Recap: Civic Activism and the Greater Good

Here are the questions that might be asked by community members… “Who made that building project decision?” or “Why are we building? Why here? And why now?”

Welcome to the challenging-yet-rewarding volunteer opportunity of citizen architects! AIA Colorado members donate their time and expertise by serving on commissions, boards, and neighborhood associations for the betterment of our community and architectural profession. To learn more about getting involved, AIA Colorado hosted the webinar, “Civic Activism and the Greater Good.” Four AIA Colorado architects shared their journeys of civic engagement: Christy Riggs, AIA; Henry Reitwiesner, AIA; Chris Green, FAIA; and Lauren Folkerts, AIA.
Christy Riggs is the principal and owner of 308 LLC in Colorado Springs. She serves on the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (PPRBD) Board of Review and PPRBD Advisory Board. She is a former Fire Board and Contractor Licensing Board member, as well. Of note, Riggs said she gained leadership skills and confidence having served as a leader for AIA South several years ago. Her volunteer service duties include interpreting codes and being part of the complaint and appeals process for licensed contractors. Riggs’ contracting licensing committee is more formal with televised public viewing and listening to legal teams. Her other service role at PPRBD involves making decisions on how to move forward with sound development, working with local governments throughout the Pikes Peak region. Her time commitment fluctuates from one hour a month to a day. These service opportunities span over several years with the opportunity to serve multiple terms. Overall, she said, “One volunteer opportunity led to another one.” Learn more about PPRBD.

Henry Reitwiesner, AIA is the Building Fund Executive Director at Academy School District 20. He serves on the Colorado Springs Planning and Community Development RetoolCOS Advisory Committee and is currently updating the community’s Comprehensive Plan for the physical development of Colorado Springs.

Reitwiesner’s involvement includes working with community stakeholders to revise zoning ordinances. He serves alongside an engineer, contractor, and homeowners and said, “The process is collaborative and seeks betterment for the community.” Helping to secure land 20 to 30 years out, he is ensuring that zoning and development is beneficial for the overall community. Reitwiesner asks questions like, “Are projects near the correct area with infrastructure and transportation?” Learn more about RetoolCOS

Chris Green, FAIA, is president of Ago Studios, Inc. in Eagle. He serves on the International Code Council’s (ICC) Sustainable Building Technology Committee (SBTC). A larger time commitment than previous service roles, Green has traveled around the country, listening and talking with influencers about ICC codes, standards, and guideline with relation to sustainability and high performance. Architects being part of the civic and community solution is imperative. As Green said, “Architects can process multiple things and take a lot of information and synthesize it into a solution.” Architects need to share experienced opinions to inform policy. Learn more about the International Code Council and SBTC.

Lauren Folkerts, AIA, is an architect at HMH Architecture + Interiors. She serves as chair of the City of Boulder Design Advisory Board (DAB) and is president-elect of the Colorado Green Building Guild (CGBG). Folkerts works alongside other board members to review projects for design plan compliance. She assists in the interpretation of codes and if project applicants are meeting that code. The DAB is resourced well and is a very methodical and structured environment as it advises on future development and projects for the City of Boulder. On the other side of the spectrum, the Colorado Green Building Guild is more agile and flexible in its community outreach while also involving more time from its volunteers. Networking, creativity and out-of-the-box green solutions are attributes of the CGBG team. Learn more about the DAB and about the CGBG.

These civic service opportunities make an impact on our communities and nation —today and in the future. We all know that everyone has an opinion on development. And we should. Landscapes and lives are affected. Not one of these is a sideline discussion. AIA Colorado CEO Mike Waldinger summed up the dialogue saying, “Politics is transactional and relational.” Get to know your government officials and stakeholders and talk about the projects you are working on to create a collaborative conversation for the betterment of all and our communities.

If you missed the presentation, you can view the full recording on the AIA Colorado YouTube channel.

About the Author

JP Arnold

JP Arnold, LEED Green Associate, APR, is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Bridgers & Paxton. He is an AIA Colorado Allied Member and is a member of the Editorial Committee.

Arnold is a retired U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and Signal Officer. As a PAO, he worked with more than 150 media engagements around the world to include The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Newsweek, NBC News, along with Seattle and Colorado Springs media markets. He worked on the National Army Marketing and Advertising Recruiting Campaign alongside Weber Shandwick PR and McCann Erickson Ad Agency.

He is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication from Ouachita Baptist University and Middle Tennessee State University (Phi Kappa Phi Honors). He has been married for more than 20 years to his wife and they have two children and several pets.

© AIA Colorado 2023