blanket code instead of the regional codes of yesteryear.) The consignor agreement also has a basic list of expected documents-- plans, elevations, building sections,etc. so there is some continuity to the product.

    Since the plans posted on the website are linked back to the website of the architect who designed them, the idea is that the purchaser will contract directly with the consigning architect if changes are necessary. This provides continuity, a higher quality product, liability protection, and an additional revenue stream of new work for the consigning architect. In turn, the consigning architect could then repost the revised plan, building their body of work on the website. To be clear, the consigning architect receives one third of the initial purchase price so the other two thirds are split to market/run the website and contribute to Habitat for the construction of houses for those in need. The agreement for changes, however, is directly between the architect and the purchaser so 100 percent of that fee goes directly to the architect without any interference by PLANS4GOOD. In essence, the website is selling relationships as well as plan sets.
    As the business model develops, I"m considering a purchase price that is slightly higher than the rates on similar house plan websites, but includes a 1 hour video chat with the architect to discuss things like siting the home on the purchaser's unique lot, advice on building products, possible changes, choosing a builder, etc. Does this sound like something that would appeal to you as a potential consignor? If so, what sounds like a reasonable cost to add for this service?
    I'm extremely appreciative of any and all feedback.

    Pennie Garber AIA
    Lineage Architects, P.C.
    Verona VA