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AIA Innovation Fund

AIA Components and Chapters are central to our organization’s success and, as part of the Institute’s Repositioning initiative, the Innovation Fund supports programs that creatively address a 21st century vision of member service, collaboration, and advocacy.

Thirty-five AIA Repositioning Ambassadors convened on August 1, 2013 to review 65 applications from AIA Components and Chapters and chose the eight that best addressed Repositioning’s goals, put members first, and can be replicated by other components elsewhere. Recipients were announced on August 3, 2013 at the CACE Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We set a high bar for what innovation means,” said Nicolette Feldser, Assoc. AIA, who represented the Repositioning Ambassadors at CACE, “and we felt that the fresh programs we selected showed the kind of innovation that the AIA should be encouraging as we move forward.”

“There were many good ideas from among all those who submitted,” said Debra Kunce, FAIA, chair of the AIA Board Communications Committee, “and the Ambassadors selected applications that they determined had the greatest potential for immediate and future impact for members.”

Kunce also noted that ambassadors and staff will follow up with submitters who did not receive a grant to share feedback and recommend opportunities to move their programs forward. To review a complete list of Innovation Fund proposals, click here.

Feldser and the Ambassadors grouped entries according to five categories and assessed each entry against others in those categories: K-12, Public Engagement, Component Relationships, Member Experience, and Emerging Professionals.

Taken together, the 2013 grant recipients represent a diverse set of approaches—from bolstering the Intern Development Program (IDP) to bilingual outreach for area students to a mobile design and education center (in a refurbished Airstream, no less). Each recipient represents an innovative solution to a specific challenge, but not necessarily a localized challenge. Whether it’s supporting a “citizen architect” fellowship, forging new mentorship opportunities with local M.Arch students, or improving net-zero understanding—these are universal challenges.

Meeting these challenges requires us all to connect, engage, innovate, and lead. The programs created by this year’s grant recipients offer a major step forward for themselves and their colleagues in AIA Components and Chapters everywhere.

Innovation Fund Grant Recipients

AIA San Francisco

The IDP 500: In collaboration with NCARB, helping interns complete 500 required hours for licensure in 2014

Innovation Fund grant award: $20,000

Category: Emerging Professionals

Ask the Repositioning Ambassadors what they liked about AIASF’s proposal and they’ll tell you: It goes a long way toward helps emerging professionals almost immediately. In 2014, AIASF wants interns to complete 500 hours of IDP credits in one year. It’s a big challenge, but it’s also a big payoff. That the chapter is willing to take the lead in helping interns so directly, the ambassadors felt, means that it will be an integral part of that young architect’s life—long after he or she is licensed.

The precipitous decline in architectural licensure is due to a variety of factors, including the complexity of the licensure process. Currently, interns need 5,600 hours to satisfy Intern Development Program (IDP) requirements. After surveying San Francisco interns about the IDP process, it became clear that, for a large number of interns, there were significant impediments to completing required hours. Obstacles included: working for a firm without a licensed architect willing to serve as a mentor and/or working for a firm whose work is not conducive to meeting IDP requirements (i.e. a firm whose work is international in scope offers fewer chances for site visits). AIA SF proposes the development of a program that can be adapted by AIA chapters throughout the U.S. to assist interns in receiving IDP hours through the AIA, as well as through their firms.

These 500 hours can be completed in conjunction with hours worked in an architectural firm, allowing a motivated intern to earn 2,000 hours at work plus 500 hours through the AIA for a total of 2,500 hours or 45% of IDP requirements in one year. It is our hope that these efforts will be adapted by other chapters around the country.

AIA Chicago

Spanish Language Working with an Architect Outreach Program

Innovation Fund grant award: $5,000

Category: Public Engagement

Repositioning calls architects to speak in accessible language to share impact of architecture. It’s not just about dialing back “archispeak,” and Repositioning Ambassadors recognized in AIA Chicago’s proposal something even more fundamental.

AIA Chicago will collaborate with Arquitectos, a professional organization of Latino architects in Chicago, in the development of two outreach programs: a Spanish language initiative called Working with an Architect (WWAA) and Ask an Architect (AAA). In addition, this program will cultivate mentorship opportunities between Arquitectos and young Spanish-speaking architects. WWAA and AAA are free programs open to the public that are designed to raise awareness of the role of architects in residential projects, to prepare attendees for a possible project, and to make the public aware of AIA’s mission and impact in the profession and industry.

Working with an Architect (WWAA) and Ask an Architect (AAA) are free programs open to the public that are designed to raise awareness of the role of architects in residential projects, to prepare attendees for a possible project, and to make the public aware of AIA’s mission and impact in the profession and industry. AIA Chicago has identified a growing need within the Spanish-speaking community for this type of outreach program.

The WWAA program has two components. Two (2) to four (4) volunteer architects present a 1.25 hour seminar designed to help families in the Chicago area better understand the roles and responsibilities of the owner, architect, and contractor. Residential architects share tips for making the process run smoothly from budget planning to finished construction. Attendees will also learn more about what to look for in an architect’s portfolio and how to select the right professional for the job. Following the presentation, the AAA component invites homeowners to have a 15 minute consultation with a presenting architect.

AIA Tallahassee

Citizen Architect Fellowship in Residence

Innovation Fund grant award: $10,000

Category: Member Experience

The business of advocacy is complicated and it can take years to learn the ropes. But, AIA Tallahassee hopes to change all that with a 4-month immersion strategy for citizen architects—something that Reposition Ambassadors recognized for its brilliance and simplicity. In the end, the Citizen Architect Fellowship aids members looking to run for elective office and, during the state’s legislative session, maintains a high level of visibility for architects.

This fellowship would create a funded seasonal position at AIA Florida Headquarters in conjunction with AIA Tallahassee to allow an architect member to develop and coordinate grassroots legislative efforts. The fellow would develop legislative advocacy tools for use at the state level (legislative policies & priorities, legislation, white papers, leave behind materials and position statements) and a legislative tool kit for leadership by the 13 components within Florida to use to prepare local members for grassroots advocacy at the local level in preparation for that year‟s legislative session. The fellowship would also provide architect members who are considering running for state office the opportunity to gain legislative lobbying experience.

This fellow would serve for four months, occurring annually between October 1 and January 31. Each month the fellow would be in-residence at AIA Florida in Tallahassee for one week where they will develop strategic legislative priorities, coordinate with AIA Component and Chapter leadership, and AIA Florida’s lobbyist.

AIA Utah

AIAS/AIA Utah/University of Utah College of Architecture & Planning Mentoring Program

Innovation Fund grant award: $15,000

Category: Emerging Professionals

Transitioning between career stages isn’t always a clear process—and the lucky ones can rely on their mentors to help them. AIA Utah, AIAS, and the University of Utah offered an outline for how mentoring can work, which the Repositioning Ambassadors seized as model for how mentoring should work: start in schools and connect emerging professionals and established architects with students

In 2011, AIAS member Brennan Aldredge started a mentoring program with M.Arch. students who wanted to develop relationships with practicing professionals. The program had only 12 participants in its first year, but had kindled an idea with Tami Beck, Assoc. AIA, and recent graduate of Utah’s M.Arch. program. As newly appointed Associate Director to the AIA Utah Board of Directors, Tami took the initiative to explain to AIA Utah’s board the reasons why this program should be supported, and set about adding AIA’s support and volunteer structure to the mentoring concept. This program connects all levels of membership in a pipeline development process that, if successful, will help diversify and engage students and connect them to a network of professionals.

This program connects all levels of membership in a pipeline development process that, if successful, will help diversify and engage students and connect them to a network of professionals. They will understand the institutes of their profession (AIA, NAAB, NCARB, and the Boards of Architecture), know how to engage them, and when. The program is a member-driven, student initiated activity that illustrates the very heart of the repositioning effort. Providing for improvement and replication of this program will help the institute address connection, engagement, leadership and our emerging professional pipeline in one effort, drawing our professionals together across the spectrum to share professional knowledge, leadership skills, and valuable expertise on practice and the profession.

AIA East Tennessee

Using Architecture to Teach Problem Solving

Innovation Fund grant award: $16,000

Category: K-12

In reviewing AIA East Tennessee’s proposal for architects to teach critical thinking skills to grade school and high school students, Repositioning Ambassadors immediately understood the impact it would have.

At a time when public school education in the U.S. is in transition, and challenged to meet education goals set forth in Common Core State Standards, architects will find gratifying the prospect of positive intervention by their local AIA chapter by offering schoolchildren the opportunity to enhance their higher order thinking skills through exposure to the design process. This program will facilitate the learning of critical-thinking skills of students (grades 4-12) by demonstrating how the design process works. Of the 231 members of the Chapter, 52 are Associates, and their active participation will be a high priority in the implementation of the project.

The sense of purpose, which we expect architects to associate with their use of the design process to help develop students’ critical thinking skills, should give the participating architects an enhanced appreciation of their profession and the AIA. Communications within the Chapter will, by necessity, become more important and meaningful. By recruiting and engaging young design professionals to collaborate with art teachers in the classroom, this project will strengthen the present and future Chapter leadership, its role in both the design community and the community at large, and its educational outreach.

AIA East Bay

AIA Social Magazine App

Innovation Fund grant award: $25,000

Category: Member Experience

Ambassadors gravitated toward the idea of a simple, mobile tool for a few reasons. It’s already familiar to scores of emerging professionals, it puts members in control of their content, and it encourages social media engagement. They also recognized AIA East Bay’s proposal as a way to reach beyond its chapter to a tech-savvy public who might want to engage AIA members.

The AIA Social Magazine App is a localized news aggregator akin to Flipboard. This app would pull news from National AIA, AIACC or appropriate other state, and the local chapter. In addition to news populated from AIA social media, chapters could manually input articles/content. Once other chapters throughout the nation are using the app, upgrades would include a GPS and/or member login for the app to provide localized content. Members are overwhelmed by AIA emails. This app would push the news of three tiers into the hands of the member, who would see AIA news once—directly, instead of multiple times in each tier's emails. Communication would be efficient, would engage emerging professionals in the way they communicate, and would present a cohesive tier connection for the member. Plus, it would put architectural education and AIA news, initiatives and programs into the public's smart phones and tablets, for free! We would like to develop an app that every local component can easily use by each tier selecting what information will be aggregated.

AIA Seattle

Getting to Zero

Innovation Fund grant award: $35,500

Category: Member Experience

AIA Seattle’s proposal builds on the success of the AIA+2030 series, which Repositioning Ambassadors recognized immediately as a viable education model that made the intentions of “Getting to Zero” stand out.

The proposal to create, document and share Getting to Zero—a comprehensive, cutting-edge curriculum—centers on leading members through the next target of the 2030 Challenge (70% reduction) and beyond. Getting to Zero responds to the expressed needs of Seattle members, who wish to move to the next level of delivering very high performing buildings. It includes four half-day education sessions, 16 learning hours in total, organized around technical presentations, case studies, and interactive exercises to reach all adult learning types.

Session one, entitled “Getting to Zero,” is about 2014 state-of-the-art building science innovations that can get us to zero, on thermal envelope, passive systems, lighting strategies, systems, renewable. Session two, entitled “Outcome-Based Design,” is about current case studies on actual versus modeled outcomes, learning from the 2030 Commitment, contractual performance guarantees. Session three, entitled “Special Projects,” is about the 2030 Commitment for small projects, resources for small firms, residential energy issues, Passivhaus, 2030 for existing buildings. Finally, session four, entitled “On the Horizon” is about embodied energy, Living Buildings, operations and performance monitoring, project delivery, codes and regulations, as well as the energy/water connection.

AIA Vermont

Archistream: Mobile Design Gallery and Education Center

Innovation Fund grant award: $42,750

Category: Public Engagement

Archistream squarely met the Repositioning Ambassador’s definition of innovative, plain and simple. Notably, the program’s public relations value is not couched in the social media or digital campaigns we’ve come to expect these days. It’s couched in good, old fashioned face time—something the ambassadors tagged as positively disruptive.

AIAVT seeks to create a mobile Design Gallery and Education Center that is able to “travel” the length of Vermont, “visiting” suburban and rural towns and providing a hub for hosting educational events and outreach opportunities. This “archistream” concept is based on other mobile units operating in rural areas, such as bookmobiles and traveling cancer screening units. Our center will house both a Gallery to showcase AIAVT Annual Design Award entries and the work of local architects as well as an Education Center that will include literature about the architectural profession and rural infrastructure design, and provide a space to host design charrettes and children’s programs about the built environment.

The AIAVT Initiative meets criteria under both the “Innovate” and “Engage” recommendations. This Initiative is meant to be a key to engaging our Emerging Professionals around the state. Additionally, we anticipate that this Initiative will attract new membership as it meets a desire to be part of an organization with “presence” in communities. We expect an AIAVT board of directors’ member to head up the ArchiTeam and oversee and annual programming and scheduling.

The initiative provides an opportunity to build partnerships with other prominent entities, including the Vermont Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts (“Rebuild by Design” Initiative), and a group working to rebuild historic villages after damage from recent hurricanes, Preservation Trust of Vermont. Further partnerships are anticipated with town libraries and schools. The Archistream will advance the profession by showcasing the work of architects--including innovative design that responds to timely issues of energy, environment, and climate change and by engaging the public through a variety of programs.


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