AIA Practice Management Digest – July 2017


Pro bono work and public interest architecture


Letter from the editor


By Seth Anderson, AIA


The desire to make the world a better place seems to be a common quality among architects. I think that comes from the gratification most of us receive from seeing our conceptual creations make a physical mark on our communities -- whether it’s beautifying a neglected area of the city, creating the healthy environment for children to learn, or developing that most basic human need, housing. Architects, by nature of our training, are accustomed to looking for elegant solutions to unique problems, and many architects are using those skills to make an impact on our communities through traditional architectural projects, but also volunteerism and pro-bono projects.

This quarter’s PMKC Digest focuses on pro-bono services and public interest architecture. The first article, Big Lessons from a Tiny Library, outlines how Fanning Howey incorporates pro-bono work into their firm, tips for adjusting the approach to pro-bono projects, and why the firm feels it makes good business sense.

From the AIA Trust, the article Managing Risks Related to Pro Bono Services offers suggestions on how to reduce the risks associated with providing pro-bono services. The final article features the work that the buildingcommunityWORKSHOP does as an architect-run non-profit community design center. This unique approach to providing support for non-profits came from the for-profit sector and may serve as model for the next step in the evolution of architects working to better our communities.

We’ve also assembled many other great resources in the Additional Reading section of the Digest for individuals and firms looking to get involved with pro-bono and public interest design. Of particular note are the AIA’s Pro Bono Services Guidelines and Resources page, and the B106- 2010 Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect for Pro Bono Services, available to AIA members for only a penny ($0.01).

Does your firm provide pro-bono services or make public interest architecture part of your operating model? If so, we’d love to hear about it on the PMKC Discussion Group.


Big lessons from a tiny library
By Rick Hahn, Assoc. AIA; Sean Costello; and Luke Bell

How do you select the pro bono work that is right for you? Three leaders at Fanning Howey share the lessons learned from a recent tiny library project.

Managing risks related to pro bono services 
By Kirsten R. Murray, FAIA; Article provided by The AIA Trust

Many architects are strongly motivated to provide volunteer or pro bono services to contribute to their communities and enrich their practice. What are the responsibilities and potential risks inherent in providing pro bono services? How can you avoid unintended liabilities for you and your team?

A non-profit community design center run by architects
By buildingcommunityWORKSHOP

Too frequently the people with the greatest needs are left out of conversations about the places where they live, work, and play. We work to shift this power dynamic in pursuit of design justice, amplifying the voices of those who will experience the direct effects of development initiatives.



Further reading and resources

Disaster Assistance Handbook
Community resilience design resources
Wisdom from the field: Public interest architecture in practice
Center for Civic Leadership
Pro bono services and guidelines
The AIA Trust: Risk Management Library


Contribute to the Digest

The next issue of the Practice Management Digest will investigate “Tips for training employees: Implement a continuing education program, create an effective AXP mentoring program and develop a robust firm procedure training program.” Join the conversation and let us know how your firm helps emerging professionals grow and improve their skills. Submission deadline is August 7th.

We are always looking for topics that you would like to see addressed in an edition of the Digest. If you have topics related to practice management that you’d like explored or articles you would like us to consider, please contact Seth Anderson, AIA, at

1 comment




07-19-2017 10:17

Seth and others of the Practice Management Community - thanks for tackling the topic of pro-bono work and public interest architecture!

Check out my interview with Gilad Meron and Mia Scharpie on Proactive Practices I did for the Business of Architecture podcast.

I've heard from my listeners that this is one of their favorite interviews. Gilad and Mia spent 3 years researching the best practices of some of the world's leading public-interest design firms.

You can read 6 of their public interest design case studies at .