Saturday, June 20, 2009

June AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The title of the June AIA-SWO chapter meeting was “Looking Back/Looking Ahead: A Mid-Year Report.” The chapter meeting presented the AIA-SWO community with the opportunity to both look back upon our accomplishments for the first half of 2009 and look forward to what lies ahead for the remainder of the year. The intent of the meeting was twofold: 1) To make sure that we acknowledged the participation, energy, and enthusiasm of those individuals who have contributed to the success of chapter activities; and 2) to build upon this success by engaging everyone in a discussion about how we can improve what we do as a chapter.

We offered the June meeting free of charge to everyone who attended. This was a modest “dividend” back to the AIA-SWO community; thirty-two members took advantage and enjoyed our chapter’s largesse. Jim Roberts and his crew at The Actors Cabaret rose to the occasion and prepared a great meal.

AIA-SWO President-Elect Michael Fifield and I served as facilitators for the chapter meeting program. I began by recounting how our chapter board resolved during our transition meeting last December to pursue the goals of AIA National’s Strategic Plan. We did so believing that we would bring clarity to the ideals, values, and principles that underscore the mission of the American Institute of Architects. The four goals of the Strategic Plan are:

1. Increasing membership value

2. Being the Authoritative Source

3. Optimizing Organizational Performance

4. Serving as the Credible Voice

We decided that our chapter’s efforts during 2009 (and beyond) should be measured by the degree to which we would fulfill one or more of these goals. From our mid-year vantage point, I can say confidently that we have been quite successful in this regard. During my presentation, I listed our accomplishments for the first six months of 2009 (the numbers in parentheses correspond to the goal or goals that most directly apply in each instance):

  • Improving the quality of our monthly meeting programs (1, 2)
  • Producing the Climate Change & Architectural Responses educational seminar (1, 2)
  • Forming the Emerging Professionals Group (1)
  • Organizing the regular Intern Tours of projects under construction (1)
  • Producing the University of Oregon Reverse Crit in partnership with the AIAS (1, by strengthening ties with the university)
  • The Whilamut Passage Design Charrette (1, 4)
  • Planning for upcoming charrettes: Visions for Dixon Creek, EWEB Riverfront, Walnut Station (1, 4)
  • Providing financial support for the Visions for Dixon Creek charrette and a booth at da Vinci Days in Corvallis
  • Increasing our ties with related organizations, such as CSI, ASLA, The Lane Arts Council, NAWIC (1, 3, 4)
  • Reinvigorating the Past Presidents Committee (4)
  • Establishing the Congress of Residential Architecture committee (1, 2, 4)
  • Planning for the 20th Annual Peoples’ Choice Awards, and the first Juried Design Awards program since 2005 (1, 4)
  • Planning for the Register-Guard Insert (1, 3, 4)
  • Nominating two candidates (Otto Poticha and Jim Robertson) for Institute Fellowship (4)
  • Advocacy: Supporting policies that empower architects to design buildings and communities that enhance everyone’s quality of life (1, 4)
  • Planning for the 2010 Northwest & Pacific Region Conference (1, 2, 4)
  • Providing one student each academic quarter with the opportunity to receive credit for practicum experience with AIA-SWO (1 and 3, by providing administrative support for chapter activities)

Undoubtedly one of our greatest successes has been our effort to increase non-dues revenue. The various sources include monthly meeting sponsorships, AIA-SWO website sponsorships, design charrette stipends, and the Register-Guard insert. We’ve already doubled our chapter income through May 2009 from all sources when compared to the same period last year! As our executive director Don Kahle pointed out, this increase in revenue is “building capacity” for the chapter, which will allow us to continue and even grow our programs to everyone’s benefit.

These achievements have only been possible because of the efforts of our board members, committee chairs, and other volunteers. I’m grateful to each for the willingness with which they share their enthusiasm, energy, and time. I’m especially appreciative of the work that Don Kahle has done on behalf of the chapter. His creativity and prodding have spurred us to do some very good things that will benefit all AIA-SWO members.

Michael led the second portion of the program. He assigned one of eight questions to each group of members seated at a table (conveniently, there were eight tables, each occupied by four members). Michael, Don and I had earlier formulated the questions, which were focused upon furthering the pursuit of the four goals of AIA National’s Strategic Plan. After only allowing a brief period to consider the assigned questions, Michael called upon a representative from each table to provide his or her group’s response.

Here are the eight questions and the assigned tables’ responses to each of them:

Question #1: What are some critical issues for Eugene and Oregon that our chapter can address in a proactive way?

  • Consider endorsing council candidates
  • Provide input to city officials
  • Become champions for sustainability
  • Promote the notion that good design is good for the economy
  • Address issues related to infill; advocate for smart growth
  • Continue charrettes; a positive influence
  • Push for affordable housing
  • Advocate land banking

Question #2: What would excite you about being an AIA-SWO member?

  • The learning opportunities
  • Community involvement
  • Fellowship at meetings
  • Learning about what other firms are working on
  • Reduced rates for emerging professionals
  • Limiting ARE materials exchange to chapter meetings! (thereby encouraging interns to attend our meetings)

Question #3: What metrics might we use to measure AIA-SWO’s success in delivering value to the membership?

  • The number of meeting attendees
  • The number of hits the AIA-SWO website receives
  • Recognition in the media
  • Increasing requests from the City, etc. for AIA-SWO input
  • An increased discussion of issues
  • Taking more positions on issues

Question #4: How can we increase engagement with the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts to the mutual benefit of both the AIA-SWO membership and students?

  • Continue and expand the Reverse Crit program. Integrate the Reverse Crit schedule with the school schedule
  • Reach out and engage designBridge
  • Liaison with the Emerging Professionals Group
  • Provide open houses in local firms’ offices for students to visit
  • Have local firms mentor studios
  • Invite students to site visits
  • Provide a list of AIA-SWO members available as reviewers
  • Identify how students can become more involved with AIA-SWO
  • Support the AAA practicum program

Question #5: How do we best mentor our emerging professionals (EP)?

  • Be more open and inclusive to welcome EP to meetings
  • Treat licensure of EP as a celebration
  • Introduce yourself to EP at chapter meetings
  • Provide a design award category for EP
  • Encourage employers to offer diverse assignments
  • Include EP in all office activities
  • Nurture them
  • Think of the profession as a whole. We’re growing new blood
  • Provide a context to understand the sections of the ARE
  • Support EP education, membership in AIA

Question #6: What is the highest and best use of the AIA-SWO monthly chapter meetings?

  • Hosting prominent visiting lecturers at both the University and at AIA-SWO meetings
  • Providing more design-oriented presentations (i.e. design case studies)

Question #7: What type of continuing education courses (for CEUs) would be attractive to AIA and associate members?

  • Sustainability
  • Broad picture re: specifications
  • More intensive education re: construction products/materials (i.e. an evening devoted to storefront design or the building skin)
  • More code-based discussions (i.e. addressing particularly challenging code scenarios)

Question #8: What are some of the ways we might “aim high” as we plan the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference?

  • Get big name speakers
  • Engage the community
  • Provide a satisfying technological experience (the cutting edge)
  • Include a tour of local wineries
  • Exploit the university (they’ve been “green” since the ‘60s)
  • What’s good for design is good for the economy
  • Recruit the majority of the chapter membership to assist with the Conference

The concluding discussion elicited some other thoughts worthy of recording:

  • Talk and take a leadership role in the community
  • Be idealists
  • Work more closely with our associated disciplines on matters of mutual interest and importance
  • Provide critical feedback for Otto Poticha’s and Jim Robertson’s Fellowship Nomination applications before they are submitted
  • Produce Continuing Education seminars about architecture for the general community (orchestrated through UO Continuing Education Services)
  • Increase the public profile of AIA-SWO
  • Provide a new member orientation program (maybe a couple times a year)

Everyone appreciated the opportunity to provide input toward improving how we do things as a chapter. We will no doubt act upon many of the suggestions that resulted from this fruitful discussion and provide all AIA-SWO members with even greater value and increased benefits.

If you could not attend the June chapter meeting but have some ideas of your own, please share them with us. Tell us how we’re doing. Tell us what we can do better. Leave a comment on this blog, or speak to one of the AIA-SWO board members. We’d love to hear from you.

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Thanks to Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers for sponsoring our June AIA-SWO chapter meeting. BHE principals Monica Anderson and Mark Penrod were on hand to tell us what the venerable Eugene firm is up to these days. Their staff of more than 50 employees boasts a broad range of expertise, enabling the firm to take on complex projects with multiple engineering and design challenges. With its state-of-the-art automated design systems and software, BHE is able to devote the necessary resources to complete any assignment quickly and efficiently.

Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers is also a dedicated supporter of the American Cancer Society. BHE actively participates in the Annual Relay for Life, and donates proceeds to the Society from a yearly auction and, new for 2009, from the Bill Prentiss Memorial Golf Tournament. Bill was a good friend of mine and fellow Canadian who I dearly miss, so I’m looking forward to enjoying a round of golf in his name. It’s not too late to sign up for tournament, which takes place this September. Contact Dan Peterson of BHE at (541) 686-8478 if you’re interested.

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