Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
WITH Tim Ryan, Code Administrator for City of Overland Park
As a group, architects may be the most significantly affected by, and the most significant users of, codes. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) represents the profession on these important issues by supporting member architects’ participation in code development and adoption processes.
To help our members better understand the importance of being involved in code development, Stephanie Spear, Manager, Building Codes Policy, connected with Tim Ryan, CBO of Overland Park, Kansas. Tim is the Code Administrator, Building Safety Division of the City of Overland Park’s Planning & Development Services Department and has experience in code development at both the local and national levels. Read below for Tim’s take on architects’ involvement in code development, advocacy in the profession, and what you can do today to make a difference!
Tim Ryan, CBO
Why is it important that architects be involved in advocacy?
The construction industry in our country today is more dynamic than ever. New technologies and science are influencing how we design and build today. Architects represent a key piece to the core of that industry in that they are viewed as the professionals that not only design our structures, but also take on the responsibility of the owner’s agent to coordinate and manage all of the major players involved in a single project. These other players represent professions of engineering, contracting, local political governance, building safety enforcement, etc. As a result the amount of information needed to be successful is often overwhelming for the architectural team. It is critical that architects understand the general science and procedures associated with these various professions. Advocacy efforts enhance training, communication, trust and most importantly, provide a network of top professionals that you can rely on when needed.
How does what you are working on offer the way to engage young architects and architecture students?
It may sound like an old cliché but communication and training is always at the heart of dealing with young professionals. As one who has been in the building code enforcement profession for 35 years, I am still amazed at how much young architects, architectural students and other design professionals do not know about building safety codes. The model codes are such an important piece of the overall design of any structure that, not only should they should be integrated into the core curriculum of an architect’s education, but local and state active building officials should be engaged into the educational process to identify real life experiences and issues. Further, architects should be familiar with the process that creates the model codes and standards that impact their daily and routine duties of being architects. Currently, most training on codes is seminar style training provided by the codes and standards organizations that are not popular with architects. Working with AIA, The International Association of Building Officials (IABO) hope to provide a mechanism to provide two-way training between architects and building officials. We have to learn from each other so we understand the goals and values of each profession. This is important in order to provide the safest buildings possible.
What personal experiences have you had that have affected how you perceive architects and their role in creating the built environment?
As a young building inspector, much like other building safety professionals when starting out, there was a constant guard against professionals we regulated including architects. Maybe this is the way the process is supposed to work between the enforcement professionals and the industry professionals. However, that constant guarding usually turns into a lack of trust which is never a healthy working relationship. Over the years there were several experiences that eventually educated me to the fact that the architectural profession is much like the building code profession in that we value safety of our buildings above all else. My experiences of serving at the national level, i.e., on committees, attendance at code hearings, service on Board of direction for model code organizations and the National Institute of Building Sciences allowed me the opportunity to work with some of the top architects in the country as well as representatives of AIA. As I worked with these individuals I became more educated to their goals and values; actually got to know them. This communication and understanding allows me to see issues through other perspectives. At the local level and in my daily duties, we rely on architects to solve problems, particularly if there has been a failure, catastrophic event, design flaw, etc.
What could an AIA member, who is just finding out about your efforts for the first time, do to get more involved?
For my entire career I have advocated being engaged and getting involved. Architects should get involved in the procedures that create our codes and standards. When I say get involved I really mean to be engaged in the process by submitting code changes, testifying, serving on committees, etc. There are many ways to be engaged. Regarding the International Association of Building Officials and what we are advocating I would encourage architects to get to know your local building officials; work with them; attend their local chapter meetings; engage in the local code adoption process; attend the same training; work together to provide joint training opportunities; and last but not least become either a corporate or associate member of IABO.
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