About The AIAAbout The AIA
During the week of April 9, 2012, Jane Kolleeny, AIA consultant to the repositioning initiative, interviewed 12 Grass Roots attendees about the AIA’s repositioning initiative.
The following key observations were documented during those meetings.
- A general consensus among architects is that the public is not educated to what architects do, that their services are viewed as a commodity rather than a professional service. Clients want to purchase drawings or plans like a box of cereal. Architects feel the public perceives them as being elitist, expensive, complicated, slow, and only for the wealthy. The public is highly influenced by the media version of architects, the glam starchitect.
- AIA would do well in honing in on its core competencies, trimming the messaging, and refining the focus. USGBC has been cited as an organization with a key and clear message, rather than trying to be all things to all people.
- Architects consistently value the AIA as providing networking, peer group opportunities, and job opportunities for young architects. This in addition to education—in the form of CEU coursework especially—members have consistently mentioned CEU offerings and management of credits as important. Also, AIA serves as a great training ground for leadership skills.
- With respect to resources AIA could provide, members would like information on project performance and metrics and feel clients would also benefit from this as well. AIA members are frustrated with AIA honor awards that take only design excellence into consideration and not building performance issues.
- People resign from AIA for economic reasons but also because they don’t perceive its value—it is hidden from them or not emphasized enough to take root in their thinking. The website’s lack of user friendliness contributes to this.
- There is a sharp difference of opinion about architecture schools—whether they should be design focused or include a practice focus—or whether internships undertaken by students in firms can serve the business training function. In general, interviewees feel academics who teach in architecture schools should be more aligned with AIA—they should be either members or former practicing architects or more keenly aware of the issues around practice and AIA membership.
- The website continues to be criticized although many remark that once you find what you need on the site, the content is extremely valuable, deep, and far reaching.
- There is awareness of the importance of engaging emerging professionals in AIA and recognition that with baby boomers retiring and the possibility of a positive economic return, emerging professionals might steer the ship in interesting and new ways. Also, encouragement to embrace related professions within the AIA, new professional areas that architects might find themselves gravitating towards.
- Building Information Modeling (BIM) and integrated project delivery (IPD) are seen as important stepping stones to the future of architecture and ways that architects can stay relevant. There were resounding comments from many architects that the profession has lost market share, going from the master builder to playing a small part of the team due to new delivery systems perceived as more efficient (and their fear of liability, which has encouraged them to step aside). Using IPD and BIM are ways for architects to keep their leadership position. These tools also protect them from the liability issues they so fear (see quotes).
- Related to the comment above, many architects remarked on how they have, due to fear of liability, given up more and more control of the leadership on projects to construction managers, owner’s reps, contractors, and to other delivery methods used by clients. Architects regret this but seem to realize they are at least in part responsible for it.
- Many architects expressed the value of government lobbying that AIA does on behalf of the profession, remarking that nonmembers get a free ride since they don’t support this financially.
- There seems to be a difference of opinion about the value of citizen architect, some feeling that propelling architects into the civic realm is a great idea, while others feel architects need to focus on core competencies.
- AIA is extremely important as it is the only recognizable professional organization that provides standard documentation for the profession (contract documents). However the software is problematic and doesn’t support the Mac.
- Many architects feel they don’t communicate well and don’t advocate for things in the public realm as much as they should. If they did they would be seen as leaders.
Other Ideas Mentioned by Interviewees
- Have a visual architect finder on the website – see AIA Seattle’s folio. Interviewees commented on the complaints they have received about AIA National’s architect finder. Chapters also could develop their own.
- Centers for Architecture were observed to be important aspects of the future of architecture. These centers are the public face of architecture and the major city element engaging the public’s eye in understanding architecture. AIA National should recognize how the Centers for Architecture are conduits to regions and can send a broader message to the public. The current dozen centers for architecture should grow and be a public face so people interested in architecture have access to it.
- AIA should partner with USGBC with respect to CEUs to help track CEUs and make it easier for the profession, as it’s very complicated. One architect suggested opting out of LEED AP to become a legacy member, if the process isn’t simplified. When architects have to keep track of licensing in several states and CEUs for that, plus LEED CEU’s on top of it, it gets to be too much. And the AIA registrations trump LEED specialization because it’s required by law.
Learn more about the AIA’s repositioning initiative at www.aia.org/repositioning.