Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

How many of you are familiar with AIA Oregon’s mission to improve and define the practice of architecture in the State of Oregon? If you’re like me, chances are you have not paid as much attention to the activities of AIA Oregon as you should. In a nutshell, it is AIA Oregon’s role as the umbrella organization for the State’s four chapters to advocate on behalf of the profession on issues of importance to Oregon and its citizens, architects, and the built environment. Last Wednesday’s AIA-SWO chapter meeting was the place to learn even more about our State AIA component as it was our privilege to host presentations by AIA Oregon Executive Vice President Saundra Stevens, Hon. AIA and, and AIA Oregon Lobbyist Cindy Robert.

Saundra happily reported that Oregon architects do value the benefits of AIA membership. While "association experts" may insist that people are no longer joiners, that isn’t the case with architects in Oregon. 85% of all registered architects in the state are members of AIA, a full 35% above the national average. 26% of interns are associate members of AIA, as compared with 19% nationally. Oregon architects recognize that AIA offers a vast pool of resources that helps them compete in today's market. These resources include such AIA Oregon offerings as the biennial Oregon Design Conference, which for 2008 takes place once again at the Salishan Resort under the rubric of THINK OUT/out think (more on this year’s conference in a future blog posting). Saundra also talked about the Portland Center for Architecture, which is a new resource available to all Oregon architects. Since its opening earlier this year, the Center has become a hub of activity for all people interested in architecture and the built environment, and serves as a gathering place for the exchange of ideas about architecture and mentoring of our future architects and clients. The Center occupies a 5,000 square foot, one story building located at the corner of NW 11th and Flanders in the Pearl District. Originally constructed in 1888 as a horse carriage facility, the building truss system is still in place throughout, and oversized windows and skylights (added later) fill the space with natural light. Located in an emerging art enclave, on the Portland streetcar line, the new space provides the visibility appropriate for AIA Oregon's and AIA Portland’s new home. Its size allows for current and planned office needs, as well as creation of a gallery/salon/conference area for continuing education and public outreach. Fully renovated, the Center is a state of the art facility and a sustainable demonstration project, reaching for LEED Platinum and the carbon neutral goals of the 2030 Challenge. Saundra emphasized that the Center is for use by all AIA member architects from around the state.

Cindy provided a most informative summary of the results of the recent supplemental session of the Oregon legislature, conducted over a 19-day period last month in Salem. Of 109 bills introduced, 73 were passed, and the “get-it-done” mind-set during this intense session impressed Cindy immensely. In her opinion, State government would be well-served by limited annual legislative sessions, rather than the current two-year process. Her reasoning is based upon the inability to accurately forecast revenue and agency budgets two years into the future, which leads to the distribution of “kicker” checks or, alternatively, special sessions to cut back funds already committed by the legislature. Several bills that were presented for consideration during this special session were of interest to AIA Oregon. Despite the advocacy of Governor Kulongoski, HB 3610, which would have required that State agencies submit greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals to the Oregon Global Warming Commission, failed. On the other hand, HB 3619, which establishes a tax credit for renewable energy resource equipment manufacturers, did pass. HB 3612 also passed; this bill requires State agencies to reduce the amount of energy used in their buildings by at least 20 percent by June 30, 2015. Two senate bills – SB 1085, which would permit urban renewal plans to include school construction/renovation, and SB 1091, which would have created an environmental investment tax credit – never received a hearing and failed, respectively.

Both Saundra and Cindy are incredibly dynamic ambassadors and advocates for Oregon architects. We’re fortunate to have them working on behalf of our profession and we thank them for visiting with us in Eugene.

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