Acting California State Architect Howard “Chip” Smith met with AIA members to address their individual and collective concerns regarding the Division of the State Architect (DSA) and opportunities to streamline the school construction process in California.
Many DSA related issues were discussed, the most significant being plan check and the possibility of making changes to DSA’s current role in the plan checking and certification of public K-12 schools. Suggestions included allowing Architects of Record to self-certify public K-12 school projects at the end of construction; allowing DSA to delegate plan check functions to local building departments for selected K-12 districts, and the possibility for a “tiered DSA process” that streamlines review for small projects.
Efforts to outsource plan review for structural, mechanical, and electrical disciplines currently are employed by the DSA, however there have been calls to extend this to approval responsibility as well. Last year the Schwarzenegger Administration introduced SB 1227 (Runner) which, if passed, would have transferred the authority to review and approve school construction projects to local building departments. It was the Administration’s contention that transferring the duties of the DSA to local building departments would “improve government efficiency and expedite plan review and approval of school construction projects.” Just prior to its first hearing, SB 1227 was canceled at the request of author and the bill was subsequently dropped. The AIACC opposed this bill as members felt it would have created building plan approval chaos and confusion, given the multiple jurisdictions across California and within single school districts (LAUSD has 22 building departments within its district boundaries).
Another significant issue discussed was the inability of architectural firms not currently involved in the design of public schools – but active in the designing of private schools – getting listed for RFQ’s. This has been attributed to the complications associated with DSA’s approval process and a public school district’s desire to hire architectural firms that can navigate the DSA process. It was pointed during the discussion that this barrier to firms is also a barrier to districts in that it precludes them from access to cutting edge educationally integrated design.
While there were no immediate solutions to these issues, the dialog is now open and future discussions are being planned for. Do you have other issues with DSA or recommendations?