Historic Preservation Tax Credit Bill on Governor’s Desk

in: Advocacy / 0 Comments


Legislation to create a California tax credit for work performed on historic buildings is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his decision. You can help by sending Governor Jerry Brown a message encouraging him to sign this important bill into law.

The bill, AB 1999, is jointly sponsored by the California Preservation Foundation and the AIA California Council. It would have California join the federal government and 35 other states in offering a tax credit to encourage developers and owners to make improvements to these historically important buildings and make them relevant components of our communities.

AB 1999 creates a 20% tax credit for work performed on these buildings. Some buildings would be eligible for a 25% tax credit (for example, if they are a part of an affordable housing project or in a transit-oriented development).

For more information on AB 1999, please read the coalition letter sent to Governor Brown.

There still is time to send Governor Brown a message urging him to sign AB 1999 into law, but it must be done this week. If you would like to, please follow these steps:

  • Send him a message using the Governor’s online comment form
  • Go to https://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php
  • Select “Have Comment”
  • Under “Please Chose Your Subject” scroll down to AB 1999
  • After pressing “Continue”, select the “Pro” button and enter comments urging him to sign AB 1999; if you are comfortable doing so, please enter comments on the importance of these buildings to our communities.

And, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.


Helpful Energy Resource Site

in: AIACC / 2 Comments

The AIACC came across this very helpful resource and we wanted to share it with the members. Along with all the information, research and links, one can also find a plethora of training and events. Browse through the site when you have a moment and see what we mean.


Vocal Criticism Be Warned

in: Important Issues / 0 Comments

members in the news-580

This op-ed piece was written by member Stuart Magruder, AIA, LEED, who stepped up to actively participate in public policy and when he questioned motives, felt rather marginalized.  We thought it important to publish because there is a level of government accountability to be addressed, and if you feel so inclined, a petition has been started to have Magruder reinstated. The petition is for all concerned citizens and does not depend on locale.

Stuart Magruder, AIA

Stuart Magruder, AIA, LEED

For the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving pro bono on the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (BOC), a body charged with ensuring that public bond funds used by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are used to provide the infrastructure to educate the City’s youth.  The District has been the beneficiary of the largest municipal bond fund program in the history of the United States, totaling some $20.5 billion to date.   Busing, year round calendars, and serious overcrowding have been almost eliminated throughout the District as a result of the bonds.

With these major accomplishments behind it and close to $7B of the $20.5B remaining, LAUSD has diverted infrastructure bond funds to a poorly designed and poorly executed technology initiative: one iPad for every student, K through 12.  The price tag for this initiative: $1.1B.

From the beginning, I have been a vocal and consistent critic of the program as it was clear to me that the District had not designed the initiative well.  Rather than starting with a pilot program to figure out what works and what doesn’t, the District planned to provide every student – some 600,000 – with an iPad.  And they planned to do it over the course of a year or so.  The teaching core was not consulted in any meaningful way, to say nothing of training the teachers that have to manage the devices.  Countless missteps along the way have occurred from paying for “content” (otherwise known as a “textbook”) that is not finished and is not being used; to not supplying keyboards; to numerous missteps around privacy and student data.

Nominated for a second two-year term by the AIA Los Angeles Chapter, the District’s Board Of Education, in a split vote, rejected my re-nomination.  This action violates the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between LAUSD and the BOC.  Per the MOU the District is compelled to approve the AIA|LA nomination – 12 of the 15 slots on the BOC are held above meddling by the District with an ensured appointee.

The reason for my nomination’s rejection is solely due to my criticism of the technology initiative.  Buying tablet computers with Bond funds is bad enough but moving to silence a critic of the effort is scary for our democracy.  When our politicians waste taxpayer funds and attempt to put themselves above reproach, we, the citizens, must resist.  Help me keep LAUSD honest.  Sign the petition and let the AIA|LA know their support of my re-nomination is vital.

For further insight, click here.


In Passing: John O. Merrill Jr., FAIA

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The following was sent courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Architect John O. Merrill Jr., FAIA, the son of the founder of SOM died April 25 at his home in Tiburon, California. He was 90 years old. Merrill was the Partner in Charge of many of SOM’s widely regarded projects including the Mauna Kea hotel in Hawaii; the Oakland Stadium and Coliseum; the 52-story Bank of America building in San Francisco; and the Weyerhauser corporate headquarters in Tacoma, WA.

During his 40-year career at SOM, Merrill had a significant impact not only on the firm, but on some of the most celebrated architecture of the 20th century. In the late 1960’s, Merrill, with frequent collaborator and SOM Design Partner Charles Bassett, oversaw the five story stepped back headquarters for Weyerhauser Corporation. Decades before the notion of green roofs and trends in office layouts, this building’s sloped terraces were each planted with lush greenery. Floor to ceiling windows run completely uninterrupted along each level, blurring the boundary between outside and in.

“With John’s leadership, SOM brought an approach to integrated design that hadn’t been seen before on the West Coast,” said SOM Managing Partner Gene Schnair, FAIA. “John’s focus and insistence on design excellence deeply influence our practice.”

Merrill began his career with SOM in San Francisco in 1949. In 1952 he took over the leadership of the firm’s then office in Portland, Oregon and in the following eight years established the basis of the firm’s stellar reputation in the Pacific Northwest. He quickly rose to the level of Associate in the firm (1953) and then Associate Partner (1954). He was elected as a Partner in 1957 and served as a senior Managing Partner of the firm until his retirement in 1989. In addition to his important contribution to the firm’s West Coast practice, he worked internationally in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Russia and France. Along the way he was elevated to the level of Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, of which he served as President of the San Francisco chapter in 1976.

His influence reached far beyond the firm. In fact, he was instrumental in achieving AIA San Francisco’s Affirmative Action Plan for Women in Architecture. And he was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Art Institute when that 75-year old, 800-student institution was near collapse due to student unrest and financial problems. Merrill instituted student and faculty reforms as well as fund raising efforts that saved this cultural asset.


2013 Academy of Emerging Professional Award Recipients Announced

in: Press Room/Releases / 0 Comments

American Institute of Architects AEP honors top young leaders and mentors.

The American Institute of Architects, California Council (AIACC), is proud to notify the public about the results from the Academy of Emerging Professionals recent awards program. Not only have the best and the brightest minds been recognized, but those who support architects in the early stages of their career. The 2nd annual awards program jury deliberated and announced the following 2013 award recipients:

Chapter Award:
AIA Pasadena & Foothill. This chapter has an inclusive approach to Emerging Professionals, resulting in engagement from the community as well as the design arena.

Firm Mentorship Award: Lionakis, a firm known to actively connect the Emerging Professionals within the organization to a wide range of resources to enrich development and further enhance the architecture arena and society as a whole. With firms in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Hawaii, they are able to touch a wide range of up and coming architects and mentor them along the path to success.

Student Leader Award:
Keko AlRamah. She has demonstrated an early commitment to her profession and contributions and achievements have already been observed in her community. She currently attends West Valley College in Saratoga.

Educator Award: Gary McGavin, AIA Jurors agreed McGavin embodies the idea that architectural success is enhanced when one sees the calling as part of a well-rounded life, and imparts this on his students. He is on faculty at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.

Associate Award: Haley Gipe, Assoc. AIA. Jurors noted there is not a single aspect of associate activities connected to AIA that she has not touched on a national scale and all should look forward to her contributions in the future. Gipe is an intern at Darden Architects in Fresno.

Young Architect Award:
Brian Crilly, AIA and Britt Lindberg, AIA LEED AP. Both have been noted for their creative solutions and innovative thinking. Crilly is credited for his contributions with a conference all should be attending—the Now Next Future. Many are looking forward to see how Lindberg continues to contribute to the leadership within the field of Architecture in the future. Crilly is an architect at Lionakis, Sacramento. Lindberg is a project architect at Gensler in San Francisco

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Shannon Calder, at 916.642.1718, or scalder@aiacc.org.


Rio Vision Meets R/UDAT

in: Important Issues / 1 Comment
Humphrey the Whale

Humphrey the Whale. Illustration courtesy of Nick Gaston

In 1985 and then again in 1990, Humphrey the Humpback Whale, deviated from his Pacific Ocean migration path and found himself 60 miles inland of the coast of San Francisco near the city of Rio Vista. Because his wayward journeys (and the ensuing successful rescues) made national headlines, you may have heard of this place: population 7,563.

Do not be deceived by the modest number of citizens: this small Delta community is mighty. Very recently, a group of citizens rallied to rise above predicaments such as a near-municipal fiscal collapse in 2009, by composing a well-written application (Rio Vision). They were awarded the help of a Regional Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT). R/UDATs are sought out by the communities themselves. They can help assist with responding to issues such as unfocused growth, gridlock, crime, loss of identity.

The primary purpose of the R/UDAT process is to essentially help communities become more livable. Since 1967, these teams have assisted more than 150 areas by coming in, assessing the problems and providing solutions in the form of executive summaries—summaries which do not read as instruction manuals, but rather a list of recommendations with detailed analytics as to why. Rio Vista is the latest community to receive one such summary.

Direct issues were discussed, analyzed and faced. Take Rio Vista’s waterfront and downtown for example. According to Rio Vision’s request : “The downtown has a 1950’s undisturbed look and feel … buildings have facades that obscure the charming brickwork … some buildings look dated. Storefronts have little curb appeal.” Also, the community has “a charming but lackluster core city and waterfront.” In direct answer to this, the R/UDAT explicitly stated the downtown and waterfront should not be considered two different areas but rather the “Waterfront will catalyze down town through downtown expansion, restaurants that help provide access to the river, dense housing to build downtown’s critical mass, built around public space.” (p. 2)

Because Rio Vista was armed and prepared with an already established vision, the process went that much smoother. “Rio Vista had a lot of enthusiasm built up, so we hit the ground running. This was a very ideal case for us,” said Erin Simmons, Director of the AIA Center for Communities by Design.

Rio Vista Bridge. Illustration courtesy Nick Gaston

Rio Vista Bridge. Illustration courtesy of Nick Gaston

Architect and member of the Rio Vision steering committee, Mark McTeer, AIA, was skeptical upon entry of this project as momentum on situations such as these do have a tendency to fade. But that was not the case. “I could hardly believe what they were achieving and for the first time in almost a decade, people were starting to talk and dream again. Everything seemed rooted in optimism.”

The R/UDAT team consisted of nine professionals from across the country. 10 college students from the San Francisco and Sacramento area also joined in. Consumnes River College student Daniel Christman, AIAS, (and AIACC’s Student Director North), happened to be one. “It was a great opportunity to observe how design professionals analyze a community in need.” But the attendees and participants were not limited to the experts. 50 community members attended the targeted focus groups and 350 citizens attended a Town Hall meeting. Once assembled, several action-packed days (and nights) were spent coming up with suggestions and solutions. There were short-term goals set, (p.77), as well as long-term. Some basic ideas and objectives: calm Highway 12; (see the “road diet” section, p. 9 -31), and to build a viable business community in the downtown area by revitalizing and creating a stronger identity.

According to McTeer, there are now more volunteers and potential projects and Rio Vision is planning on accommodating them. Simmons said about the experience, “This is what a project can be.”

The fire was ignited, but the passion to start this adaptation of the community was already in place. McTeer articulately wrote of the value of the process coupled with the value of the people: “… The change in attitude oddly reminds me of a scene from The Wizard of Oz. Nine professionals flew in and drew back the curtains and with a little faith and encouragement, granted a struggling community something they had all along: brains, courage, and heart.”

Brains, Heart, Courage. Illustration courtesy Nick Gaston

Brains, Heart, Courage. Illustration courtesy of Nick Gaston

Maybe Humphrey knew something we didn’t. Perhaps he felt the spirit of this place and its people and wanted to take a swim in some freshwater to check it out. Let’s hope, for his sake, he doesn’t return again. But humans from all locales are absolutely welcome to visit. For communities in need some insight and assistance, may Rio Vision serve as inspiration.

Read the full report here. If anyone is interested in a live, first-person account, they may want to consider attending AIA East Bay’s event Wed., Apr. 30. Three members from the Rio Vision steering committee will be presenting. Visit the AIA East Bay website for information and registration.


Avoiding White Space and Other Distractions

in: Notes From the 2nd Floor / 1 Comment

In this issue we continue the discussion of AIA fostering a culture of firm services and benefits that enhance the prosperity of the profession. Admittedly, achieving this objective is much easier said than done. So, where do we start?


Paul W. Welch, Jr., Hon. AIA

We begin by clearly identifying expected outcomes:

  • an educated profession well prepared to meet the environmental and economic challenges of a shrinking planet;
  • architectural firms that have the necessary tools and resources to prosper in an evolving profession and growing unpredictable marketplace;
  • an aggressive outreach campaign that engages the public towards a greater understanding and appreciation of architects, architecture, and the contributions of design to the human experience;
  • and an AIA that vigorously participates in local, regional, and national conversations regarding design and construction.

Understandably, to be successful, these ambitious objectives require discipline and focus at all three levels of the AIA.

AIA, within the framework of the Practice and Prosperity Initiative, has begun the journey. Underway is a major effort to clearly identify the programs and activities that contribute to a culture of firm services. The inquiry is not confined to the Design and Practice Department. The research is being conducted Institute-wide and will identify the activities in all the AIA’s programs, activities, committees, and task forces. Ultimately, the inventory will include firm benefits and services being provided by state and local AIA components. Once the survey is complete, a thorough review and validation of the findings will prioritize valued services, and ascertain programs and activities that have outlived their usefulness.

While the validation process is underway, commensurate efforts will identify “white space,” or issues, problems, and/or opportunities for member services that are not currently being addressed. This effort will require additional surveys and discussions with architectural firms of all sizes. Once these white spaces have been identified, they will be prioritized before moving to operational planning and budgeting to ensure the AIA has targeted those items that have the highest positive impact on the firms and the members.

This exploratory effort at cataloging existing and needed firm service and benefits will contribute considerably to expanded member communications and efforts to enhance public and client messaging. If we are serious about changing the conversation about design and construction and elevating the value of design while empowering emerging professions, we must not be distracted by the noise of adversity and conflict, but, instead, be willing to stand up for what we believe in.

I fully appreciate that The Practice and Prosperity Initiative, within the context of Repositioning, represents a different paradigm of resourcing our firms and our members to meet the challenges of the post-recession economy and an unpredictable and volatile marketplace. However, we must be bold, courageous, and innovative, if we are to reposition the AIA to be an active participant at the leading edge of practice.

To be truly valuable to members, especially the emerging professionals, the AIA has to focus resources in order to earn a reputation as an organization that doesn’t follow, but leads. In the past, with the best intentions, our incremental efforts to accommodate myriad demands has resulted in AIA spreading itself much too thin, with far too many competing priorities. Our challenge is to target with laser-like accuracy those services, and only those services, that leverage our finite resources to best advance the value of the organization and the members it serves. Prosperity is a consequence of good business practices. As firms prosper, our members will benefit, and society will experience first -hand how design influences the livability of our communities.

In the words Albert Einstein:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and forgotten the gift.”

Money and resource allocation is the cutting edge of organizational policy. In other words, if we are truly committed to repositioning the architect in the marketplace and elevating the contributions of design, we need to “put our money where our mouth is.”

What are your thoughts? I look forward to hearing from you.


Mr. Malinowski Goes to Washington

in: Industry News / 0 Comments

members in the news-580

“Wood is being rediscovered; wood is being reinvented.”
–Michael F. Malinowski, AIA


Michael F. Malinowski, AIA

Sometimes there is more than one way to think through a predicament; more than one solution to be considered. For example, the public often views timber as a precious resource in danger of disappearing. But what if this isn’t the case? What if sustainable harvested would was a medium and therefore a way to increase the employment rate? What if building with wood actually reduced greenhouse gas emissions?

These quandaries were discussed at the White House Rural Council Workshop, Building with Wood: Jobs and the Environment, presented on Mar. 18. Among the presenters invited was California’s own Michael Malinowski, AIA.

According to a press release distributed by the US Forest Service, the idea is to “support sustainable forestry and buffer reduce [sic] greenhouse gas emissions.”

To this effect, The Agriculture Department (USDA) announced a $1 million program to promote wood as a sustainable material in order to boost rural economies. In addition, another $1 million is being used to set up a design competition. The intent is to “demonstrate the architectural and commercial viability of using sustainable wood products in high-rise construction,” according to a USDA press release.

Malinowski, President of Applied Architecture, Inc., presented on the use of timber in architecture. His platform revolved around the narrative of a situation where his switching to wood on a project received very positive results. His account included video and slides, one of which powerfully and simply read: “Wood is being Re-discovered; Wood is being Reinvented.” Malinowski was also able to provide evidence via surveys of innovations regarding wood use that are currently transpiring. “It happened I was one of the three invited jurors for the Canadian Wood Design Awards program – juried in Ottawa, Canada this last December – so I had a ready access to an amazing breadth of work and the firms who are at the leading edge of this innovation in design and application.”

Malinowski received solid feedback on his presentation, as well as an announcement from the AIA Grassroots podium announcing that a member presented to the White House Rural Council. (Even though the event didn’t technically transpire at the White House. Snow prevented the original date and place. As Malinowski said, “It turned out the government was shut down on Monday due to a snow storm; the event was moved to Tuesday at the USDA headquarters on the National Mall – not quite as heady as the original location – but still an event where there were two senior people from the white house speaking, followed with an address by the Secretary of Agriculture.”)

If the mission of this symposium is to consider wood as a sustainable resource and for it to be more widely adopted, no one better to speak than an architect with the research and the experience to back it up. It is from these sorts of presentations which not only the profession learns, but the public as well.

Additional Resources:


School Design Excellence

in: Awards / 1 Comment

2014 Leroy Greene On Feb. 25 in Sacramento, Calif., CASH (The Coalition for Adequate School Housing), in partnership with AIACC, announced the recipients of the 2014 Leroy F. Green Design + Planning Awards. Selected by a distinguished panel of jurors, representing educators and design professionals, these awards recognized new, modernized, and specialty facility projects throughout California.



Award of Excellence
Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan
Irvine Unified School District
Irvine Unified School District
LPA, Inc.


Award of Excellence

Paramount High School
Paramount Unified School District
LPA, Inc.

Mills High School Theater & Gymnasium Complex
San Mateo Union High School District
Quattrocchi Kwok Architects LLP

Award of Honor

Arroyo Viejo Child Development Center
Oakland Unified School District
Dougherty + Dougherty Architects, LLP

Award of Merit

Placer County Office of Education
Seavey Center
Placer County Office of Education
Williams + Paddon Architects


Award of Excellence
Hillcrest High School
Alvord Unified School District
HMC Architects

Pioneer School
Delano Union School District
HMC Architects

La Escuelita Elementary School + District Programs (KDOL Studio/ District IT Center/Community Health Center)
Oakland Unified School District
MVE Institutional, Inc.

Award of Honor
Richard N. Slawson
Southeast Educational Center
Los Angeles Unified School District

Granite Hills High School
Grossmont Union High School District
Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke


Award of Honor
Fremont High School Expansion
Los Angeles Unified School District
LPA, Inc.

The AIACC congratulates each of these recipients on successful projects as they provide school districts with a glimpse of how a well-designed facility can enhance the learning environments for California’s public school students. The AIACC believes good design in public school facilities enhances the learning, development, and behavior of the students and positively affects educational outcomes.


Chapters: Possibilities at Risk

in: Important Issues / 2 Comments


The previous issue of Notes from the Second Floor began the conversation of “One AIA.” This issue continues the discussion and focuses on the AIA chapters, and the challenges facing chapter executive directors. If working better together is an expected outcome of the Repositioning Initiative, there should be no higher priority than the need to improve the health and welfare of our chapters, and the working conditions facing many of our component executives.


Paul W. Welch, Jr., Hon. AIA

A cursory examination of the AIA’s chapter boundaries across America is not unlike reviewing political reapportionment. Chapter boundaries seem to wander aimlessly around cities and towns, geographical and topical formations, in search of new ZIP Codes to incorporate. Occasionally, chapters will quarrel when boundaries conflict as cities and townships expand into previously undeveloped landscapes. Unfortunately, once new AIA chapters are created and chapter boundaries constructed, they seem to be irrevocable as the decisions are seldom revisited.

Created with an enhanced desire for increased local focus and control, newly formed chapters had an abundance of volunteers willing to step into leadership positions. However, for many chapters, times have changed. Now, faced with declining or negligible membership growth, many chapters have recycled their leadership to the point of exhaustion. Additionally, declining resources have reduced staff hours, or resulted in staff being laid off entirely. Understandably, these challenges have severe negative consequences on the component’s ability to deliver member services. The difference between what the members expect and what they actually receive is having a significant chilling effect on membership retention and recruitment.

While the skills and competencies of component executives very, they all share a passion for architecture and advancing the value of design within the communities they serve. Unfortunately, many component executives toil many more hours than they are compensated, work without benefit of a position description, seldom experience an annual review of performance, salary or compensation, nor do they receive any employment benefits such as health insurance or retirement. Given the difficulty of increasing dues, local chapters frequently look to raising non-dues revenue to partially or fully compensate the component executive. As members fail to renew their membership due to lack of services, component executives will likely find their hours reduced or even eliminated. Understandably, survival becomes a priority over member services. Regrettably, this sense of estrangement and isolation fuels negativity and erodes collaboration and harmony.

How can we achieve a unified AIA when our chapters are struggling to find a new generation of leaders, experiencing declining membership, while also grappling with increased state and federal corporate regulations and responsibilities? Considering increased competition among chapters, an overstressed dues structure, and a marketplace increasingly complicated by changes in technology and project delivery, how do we resource our component executives to meet the challenges faced at the local level?

The Repositioning Initiative provides a unique opportunity to address both problems. We need to review the alignment of AIA chapters, the services they provide, and the commitment of AIA to make good the promise to local components that they will be the “touch stone for member satisfaction.” Furthermore, we should not be content until we provide a culture of innovation and support for our chapters and our component executives. We should do all we can to provide them the tools and resources they need, and to strengthen the value of AIA membership at the local level. We need to be sensitive to the problems of local chapters. After all, they are chartered by the AIA and the AIA brand should clearly communicate the importance that chapters contribute to the member/value equation. The failure of any component to deliver on member services should not be an option, since the failure of any one affects us all.

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Our conversation regarding the concept of one AIA and component realignment continues in the next issue. Please take the time and opportunity to participate. Your thoughts are appreciated.



Changes to the Architects Practice Act for 2014

in: Gov’t Affairs / 0 Comments

Both licensees and candidates for licensure should be aware of some significant, and some not so significant (but none the less important) changes to the Architects Practice Act.

And regardless of your area of practice and to what extent you practice, all licensees should have knowledge of the California Architects Board’s statutes and regulations, as well as be familiar with and understand their provisions.

Provided below for your information are the most recent changes to the Architects Practice Act relevant to the practice of architecture and the licensure process, as of January 1, 2014. Additionally, be aware that throughout the year regulations may be changed, whereas new statutes typically become effective on January 1 of the year following their passage unless they have an urgency clause.

Of particular interest to the profession are the following recently added or amended section(s) of the Business and Professions Code and California Code of Regulations:

Business and Professions Code Sections Added or Amended

§ 30 Federal Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number Required of Licensee
§ 31 Noncompliance with Support Orders or Judgments-Effect on Registration and Licensing of Businesses
§ 114.3 Waiver of Fees and Requirements for Licensees Called to Active Duty
§ 115.5 Expedited Licensure for Spouses of Active Duty Members
§ 125.9 System for Issuance of Citation to a Licensee
§ 143.5 Provision Prohibited in Settlement Agreements; Adoption of Regulations; Exemptions
§ 149 Advertising in Telephone Directory Without License-Agency Citation
§ 5536.4 Instruments of Service-Consent
§ 5550.5 Social Security Number Exemption

California Code of Regulations Sections Amended

§ 103 Delegation of Certain Functions
§ 109 Filing of Applications
§ 117 Experience Evaluation
§ 121 Form of Examinations; Reciprocity

Link to the Architects Practice Act.


Your License May Not Be Enough

in: Conferences / 0 Comments

There was a time when having an architect’s license alone was enough to complete just about any building type. Add a smattering of consultants (structural, electrical, and mechanical), and you had a project team.

My how times have changed. Today construction projects have every imaginable type of consultant—from finance bond consultants to commissioning agents and everything in between. Ah, the good ole days. But lamenting on the past, and ruminating over how this came to be will only help us today if we’ve learned something from it. Ask yourself: how many entities were on your last project duplicating the services you, as an architect, were capable of performing—and what did you do about it besides share your fee?

And now another mouth comes to trough: the Certified Access Specialist (CASp). Only this time things are different; this time you can be the consultant, you can be the CASp. In fact, you can be the CASp and the architect and keep the fee for yourself.

There are other advantages to this opportunity: being a CASp is a standalone service you can provide or, it can be an additional service you can provide your clients. Additionally, you may be able to lower your professional liability insurance by having a CASp on staff to review your CD’s (Construction Documents, duh) for access compliance.

For those architects wishing to become CASp certified, there are three upcoming opportunities.

Registration is now open through the Division of the State Architect (DSA) for the CASp examination. The scheduled dates for 2014 are Mar. 12, Jun. 25 and Oct. 8. For more information, click here.

CASp was created by the Legislature in order to create a body of individuals who would have demonstrated expertise within the accessibility laws and regulations. According to the DSA website, “The program is designed to meet the public’s need for experienced, trained, and tested individuals who can render opinions as to the compliance of buildings and sites with the State of California codes and regulations and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or accessibility.”

What it Does:
This certification is an opportunity and architects need to seriously consider taking it. “We as architects have given up pieces of the practice, and this is a chance to turn that around and encompass the built environment,” said Widom.

Who Benefits:
Everyone. The builder/owner/client receives expertise in order to navigate through the sometimes tenuous path of building-code-regulation. The architect benefits because they obtain a further expertise and specialization, can be sought out by individuals, or become an on-site expert within their firm. “From a business development standpoint, this can only expand and open doors for the architect who is certified,” said Widom. And the public-at-large benefits because buildings are safer and code-compliant.

Who is Eligible:
California licensed architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, and structural engineers are encouraged to register. Examination dates for 2014 are Mar. 12, Jun. 25 and Oct. 8. For more information, click here.


How Does AB 630 Help Architects?

in: Government Affairs / 0 Comments


New AIACC-Sponsored Law Fights the Unauthorized Use of Plans and Strengthens Rights of California Architects

Prepared by the Law Firm of Collins, Collins, Muir + Stewart, LLP

If someone builds off an architect’s plans without their consent, it can be called copyright infringement, “unauthorized use of instruments of service,” or breach of contract. But behind those dry euphemisms, it is really just one thing: theft. Theft of an architect’s time, effort, and unique work of creation, and a more subtle kind of theft, that of an architect’s security from claims. A developer that cuts corners and fails to pay for plans obviously does not run a tight ship, and if (or when) something goes wrong, the innocent architect can wind up in a lawsuit.

Fortunately, a new California law, California Business and Professions Code section 5536.4, is in effect. The law has two components: 1) a requirement of written consent to use an architect’s instruments of services; and 2) clear authority to withhold the instruments of services if the architect’s client does not pay or otherwise breaches the contract. The law is short and straightforward:

(a) No person may use an architect’s instruments of service, as those professional services are described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 5500.1, without the consent of the architect in a written contract, written agreement, or written license specifically authorizing that use.
(b) An architect shall not unreasonably withhold consent to use his or her instruments of service from a person for whom the architect provided the services. An architect may reasonably withhold consent to use the instruments of service for cause, including, but not limited to, lack of full payment for services provided or failure to fulfill the conditions of a written contract.

The new law incorporates California Business & Professions Code Section 5500.1, which provides a broad list of professional services: planning, schematic and preliminary studies, designs, working drawings, and specifications (§5500.1 (b)(2)). Now, California law requires the architect’s written authorization if anyone wants to make use of these services.

It took the work of many parties, including the American Institute of Architects,California Council (AIACC) which sponsored the enacting legislation, AB 630 (Holden D – Pasadena), to secure passage of the new law. Architect Ric. Abramson, AIA, principal of WorkPlays Studio architecture initiated the effort in a white paper addressing the problem and then advocated tirelessly to change the flawed status quo. Abramson spoke with us about the genesis of the change:

The culture and economy has changed so much in the last decade, with land and development rights becoming fully commoditized. After the crash, foreclosures, flipping, and even court receivers in bankruptcy were claiming ownership of instruments of service, and trying to eliminate or marginalize the architect, and there was no clear way to make sure the spirit and intent of the documents were carried out. Architects found themselves shut out of projects, but still facing potential liability, since it was their stamp and seal on the documents. As architects, we want our work built, but we also have a responsibility see that the standard of care is met and intent of the documents is carried out, as well as to the neighborhood stakeholders, the built environment, and to meet new commitments to green building standards. With the law [§5536.4], hopefully future use of the architect’s instruments will involve written consent – which careful architects will not give without a license, waiver, and indemnification, if they are not involved in construction.

In an age of commoditized plans and entitled parcels, this law is a welcome development. Here is an example of a use of the new law: An owner retains an architect to prepare plans for a project. After completing the plans, but before construction begins, the owner sells the land intended for the project and provides the buyer with a copy of the architect’s stamped plans. This new law can help the architect obtain concessions from the buyer, such as compensation, a release, or indemnity protection if the buyer proceeds with construction, because the buyer must obtain the architect’s written consent to build from the architect’s plans.

Will this law stop unscrupulous developers from trying to steal architects work? Sadly, no. But it will give architects working in California additional leverage when a project starts to go south. Written consent is now required and the architect can withhold consent due to lack of payment. If a developer argues that they can use the architect’s work without their consent or further involvement in a project, this section is the architect’s rebuttal, even if the architectural contract is silent on the issue. An arguably grey area is now more black and white in California.

Prior to this law, California and federal law offered few protections for an architect’s instruments of service. For example, under California’s Health & Safety Code § 19851(a), a public entity should not provide copies of building plans without the written consent of the architect who signed the original plans. But if the architect’s client already has the plans (or the public entity fails to do its job), that Health & Safety Code won’t do any good. Federal law also provides avenues of protection in the form of copyright. However, despite the value of this intellectual property, few architects take the time (about 30 minutes) or the money ($35) to register their plans with the United States Copyright Office. Furthermore, even when a developer concedes the architect has a copyright, the parties can argue over the use of that right. The new law helps fill this gap.

California Business and Professions Code section 5536.4 is the newest tool available to architects providing services in California to help them protect their work from theft. We encourage architects to use it in conjunction with copyright, a well-drafted contract, and optimal business practices that will collectively safeguard their work. If you have any questions on how to integrate this new law or any other California Business and Professions Code section 5536.4 is the newest tool available to architects providing services in California to help them protect their work from theft. We encourage architects to use it in conjunction with copyright, a well-drafted contract, and optimal business practices that will collectively safeguard their work.

If you have any questions on how to integrate this new law or any other tools into your practice, please contact our Oakland, South Pasadena, Orange or San Diego offices to discuss the matter further.


David E. Barker, Esq.
Ryan J. Kohler, Esq.


Northern California
1999 Harrison St., Suite 1700
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 844-5100
Orange County
750 The City Dr. Suite 400
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 823-4100

San Diego
2173 Salk Ave. Suite 250
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 274-2110

Los Angeles
1100 El Centro St.
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Nothing contained within this article should be considered legal advice. Anyone who reads this article should always consult with an attorney before acting on anything contained in this or any other article on legal matters, as facts and circumstances will vary from case to case.


M-Rad Weighs in on Small Firm Success

in: Scope of Practice / 0 Comments

Matthew Rosenberg grew up in a place with few structural landmarks and a seemingly infinite horizon—not the sort of description one matches with the childhood ambition of becoming architect. And yet that was his dream.

Matthew Rosenberg

Matthew Rosenberg

Rosenberg, Founding Principle of Los Angeles-based firm M-Rad Architecture + Design, took this landscape (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), his grandmother’s sense of style (a 40-year collection of magazine Architectural Digest), and combined it with a desire to create a healthy and happy urban condition. This amalgamation resulted in an international career taking him around the globe. The firm now resides in southern California where it has been for the past two years.

M-Rad aims to, among other things, provide solutions to universal problems, and to enhance daily routines and social exchanges. It is in this spirit of combining and enhancing that Rosenberg answers the following questions with some serious thought about the future of the profession, and the role small firms play.

What made you want to be an architect?
Being born and raised in the agricultural epicenter of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I came from a place where the horizon was endless and the buildings were scarce. It was a place I wanted to both preserve and invigorate with urbanity. During my childhood I was greatly influenced by my grandmother who had a penchant for design and fashion. To this day, I still cherish her collection of Architectural Digest magazines spanning over 40 years.

I have always wanted to impact culture in a way that enhances and promotes a healthier and happier urban condition. Buildings and spaces are the two underlying elements that every culture has in common. It’s the only thing I could ever remember wanting to do for the rest of my life.

My work and research today stems from both of these affections.
M-Rad 1

What do the best firms do to be successful?
Architecture is a business first and foremost. Without understanding all of the elements that go into creating a successful business, it is very difficult to build a viable architectural practice. We need to look at the way the business of architecture has succeeded and failed in the past. Then draw from the successes and test those elements against today’s market, trends, cultures, etc. Successful firms are constantly looking for new ways to build and innovate the business model of architecture.

How do best firms create a model for others?
The idea of transparency is leaps behind in architecture. Creating a sustainable transparent model in architecture is going to take both accredited firms and young studios like ourselves to reveal the trials, tribulations, and successes of what it takes to build a practice. It will allow the field of architecture as a whole to excel as a secure and lucrative business.

These days businesses are started (and failed at) every minute. I think we need to look more to the tech world and how its transparent values draw an enormous wealth of energy, innovation, and funding. It is my hope that this will allow us to deliver even greater value to the community and its investors while promoting lucrative probability for architects.

The most successful firms will look at many industries and absorb elements that could both grow the practice of architecture but also allow firms to build upon the successes of their allies and competitors. The firms we will be looking to in the future will be transparent practices that will work with interdisciplinary leaders to work towards a more comprehensive model for architecture. Practices will be more open to join forces and offer each other and their apprentices clear methods in how to achieve success in architecture.

What defines a great practice?
A great practice balances evolution and revolution, aesthetics and design, and business. Architecture must first develop a foundation by embedding the core elements of business. Without a secure and sustainable business, we are simply promoting the idea that the industry should remain in a state of struggle. Design and innovation are becoming a more viable and valued asset to practices today (the tech industry is in large part to thank) which allows great practices to present those elements as an added value to the investor. I think young practices have a lot to bring to the table when it comes to interacting and engaging with the culture and the community that it is serving. They are getting better at connecting to everybody and anybody.

There are a few practices today that are building great architecture brands through new modes of social media, storytelling, interdisciplinary business development teams, and strategic partnerships. It is apparent that we must market more than the iconic architect now, and instead build a brand that can offer much more than a building. I think this is the future of architecture and one that will define many great practices in the decades to come.M-Rad2

What was the defining point which inspired you to jump off and begin your own firm?
In 2010 I moved to China to work for MAD. After about 8 months I was recruited by a developer to lead a team in the investigation of pre-fabricated sustainable homes that we would manufacture in China. I was given an office and a taste of what it would be like to run my own studio. I moved back to North America in 2012. I could spend my time looking for employment or spend my time looking for my own clients. It was a critical and absolute moment for my career.

What do you think is the single biggest issue impacting the profession in the future?
I’ve always found it peculiar that architecture is driven and controlled by developers and city officials. M-Rad desires to seek out opportunities to engage the community and revitalize urban conditions. We do this by sourcing and targeting land and building development opportunities before the developer engages the architect. We bring the project to them. Architects should consider engaging the developer and leveraging our understanding of the built environment to instigate the projects that actually need to be developed for the community. It is our job to understand where improvements can take place or where development could bring value both to the community and the investor. My hope is that one day architects will drive the development sector and in doing so will create a lasting bond between the communities, their investors, and their architects.


One AIA: Indispensable Yet Illusive

in: Notes From the 2nd Floor / 0 Comments


Success of AIA’s Repositioning Initiative depends on each one of us taking ownership of the mandate for change. Everyone must view our role as leaders differently, and commit to action that empowers our Components and members to embrace their role in helping remake the profession and AIA.

This expectation, a quote from the consultant’s report to the AIA Board of Directors, revisits the concept of “One AIA,” and clearly stresses collaboration among all AIA components as foundational to Repositioning.


Paul W. Welch, Jr., Hon. AIA

All of us, at the national, state, and local level, know we need to work better together if Repositioning is to have any chance of success. Trust is an issue, and for many years the AIA has struggled, with mixed results, to strengthen the relationship between the National Office and the State and Local Components. We know all too well that the absence of harmony and a lack of mutual respect will foster anger and conflict, exacerbating the challenge of supporting and working together. Clearly, the search for a “One AIA,” a “Seamless AIA, “ or a “Unified AIA” cannot and will not be achieved until several organizational and attitudinal problems are addressed. Accordingly, the next several issues of Notes from the Second-Floor focus on these obstacles: A dues structure under stress; the never-ending search for non-dues income; organizational structure and alignment; the challenges of being a component executive; and, the capacity and capabilities of components.

A Dues Structure under Stress: The dues structure is terribly strained. Dues are perceived high in relation to benefits, and membership in the organization is expensive. The independent nature of the components allows each to establish dues without serious consideration of the total cost of membership across all three levels. Chapters are often the last component to increase dues, frequently after the Institute and state components have done so. As a consequence, in order to maintain programs, state and local components increasingly look to sponsorships and/or vendors for non-dues revenue.

Understandably, the cost of maintaining AIA’s mandated three-tier membership structure is frequently cited as the principal reason that dues are so high. Moreover, in comparison to other professions, the dues are more. Yet such comparisons seldom consider the adverse consequences of disconnecting the three-tier structure, nor the broad variety of programming in response to members’ interests. However, in light of shifting generational values and perspectives, the cost of AIA membership needs to be examined and alternate ways to resource needed programs, and activities should be prioritized.

Never-Ending Search for Non-Dues Income: The search for non-dues income frequently has several adverse impacts on the components:

  • It generates strong competition among the components. State and large urban components, with larger constituencies, are frequently more attractive to vendors. This often results in local components only being attractive to local vendors whose resources are limited. As vendors and manufacturers focus on the larger components in search of the proverbial bang for their buck, an environment of increased competition, tension, and uncertainty is fostered among the components. (Not, to mention vendors receiving multiple requests from several components competing for their contributions.)
  • Frequently, component executives spend an inordinate amount of time recruiting volunteers to raise money, or personally contacting vendors for commitments, fulfilling vendor benefits, and keeping vendors happy. Consequently, instead of delivering member services and engaging the community, executives are understandably preoccupied with raising non-dues income simply to pay their salaries and/or keep the office open.
  • At times, the day-to-day existence of components, especially the smaller ones, is one of desperation, anxiety, and feeling unappreciated and overlooked. Living hand- to-mouth, the constant search for new revenues can have a chilling effect on recruiting new members and chapter officers. Architects are not easily persuaded to serve on boards when the priority is raising money. Consequently, a growing number of smaller components have vacant leadership positions with a subsequent lack of member involvement in chapter activities.
  • Clearly, we are all in this together. We must find ways to leverage the powers of trust, collaboration and faith if the desire is to strengthen and build AIA as indispensable to the practice of architecture.

    In the words of George D. Herron (1862-1925)

    “What happens to one of us sooner or later happens to all; we have always been inescapably involved in a common destiny.”

    Our conversation on the concept of One AIA continues in the next issue. Please take the time and opportunity to participate. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.