Grassroots Recap from Regional Director

March 2, 2010

From David DelVecchio, AIA, LEEDap
AIA-NJ Regional Director

AIA-NJ delegates at AIA Grassroots

AIA-NJ delegates at AIA Grassroots

Here’s a brief re-cap of the 2010 Grassroots Conference in Washington, DC earlier in February including some information about bylaws changes that will be the subject of a vote at the Annual Meeting of the Institute in June at the convention in Miami.

Including information on AIA-NJ delegation visits to Capital Hill, AIA Blueprint plan to Help Communities Rebuild, AIA By-Laws Amendments, and the AIA Strategic Plan.

    AIA New Jersey Delegation Visits Capitol Hill

At the 2010 AIA Grassroots Legislative and Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, February 3-5, 2010, members of AIA New Jersey met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to deliver the AIA legislative agenda, Let’s Create Jobs That Rebuild and Renew America: The AIA Blueprint for Economic Recovery.

America’s architects stand ready to help our communities rebuild and renew through common-sense policies that not only create jobs, but lay the foundation for long-term prosperity. As Congress debated a jobs bill, the AIA urged that it include these five planks to help rebuild and renew our nation:

Help Struggling Communities Rebuild

Rehabilitating and retrofitting abandoned and neglected properties will revitalize communities by creating jobs, reducing energy consumption, and encouraging business to return to vacant property.

AIA New Jersey architects explained how abandoned or neglected buildings that could be turned into community assets, but funds are simply not available. Community Development Block Grant funds available in the past have had a positive effect; and now the AIA has a proposal to invest in our communities through the CDBG to help rehabilitate structures into vital community assets, like libraries, fire stations, health centers and more. The AIA proposal will take advantage of existing federal programs with demonstrated success in job creation and community revitalization.

Free Up Credit for Commercial Projects

The AIA supports legislation that will continue to improve the commercial lending market and allow worthwhile projects to have access to capital. While progress has been made, the AIA Architecture Billings Index, a reliable economic indicator, has remained negative for over a year and continues to forecast reduced construction and design activity for the next six to twelve months – largely because of the lack of credit.
Projects are stalled because owners/developers cannot get funding.

Although architects are not experts in the financial markets, we know first-hand the ramifications of their not working properly. The AIA has made two recommendations in its Issue Brief for unfreezing credit, but we are open to any and all ideas for making credit more available.

Expand the Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction

In order to get American building again, Congress needs to incentivize energy efficient new construction and renovations of existing buildings. The Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction has been an effective tool, but with the economic crisis, owners are more reluctant to invest in green building efforts. At a time when the design and construction industry is being decimated by the ongoing financial crisis, providing incentives for energy-efficient design and construction is an effective strategy to encourage building owners to undertake renovations, leading to job creation across the industry.

Legislators were asked to cosponsor the Expanding Building Efficiency Incentives Act (S. 1637 in the Senate/H.R. 4226 in the House), which includes the commercial building deduction plus other worthy green building incentives.

Provide Relief for Small Businesses

The AIA believes that supporting small businesses is the fastest way to grow the economy and create jobs. The AIA supports the Small Business Financing and Investment Act (H.R. 3854); current estimates indicate that this bill will support $44 million in lending and create or save approximately 1.3 million jobs per year.

The stimulus bill created a subsidy to help defray the cost of COBRA insurance for unemployed workers. Unfortunately employers have to pay this subsidy up front and obtain reimbursement later through their quarterly tax filing. This is a significant burden for small businesses that have already been forced to lay off employees and creates cash flow problems that could lead to additional layoffs. Legislators were asked to work with the AIA to find a resolution to the COBRA subsidy.

Support Funding for School Modernization

Schools across the country are in desperate need of restoration. Modernized, green schools promote healthy, high achieving students, and help reduce the facility’s operating costs through reduced energy use – and it helps create jobs.

The 21st Century Green High Performing Schools Act (HR 2187) will provide billions toward the modernization of K-12 schools. A significant federal investment in modernizing our nation’s schools will stimulate the creation of more than 100,000 new jobs in the design and construction, ranging from architects and engineers to roofing contractors and other construction workers who modernize, renovate, and repair schools.

    Bylaws Amendments

At a Member Congress at Grassroots, Institute President George Miller, FAIA and Secretary Steve Loos, FAIA led a discussion on several amendments to the Institute’s bylaws. These proposed bylaws changes will be voted on at the Annual Business Meeting of the Institute at the Conventional Miami (June 10-12, 2010).

The first of these amendments would implement, permanently, the Membership Dues Payment Plan that reflects the desire of the membership for sensible flexibility in the way in which they remit their annual dues, important especially in these difficult economic times.

The second amendment references the International Member, which attempts to more accurately recognize an architect licensed outside the United States.

The third amendment would allow Associate AIA members to serve as Regional Directors and attempts to address a question of supporting future leaders of the Institute and our profession in a changing world.

The fourth amendment to the bylaws would allow Associates to use the abbreviation “Assoc. AIA” after their names. While common practice at every level of the Institute, the current bylaws actually prohibit the abbreviation. It is expected that this bylaws change will pass without opposition.

The fifth proposed amendment to the bylaws would allow the use of electronic voting on proposed resolutions and bylaws during the Annual Meeting of the Institute at the Convention. Voice vote or a show of hands, the methods used currently, do not account for weighted delegate counts. It is expected that this amendment will pass unopposed.

    2010-2015 Strategic Plan

In 2009, the AIA Board of Directors embarked on a year-long process to set the strategic outlooks for the Institute for the next five years. Guided by eight principles identified in the 2008-2010 plan update—focus, flexibility, ethics, technology, relevance, connection, access, and innovation—the Board Strategic Direction Group, the process began with a series of scans of the architecture profession and the environment that influences it. Next, the Board met in July 2009 in Washington, D.C. for a two-day planning session in which they reviewed the feedback received from members and stakeholders, validated and reaffirmed the mission and goals, and drafted a vision statement as well as new strategies for the future.

From August through October 30, 2009, there was an open comment period during which the AIA solicited input from components, members, allied organizations, and other stakeholders on the draft 2010-2015 strategic plan. The AIA held three webinars open to all members and encouraged board members to gather feedback at their regional meetings. The final version of this plan reflects the feedback from these sources.

The following basic framework for the Strategic plan may look familiar to those familiar with the previous 2008-2012 Strategic Plan, with some changes.

The American Institute of Architects: Driving positive change through the power of design.


The American Institute of Architects is the voice of the architectural profession and a resource for its members in service to society.


Serve as the Credible Voice
Promote the members and their AIA as the credible voice for quality design and the built environment.

Be the Authoritative Source
Be the recognized leader for knowledge about the practice and profession of architecture.

Increase Member Value
Increase value to members through programs and services that effectively meet, anticipate, and exceed their needs.


Create, promote, and disseminate interdisciplinary study and research ensuring the AIA’s members are leaders in the profession, the industry, and their communities.

Advance policies about design through political outreach, education, and engagement that are responsive to the public and the profession.

Elevate the voice of architects to promote the value of design and to enhance the public’s understanding of the importance of architecture.

Align resources and empower networks of members, components, and allied professionals to build teamwork.

Putting A Plan Into Action: Strategic Initiatives

Moving forward, every AIA component has the opportunity to connect their programs to the 2010–2015 strategic plan. This document offers a framework for planning around common categories of initiatives that enable cross-collaboration and organization of work. Those strategic initiative categories are:
• Environment + Stewardship (e.g. Sustainability)
• Components + Communities (e.g. Diversity + Inclusiveness, Emerging Professionals)
• Technology + Innovation (e.g. Integrated Project Delivery)
• Business + Practice (e.g. Global Initiatives)

The AIA will maintain an ongoing planning schedule so that plans are responsive to changes in the environment and member needs. The strategic plan will be revisited regularly to refine existing strategies and metrics based on organizational performance in implementing the plan. In five years, the plan will be reviewed to determine the need for changes to the goals and strategies as a result of issues identified through the ongoing assessment of the internal and external environments.

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