Visiting with Architects

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Visiting with Architects

by Louis J. Jenny  |  July 2 , 2014

I just returned from three days in Chicago attending the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) annual conference. I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of folks about design-build and the issues and projects DBIA and AIA are working on together.

My first takeaway from the conference is that we have a lot of opportunities among architects to promote and educate on design-build, which is to say that there is still some skepticism in that community. This conclusion is, of course, not based on a scientific sampling of architects, but based simply on my discussions with a small number of conference attendees. However, it was still clear that some – but by no means all — architects I spoke with have real concerns with the role of the architect in design-build project delivery.

We have long been aware of this skepticism and have worked to reach out to AIA to address it head on by, for example, attending and engaging at their annual conference. During my specific conversations, I frequently referred to DBIA’s just-released design-build best practices, specifically focusing on trust, transparency and team integration. I think I was able to communicate that we aren’t the enemy and maybe they should reconsider design-build. More broadly, through DBIA’s Design Advisory Council and other structures, we develop strategies that support architectural and engineering firms’ business goals, and encourage design excellence within design-build delivery through specific products, services and tools that facilitate Design-Build Rone Right. If our friends in the architecture community are interested helping the cause even more, please don’t hesitate reaching out to me.

It is worth noting that while there are individual architects with concerns about design-build it does not mean DBIA and AIA can’t work together on issues to our mutual benefit. The staffs of DBIA and AIA here in Washington, DC have good relationships and our cooperation on H.R. 2750, the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act, is good example of a well-functioning coalition.

Also, in recent months DBIA has been offering comments to AIA on the draft public-private partnership (PPP) model state legislation they have been developing. AIA is developing this model legislation because owners are increasingly looking for creative ways to finance infrastructure, and a public-private partnership offers many advantages.

While in Chicago, I attended a session most of which was on this legislation. Spending an hour listening to the AIA staff discuss the draft legislation in detail, the concerns AIA has with PPPs became clearer. In short, similar to design-build, AIA is concerned that a project financed through a PPP, the role of the architect can be less clearly defined. Further, state procurement regulations such as qualifications based selection may not apply in a PPP, which is a legitimate concern for AIA.

Being in Chicago for three days among the many architects gave me a much better sense of the context the AIA staff works in, the concerns their members have and a clearer understanding of where DBIA and AIA can partner.