What’s Coming: Highlights from the AIA CACE conference

By Michelle Fanzo, Executive Director Posted on August 16, 2019

AIA Pittsburgh staff traveled to Columbus, Ohio last week for the annual AIA Council of Architectural Component Executives (CACE) conference to meet our peers, share best practices and hear the latest from AIA National about the year ahead. We also had the pleasure of spending time with our most-on-the-move chapter member, AIA President Bill Bates.

    AIA Pittsburgh staff with Bill Bates, FAIA

A key message from the conference is an institution-wide emphasis on three themes: energy, economy, equitable communities. The national AIA Strategic Council prioritized the areas where they felt architects can make the most impact in the coming years. Much is still under discussion but more definitive information is expected before the end of this year on how these themes will help shape our work at the chapter level. How each chapter realizes these themes will vary based on local context, and it was noted that this is a shift to a more grassroots focus for the organization.

Tim Hawk, FAIA, says this focus is meant to help architects engage differently in communities, and be a community leader and resource to your neighbors. “We want to develop a language for this so we can have a common conversation,” said Hawk. He outlined the themes as follows:

1. Design for Energy – AIA has been working on this for 20-30 years and this is an existing area of great competency.

2. Design for Economy – Architects need to help clients understand why they need to invest in a building that is of higher quality design.  Training is being developed to help members have that conversation.

3. Design for Equitable Communities – This may be the most complex area of the three, as many of our societal structures work against equity.  What is the right conversation to have and with whom?

AIA has also been in strategic discussions with NAB about the future of architectural education and how to make sure students are being well prepared for a changing practice.

There is an awareness that AIA, like many professional organizations, is facing an “aging out” of a large percentage of our members. We need to think about the future and how our organization can provide the knowledge, tools, resources and value to upcoming generations that will be working in a very different environment than in the past.

Bill Bates, FAIA announced the formation of the “Vetting our Values” task force, of which he is a member, that will look into how AIA vets candidates for national awards. AIA has commissioned a law firm to help them strengthen institutional processes. There was a suggestion to share this information with state and local chapters for their use as well.

Bates stated that his primary goal as President is to increase the visibility and influence of architects. There was discussion of how architects partnering more with mayors and elected officials should be brought back, as this was a more common role for architects decades ago. Architects taking leadership roles on issues of energy efficiency, sustainability, resilience, affordable housing were also discussed.

One of the most interesting breakout workshops was on resilience, both for the chapter as an organization (back up your data!), but also in our communities and the role architects can play. Here are two examples of the unexpected:

Natural disasters: AIA Houston shared the experience of having their office 4.5 feet under water, and one-third of their city flood damaged. (That city received 53 inches of water in 36 hours, or the equivalent of 2.5 weeks of Niagara Falls crashing down on them.) How do we protect our data? What business continuity plans do chapters and firms have in place for such a disaster? How do we mobilize and help our peers, our communities?

Cyber security attacks: AIA Orange County was a victim of a cyber virus that attacked a partner and got transferred to AIA.  They lost access to absolutely everything, including their email.  They had to pay a hacker in Bitcoin to retrieve the data.  This year the City of Baltimore had a similar attack.  Is your firm prepared?

 If any of our readers have an interest in any of these emerging topics, please consider joining a committee and helping AIA Pittsburgh shape our work in the year ahead. You can also send us your ideas and experiences for new programs and services.

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