AIA Pittsburgh Year in Review: 2019

By Posted on January 9, 2020

AIA Pittsburgh Year in Review: 2019

We are a team. That is the philosophy of the AIA Pittsburgh Board and staff, and how we see our community of architects and partners.  We do together what we could not do alone.

Together we have made significant progress. We are engaging our members in new ways, forging new partnerships, digging into new and complex issues, and seeking ways to influence positive change in our region, like positioning our members as experts and influencers. We are building on our reputation as a chapter that punches above its size and our goal is to sustain this momentum and increase our impact.

Throughout 2019 the new strategic direction of greater collaboration and connection we started two years ago continued to take shape. We developed a Vision statement and Values to add to our Mission that further defines our direction and purpose.

Supporting our Members

For the first time in many years, we did not increase local AIA dues for 2020, even though the organization’s expenses will increase. We feel it is a good moment to take stock of our members’ needs while the economy is doing well – so we can ensure going forward that we are offering architects the best value for their membership.

The number one way to derive best value for your membership dollar is to get involved with the organization in ways beyond your dues payment.  AIA Pittsburgh creates opportunities for architects to leverage what they know and learn more. The more member engagement we have the more we can do in support of our community.

We are committed to responding to member needs and creating opportunities for member engagement, which is why we started the year with a Member Survey. A few examples of our response to your feedback include:

  • increasing local continuing education opportunities (including a popular Procrastinator’s Day in December), especially around “technology issues”;
  • developing, with the Committee on the Environment, a Fall-Spring seminar series;
  • launching three new committees: Local Advocacy, Equity Diversity and Inclusion, and Healthcare;
  • delivering a wide variety of engaging programming through the Young Architects Forum, from YAFapalooza to ARE Study Groups.

We want to know our members better, so we instituted Firm Visits, with staff and Board members meeting 20 firms on their home turf plus one group gathering of 18 smaller firms.   Every member counts.  Please share your thoughts and concerns with us.  We will help where we can, and your experiences will inform programming for many others.

We established an initiative this year to place our members front and center in our region to be recognized for their expertise and accomplishments.  For example, Laura Nettleton, AIA, received the GASP Environmental Excellence Award and just last week the AIA Board put forward a candidate for the Pittsburgh Business Times’ Women of Influence Award. Last month, three members were profiled in NEXT Pittsburgh for their work on sustainable design.  Let us know what you are doing so we can let others know.

AIA in the City/ Region

For the first time in over a decade, we welcomed Public Directors onto the Board for 2020 to strengthen AIA’s connections to others in our region who care about the built environment:

  • Grant Ervin, Chief Resiliency Officer, City of Pittsburgh
  • Lena Andrews, Senior Development Officer, ACTION Housing

We met with Mayor Peduto’s Chief of Staff to share the key qualities members have told us they would like to see in a new PLI Director, and to send the message that AIA Pittsburgh members are a resource to the City.  Earlier this year we offered member inputs into the job descriptions of the new City Planning Director and the new URA Director.

Once again we drove architects to Harrisburg for Architects Action Day and ran up and down the stairs of the Capitol Building, advocating for issues that strengthen the profession and improve the built environment. We are excited to say AIA Pittsburgh members’ efforts helped pass the following legislation in 2019:

  • Extension of PA Historic Tax credits
  • Implementation of a streamlined PlanCon process for school construction

We positioned the Pittsburgh Foundation for Architecture for growth in 2020, which will focus on three areas: strengthening the Next Generation of the profession, public education, engaging architects in our communities.  For example, a number of members are currently working with locally-owned businesses in Homewood to improve commercial district facades.

National Attention

AIA Pittsburgh was the first AIA chapter to host focus groups for AIA National on the Framework for Design Excellence, developed to further sustainable design countrywide. In this way our chapter is able to influence national thinking on the profession.

AIA Pittsburgh’s first professional video, Blueprint for Better: Pittsburgh, was a 2019 AIA Film Challenge finalist. The video grew out of a project to show the value or architects by sharing how the built environment affects human well-being. Our initial efforts were so well received we are further developing Blueprint for Better as a year-long initiative and our Chapter theme for 2020.

AIA Pittsburgh teamed with AIA Boston at the national conference for AIA executives to share our chapter’s best practices and creative ideas for running Design Awards, and Michelle spoke at the national AIA State and Local Governance Network conference in Providence.

We are a team. And like a team, the more we work together the more we can do. Join us in celebrating and amplifying the power of design in 2020. 

Stephen Winikoff, AIA, Pittsburgh 2019 Chapter President

Michelle Fanzo, Executive Director

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