That’s a Wrap! A President’s Reflections on AIA Pennsylvania’s Accomplishments in 2018

2018 has been a tremendous year for AIA Pennsylvania and I couldn’t be happier with our many achievements.  On the legislative front, AIA Pennsylvania and the Government Affairs Committee headed by Marc Mondor advocated for the passage or four key issues that became laws.  On the sustainability front, we worked with coalitions to pass a law that closed the PMJ boarders allowing the revenue from renewable credits to stay in Pennsylvania and help build our renewable energy future.  Likewise, we helped pass C-PACE legislation, the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy bill that allows municipalities to provide financing for sustainability improvements to new and existing structures, to be tied to the property’s tax base.

Our Building Codes Subcommittee was pivotal in the passage of the 2015 Building Codes statewide and the 2018 Building Codes in Philadelphia.  Passing the law was the first step, and the subcommittee continued their work through the adoption process and then conducted two-day codes training in Manheim and Pittsburgh to help train our members.

The Education/School Construction Subcommittee continued their work in support of the legislature’s PlanCon Advisory Committee and our member’s testimony on school design, funding methodologies, and building lifecycles featured prominently in the final report.  The report will become the underpinnings of future legislation.

Building on the subcommittee’s expertise, we pressed for best-practices in the School Safety discourse and in May, Michael Kelly and I co-authorized an Op-Ed letter that was featured in 5 newspapers across the state including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Allentown Morning Call.  This article was carried by our peers at AIA Georgia, AIA South Carolina, AIA Texas, and AIA Arizona to be part of their discussions on school safety with their legislators.  And as Pennsylvania began embracing action on school safety, we supported a bill that became law creating a School Safety and Security Committee which includes language for a specific appointment of a member architect recommended by AIA Pennsylvania, and Michael Kelly received that appointment from the Governor to the newly formed committee.

The Legal Reform Subcommittee worked to bring a bill to the senate floor to reduce the statute of repose from its current 12 years to 6 years, thereby reducing the liability architects shoulder on completed projects.  Sen. Scott Wagner ran with the bill until he opted to run for governor, and his departure from the senate put our bill on hold. The good news is it is now part of the discussion on practice related legislation going into the new legislative session.

And to round out our advocacy efforts, we held another successful Architects Action Day in Harrisburg in the spring and began a tradition of District Days where members took the time to meet their representatives in their home districts.  This is a great way to connect with your legislators and remind them of all the great things architects do and the ways the legislators can support you as small business owners, employers, and community builders.

AIA Pennsylvania continues to provide training to architects, engineers, and building contractors with our codes training sessions, AEC Leadership training, and a number of practice insurance and legislative webinars.

As AIA Pennsylvania is focused on member services, and we took some time and resources in 2018 to better understand what our members’ truly want and need from AIA Pennsylvania.  We engaged Merit, a marketing and branding consultant, to conduct focus groups throughout the state for architects, associates, and non-members.  Those findings will help our Communications and Membership Committees focus their efforts in future years.  And lastly, we issued out Legislative Survey to hear what issues you feel are important for the Government Affairs Committees to pursue.

The annual Design Awards continue to impress, and the webcasted awards presentation and the many Pop-Up parties continue to draw members in throughout the state.  Highlights this year included the juror’s comments, the award-winning short feature filmed in Philadelphia, and the ALCOA Building/Mellon Plaza expose by CMU’s Steve Lee.

After over a year of planning, we kicked off our newly-formed Strategic Council with a project for New Cumberland, just across the river from Harrisburg.  One of the roles of the Strategic Council will be to act as our community outreach arm, looking to engage civic groups in community development studies, while broadening the leadership of AIA Pennsylvania and its impact statewide.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to Pittsburgh’s own Bill Bates, FAIA, who was recently inaugurated as the 2019 National AIA President in a black-tie event in Washington, DC, attended by his many friends throughout the institute.  Kudos to Bill!  And, we are also proud to announce that Swarthmore Borough Mayor and local member architect Tim Kearney, AIA ran a successful campaign to become State Senator Tim Kearney!  Tim was one of four architects seeking state office nationwide and the only one be elected.  A big congratulations to Tim!

None of these successes happen without the tireless dedication of AIA Pennsylvania’s incredible staff.  Olivia Perry is outstanding as our Manager of Communications, keeping the information and ideas flowing from concept to website. Amal Mahrouki, our phenomenal Director of Legislative Affairs has become a well-respected lobbyist within the halls of the Capitol Building and continues to lead our incredible legislative machine (the envy of state components nationwide).  Recently, Meghan Baird, our Membership Coordinator left us to follow her passion in fashion, and we wish her all the best.  And Lastly, Stephen Swarney holds it all together as our Executive Director, working to make AIA Pennsylvania the voice of the construction industry.

Lastly, I need to thank the dozens of volunteers that give of their time to participate in the many committees and initiatives that make AIA Pennsylvania so successful.  Within the Government Affairs Committee’s universe are the subcommittees and task forces that focus on specific issues and inform AIA Pennsylvania’s staff on the details and talking points of issues that matter to the profession of architecture.  The awesome groups include the Building Codes Subcommittee, the Education/School Construction Subcommittee, the Committee on the Environment (COTE), the DGS & Procurement Working Group, the Interior Design Task Force, the Legal Reform Task Force, the Licensure Task Force, the P3 Task Force, the newly-formed Historic Preservation Task Force, and our PLAN grassroots network.

And me, I’ll be sticking around to help Incoming Chair Jeff Pastva on the Government Affairs Committee, while kicking off the Historic Preservation Task Force and working with the PAC.  At National, I will Chair the Corporate Architects Facility Mangers (CAFM) Advisor Group in 2019 and continuing to work with the States Government Network (SGN) and the AIA National School Safety Task Force.

As always, I thank our many members for their support and trust and hope you join me in welcoming Chip Desmone as our incoming 2019 President.