By Nikolaus Remus, AIA; AIA Colorado
This month I had the opportunity, along with volunteer Brandon Gossard, Assoc. AIA from the Government Affairs Committee, of representing AIA Colorado at the annual AIA State Government Network (SGN) conference in Madison, WI. The SGN may not be a high-profile group within the AIA, but it’s a vital part of every state component’s legislative and advocacy efforts.
AIA Colorado engages with our state legislature through the Government Affairs Committee. Issues that affect architects in Colorado are also issues that come up in state legislatures around the country, which is where the SGN fits into our efforts. We have opportunities to ask members in other states for advice on issues and vice-versa. Getting together in person each year gives everyone involved in SGN an opportunity to meet other advocacy-minded members and have more in-depth discussions. This year we had 115 attendees representing 43 states.
One of the big topics this year was licensing, specifically that multiple states are seeing new laws proposed that claim professions and occupations across the board are over-regulated. While these bills don’t specifically target architects, there has been a common theme (and language usage) showing hostility towards both licensing in general and current systems already in place to review professions and occupations. So far none of these bills have passed, but we’re now better prepared to act to protect the architecture profession when similar bills get introduced.
Another big topic this year is procurement methods for publicly-financed projects. This includes both the Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) process (which is a perennial challenge to defend), as well as requirements/incentives for including minority- or women-owned businesses. Policies in various states aren’t equally successful in their attempts to increase diversity in the architecture profession through this system.
Finally, I spent an afternoon visiting a Hip Hop Architecture Camp in Madison at the same time as the conference. The goal of these camps is to introduce underrepresented youth to architecture and design. Not only were the kids really engaged, it was great to see how sophisticated the program really is. It includes a careful study of hip hop lyrics, with studies using Legos to visually represent the lyrics and tie that study into urban design. It culminates in the kids writing their own hip hop lyrics, recording individual songs, and starring in a group music video. Some of the previous (really amazing!) final videos are on Youtube.