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Not the “same old-same old”…Really, We Mean Business!
By Yvonne Castillo, Director, State and Local Relations

‘Architecture is architecture, business is business and n’er the twain shall meet’ is a tired expression the AIA aims to dispel. Like never before, the AIA – after being invited to speak at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Job Summit last week—catapulted the voice of architects into the middle of policy discussions among lawmakers on the topic of “Investing in Infrastructure.” The Summit was attended by over a hundred key lawmakers who serve in leadership positions on critical legislative committees in state legislatures across the country who are struggling to make ends meet and need policy ideas to help them with their infrastructure issues.

“I enjoyed your presentation. ..architects don’t usually get involved in this kind of stuff” was a repeated post-presentation refrain from lawmakers after hearing results of the AIA’s international and national research on the topic of avoiding mistakes with public private partnerships (“PPP”) and suggestions on how to do it right. The presentation focused on giving lawmakers easily-digestible talking points on what PPP is, what’s been done in other countries and in the states, and how to write PPP laws that promote the smart use of PPP as a finance tool for the right projects without sacrificing design quality. The event and post-presentation Q&A confirmed that lawmakers value credible input from architects because they genuinely want to do the right thing.

PPP is a very appealing project delivery method in these economic times but, largely out of misplaced understanding of what it really is. Simply put, PPP is a project delivery method that authorizes state and local governments to contract with a developer to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a public building over a long-term contract (i.e. 30-35 years). Underneath this deceptively simple contractual arrangement are political landmines. What AIA doesn’t want is policymakers moving forward with enabling legislation without proper provisions that maintain design integrity and quality construction. The bottom line is this: private financing does not change the fact that the cost of the public building remains on the shoulders of taxpayers. The AIA wants to assist lawmakers as they move forward by promoting a responsible use of this finance vehicle.

In addition to offering our research findings and policy recommendations on PPP, the AIA offered alternative public-public partnership policy ideas that are based on the concept of authorizing state and local governmental entities to contract with each other to jointly plan, fund, and develop projects that serve multiple interest groups -- schools that double as educational facilities as well as community service center and hubs for broader community use, for example. The AIA offered resources to help them pass enabling legislation that could serve as a starting point for government to think differently and more efficiently about land use and planning.

So, if ever you wondered whether AIA really promotes your business, this speaking engagement resulted in literally connecting state lawmakers to local architects as credible resources to their infrastructure policy concerns. One day after the presentation AIA was referenced in a press release issued by the New York Senate related to the filing of a PPP bill. Other AIA Components such as Delaware, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Tennessee have also now been recently sought out as credible resources by lawmakers for PPP policymaking. This is merely one of many more examples to come where AIA National strives to advance the architectural profession. As an architect, you have a unique role in an industry that drives job creation for the economy. The infrastructure challenges that policymakers face benefit from your knowledge. To help the AIA move forward in becoming a stronger leader in infrastructure policy that directly impacts architectural business, share this article and other AIA resources with your local and state chapter so that follow-up meetings with key elected officials can be scheduled. To browse AIA policy resources related to architectural practice, go to the AIA State & Local Relations website.

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This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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