AIA-NJ Responds to Star Ledger Article

February 16, 2011

The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted by AIA New Jersey in response to an article published yesterday in The Star Ledger:

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To the Editor:

Regarding “Christie to announce $584M plan for construction, renovation of 10 N.J. schools” Feb. 15, 2011:

The article states: “New projects will also use a standardized design, described by critics as “cookie cutter” schools, that will save an estimated $4 million for each site. The savings will be realized by eliminating the need for architects and project engineers.” Clearly, whoever made such a statement does not understand the complexity of construction in the 21st century.

Architects are uniquely trained, licensed professionals, statutorily required to protect the public health, safety and welfare. The use of stock plans has been tried, and failed, in 21 other states across the country. The New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has been explaining this for years. But, the constant clamor for prototype plans for schools belies the complexity of modern architectural design. Architects are required to design buildings specifically suited to their location. This includes a number of unique local conditions such as: soil type, grading, vehicular access, site utilities, snow load, rainfall intensity, seismic conditions, wind speed, solar orientation, and more.
Further, New Jersey has rural communities, suburban communities and urban communities. These sites require a multitude of single story and multi-story design solutions. School sizes will vary with the number of students, and floor plans will vary with curricular differences.

It would be utterly imprudent and financially wasteful to design to a worst case scenario for all these factors. As they say, “For every complicated problem, there is a simple and equally as wrong answer.” Simply put, “there is no ‘one size fits all’ model, and every change in a ‘model’ has a ripple affect making savings illusory.”

Designing and constructing a school, or any other building for that matter, is a complicated process. We at AIA New Jersey unconditionally support the competent and ethical practice of architecture. We are steadfastly committed to providing the highest quality, cost efficient learning environments and firmly believe architects should maintain those standards while fulfilling their contractual obligations to the citizenry of the State of New Jersey. We welcome a conversation about ways in which construction costs can be contained, but we cannot accept such an egregious underestimation of the role of architects in the process.

Bruce D. Turner, AIA
AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee Chair

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To read the original Star Ledger article go to

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