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The Angle

December 15, 2011
This will be our last issue of The Angle in 2011. We thank our readers this year for their leadership, involvement, and feedback. We will be releasing a new format in January, so please stay tuned for more information. Until then, read on for a recap of the year, and accept our best wishes for a happy holiday season and a great 2012.

Contact | Federal Relations | State Relations | Local Relations |Codes Advocacy | Communities by Design | Advocacy365

In this issue:

Washington Report

Year in Review


Broad Coalition Joins AIA to Demand Action on the Economy

A broad coalition of design and construction industry organizations and companies called on Congress and the White House last week to put aside partisan differences and pass legislation to get the economy moving again.

The AIA, which spearheaded the effort, took the message to the White House last week, meeting with top officials to discuss the recession’s effect on the design and construction industry. AIA 2011 President Clark Manus, FAIA, and Executive Vice President/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, urged White House staff to work with the industry to help jumpstart stalled projects.  Members of the AIA Board of Directors took the same message to Capitol Hill Wednesday in advance of their Board meeting.

In the letter, the AIA and 44 other related organizations and companies asked policymakers to pass legislation to ensure infrastructure programs are not cut off, pass appropriations bills to prevent a government shutdown, and to promote private sector growth through pro-business tax policies.  The groups stressed that getting the design and construction industry back to work would have a sizable impact on the national unemployment rate. 

AIA members can send a similar message to their Congressional representatives and support legislation to free up credit through the AIA’s Advocacy Center.  

For more information on the AIA’s involvement in this coalition, contact Jessica Salmoiraghi, Esq., director of Federal Relations and Counsel.


Eleven for ’11: The Biggest Policy and Political Developments that Shaped Architecture in 2011

From the Tea Party’s rise to Anthony Weiner’s fall, from the near-government default to Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, 2011 had more than its share of arresting, frustrating, and quirky moments in the world of government and politics. But what were the developments that most impacted architects and the built environment – and what are the trends that will shape design in 2012?

The AIA Government and Community Relations team invites you to join us on a look back, and a preview of what’s to come…

11. Warning: Gridlock Ahead

The 2010 election presaged a bitter year of partisan battles, tension that even a mid-year round of golf between President Obama and Speaker Boehner couldn’t ease. In April, the government nearly shut down when the parties could not agree on spending bills, and in August the federal government came close to default when the fight over the debt ceiling boiled over. The partisan fighting prevented many important issues from being addressed, culminating in the failure of the deficit supercommittee to reach a deal in November.

Despite the battles, though, some legislation moved forward, including AIA-backed efforts to repeal burdensome 1099 reporting requirements and the three-percent withholding law. And both Republicans and Democrats in the House found themselves in agreement with the AIA that the Small Business Administration’s proposed increase in the size standard on architecture firms from $4.5 million to $19 million was too high.

10. A Sea Change in Codes

The clock continued to count down toward the March 2012 release of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). This is the first national model green building code and will bring substantial changes to the practice of architecture as it is adopted by jurisdictions. High-stakes code hearings in the fall spurred major efforts to reshape and rewrite the code, in some cases in ways that would have dramatically affected how architecture is practiced. In the end, architects and their allies were successful in beating back the most damaging amendments.

As the release date nears, the AIA is working hard to prepare architects for these changes. Stay tuned for news about a host of resources, including education sessions at the 2012 AIA National Convention, online materials, and prepared presentations for component education. Visit to stay up to date on the AIA’s IgCC efforts.

9. Threats to Design?

Spurred in part by the bad economy, efforts at the state level to encroach upon the work architects do continued unabated in 2011.  Among the issues faced by AIA components were threats to qualifications-based selection laws, efforts to pass interior design practice acts, and diminished capital budgets.  By most accounts, 2011 was just a warm-up for 2012, when legislation that would infringe upon the ability of architects to practice is expected to resurface in many state capitols. 

The 2011 session was not only one of defense though, as many AIA state components recorded major legislative victories, including tort reform in South Carolina, indemnification protections in Texas and Iowa, and major reductions in the lengths of the statute of repose in Alabama and the statute of limitations in Michigan.

8.  Challenging Times Make for Strange Bedfellows

When the nation’s largest business advocacy group and the nation's largest labor union team up to lobby for legislation, you know something is in the air. But that’s what happened in 2011, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO joined hands with the AIA and other organizations to call on Congress and the White House to invest in infrastructure to create jobs.

If 2011 was the year of bitter partisanship, it also was the year that architects and other professionals realized that working together was far more successful than going it alone. At the end of the year, more than 45 organizations and companies from across the often-fractured design and construction industry joined with the AIA to press Congress and the White House to pass legislation to get the economy moving again. Hopefully, policymakers will learn from the industry that in hard times, it’s better to cooperate than to fight.

7. Green is Still the New Black

Climate change legislation may be on the back burner, and the slow economy may be slowing many projects, but the interest among policymakers in energy efficient buildings appears to be holding steady. In February, the Obama administration announced a new program, the Better Buildings Initiative, based in part on AIA proposals to expand tax incentives and other financing for green buildings. The AIA’s Local Leaders in Sustainability: Special Report from Sundance (developed with the US Green Building Council, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, and the Redford Center), released in early 2011, showed continued support in state and local governments for green schools legislation. And interest in and use of the federal 179D energy efficient commercial building tax deduction by public agencies continued to grow.

Even in Congress, where agreement was hard to come by, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee managed to approve a bill to promote energy efficiency by a strong bipartisan vote.

6.  Governments Tighten their Belts

The pressing need to cut budgets and decrease debt forced governments at all levels to cut back drastically on design and construction spending. At the federal level, the General Services Administration’s new construction fund received no new monies for the 2012 fiscal year. At the state level, many agencies face severe budget cuts. These moves come at a time that public architecture has served as a lifeline for many firms due to the challenges in the private market, a trend that underlined the record number of attendees at the AIA’s Federal Agency Connection at the 2012 Convention in New Orleans.

One bright spot: Congress did provide the Architect of the Capitol with enough funds to begin needed repair work on the Capitol dome. The belt-tightening is expected to continue into 2012, a year that will mark the 50th anniversary of Senator Patrick Moynihan’s seminal Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture, a moment AIA members will celebrate at the 2012 Convention in Washington, DC, and use to make the case that investments in public design are necessary no matter the economic climate.

5. Communities on the Brink – and Coming Back

The latest AIA Home Trends Survey put into sharp relief what architects have seen for years: a combination of rising foreclosures in exurbia, an aging population, and longer commutes are causing more Americans to want housing that is closer to their jobs, shopping, and amenities. Communities across the country lined up in 2011 for AIA’s help in planning sustainable development through the Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) program. And while budget cuts have put a dent in the Obama administration’s livability initiative, the trend lines towards more compact, denser communities augur continued movement towards policies that help communities revitalize in better designed ways.

4. A Disastrous Year for Disasters

Massive tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, raging wildfires in Texas, tropical storm havoc along the East Coast and other natural calamities made 2011 one of the most destructive years in the country’s history (even Washington, DC, could not escape the year -- a rare earthquake left the Washington Monument closed for months). By some estimates, these disasters cost $52 billion. By far the most devastating scenes were from Joplin, MO, and Alabama, where massive twisters left a trail of death and destruction for miles. But as powerful as the disasters were, the resolve of the communities to rebuild has been stronger. AIA members spearheaded the formation of a plan to rebuild part of Birmingham, AL, worked with the Joplin community to help them recover, and sent a design assessment team to Bastrop, TX, epicenter of the Lone Star State’s summer wildfires.

The bad news: the trend of dangerous weather is expected to continue into 2012, forcing architects to redouble efforts to make communities more resilient and help neighborhoods rebuild following destruction.

3. Going Global

A slow economy at home and in Europe, coupled with massive growth in China, India, and other developing nations, continued to make overseas work not just an enticing option for American architects, but a growing necessity. When 2011 AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, traveled to India last spring to meet with Indian business leaders and US Commerce Department personnel, he found a nation that needs far more architects than it can train.

Recognizing the challenges that many design firms, especially smaller ones, face in international markets, the AIA is developing a program of trade missions overseas for 2012 and beyond to help its members get a foot into the growing markets overseas.

2. Decision 2012

It may seem like just yesterday that Barack Obama and John McCain were battling for the White House, but the 2012 election is already upon us. With control of the U.S. Senate, and maybe the House, up for grabs, and a Republican Party anxious to coalesce around a candidate to take on Obama, what happens on the campaign trail in the next eleven months will shape policy toward the built environment for years to come.

Thankfully, architects are getting ready, raising record amounts for ArchiPAC, the AIA’s federal political action committee, in 2011, and gearing up to make the profession’s voice heard as a part of the DesignVote12 program in 2012. Meanwhile, numerous AIA members are getting ready to join the more than 1200 architects who currently serve in appointed and elected positions at the state and local levels, making sure that when governments make decisions that affect architecture, architects are at the table.

The AIA salutes ArchiPAC donors and Citizen Architects alike, both of whom are essential to making sure that the voice of our profession is heard loud and clear by our elected leaders.

1. The Economy, the Economy, the Economy

Rarely has Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign motto – “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” – been more apt than in 2011 as the aftereffects of the financial crisis and the recession that will not go away linger. Week after week, politicians, the media, and the public have watched with baited breath as the latest economic data emanated from Washington: the unemployment rate, new jobless claims, housing starts, and the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index are all scrutinized like an X-ray of a sick patient.

The national jobless rate may be hovering around nine percent, but in the design and construction industry, it has remained much higher. When 800 AIA leaders took to Capitol Hill last February as a part of the Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference, they made sure that lawmakers got the message that job creation in an industry that counts for one in nine dollars of Gross Domestic Product was vital to getting the economy moving again – and that making credit more available was key to creating those jobs.

That message was reinforced mid-year when the AIA launched its Stalled Projects initiative to match potential projects to willing investors. As the year closed out, the AIA was leading a diverse design and construction coalition demanding Congress and the White House take action on legislation to help move the economy forward, a message 2011 AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, took directly to the White House last week.

Although there is no silver bullet to get the economy fully back on track, the message is finally getting through. As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told an AIA staff member at a Capitol Hill briefing last week, design and construction mean jobs. And politicians of all stripes know that creating more jobs is vital if they want to keep theirs in 2012.


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The Angle is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact The Angle, send an email to


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