Designing all the way down…

I attended the AIA Colorado Practice and Design Conference this year. It was an excellent event; well-run, interesting speakers, inspiring designs on display, and all the vendor booths and prizes you could imagine. On a whim, I attended the AIA Board of Directors meeting to get a bit more insight into how the AIA was run and what it does for architects. Each committee gave a report, detailing what they had accomplished in the past year and what their plans were for the next. One of the committees that piqued my interest was the Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC). The members of the committee were tasked with tracking architecture on a legislative level. For example, the GAC would track bills working their way through the legislature that could have an impact on development and construction in the State. It didn’t sound like the most glamorous of committees but it seemed on a base level to be of great import.

I began attending the GAC shortly after the conference and it has been an eye-opening experience. The laws passed by the General Assembly have a very real and lasting impact on architects and development. The attention of this group to those issues is incredibly valuable to the profession.
A case in point is Senate Bill 161 regarding the continuation of licensing for architects, engineers, and land surveyors, otherwise known as licensing sunset review. The bill is part of an ongoing review by the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) of all professions that are licensed by the State. After a period of years, DORA reviews each profession to affirm that licensing is still valid and necessary. They produce a report with a recommendation regarding the continuation of licensing for the profession. This report is then taken up by a Senator and proposed as a bill. In my opinion, the importance of this process to the profession cannot be understated. Senate Bill 161, in conjunction with the existing statute regarding architect licensure, speaks to the reasons why architecture is a necessary and fundamental profession. The standards that people have come to expect from a licensed architect are spelled out in this bill. The reasons why the term ‘architect’ is so meaningful and valued are defined. Even current issues such as the more common occurrence of software programmers calling themselves ‘architects’ are addressed in this bill.
The GAC has taken DORA’s report and subsequent legislation and picked through it, examining the proposed changes and the associated wording for impacts on architects. The Committee members have compiled a list that details what from the report the AIA supports and does not support in addition to proposed wording changes and rewrites. The GAC is, in large part, shaping how architects will be defined for the coming years.
For me, perhaps the most interesting element of this whole process has been how the notion of design has permeated the discussion. Witnessing the GAC work through the wording of a bill to ensure the best interests of architects with the same focus that an architect pours over construction details, I see the design process at work.


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