Having taken on the Chairmanship of the AIA NS Professional Practice Committee for 2012, I look forward to researching and sharing practice issues and trends with our members. It is my goal to explore both familiar architectural practice topics, as well as, relevant ideas from outside of the traditional boundaries of our discipline.

To sustain and grow our practices in the 21st century Architects now must not only be proficient in design, planning and building technologies; there is much we can learn and apply from innovators and trends in other fields.

One area where I believe Architects need to become stronger is in the business and financial side of projects. If Architects, and our Institute, stand still in terms of our narrow approach towards the design and building process, then the role of architectural practice in shaping the built environment – whether sole practitioners or large firms – will diminish.

I think many of you have observed how Architects have given up ground over the past decade to construction and real estate companies that have carved out new business offerings, such as, “program management” and “pre-construction services,” which has clients turning to them for early project advice before they hire their Architect. While it is good that many Architects are employed by construction and real estate firms to provide design-related services, it is not so good for the long-term state of architectural practice to see decision-making, revenues and talent move away from our firms.

This trend has many roots, but it certainly appears that commercial and institutional clients are turning to construction and real estate managers to lead their projects. On smaller residential projects, a similar pattern can be seen with builders being consulted to lead projects, and sometimes authoring designs.

Architects are generally known and respected for having the ability to creatively solve problems and see the “big picture”, yet many clients do not trust us to be at the table when they are considering important capital planning, budgeting and risk assessment topics that have a huge impact on the architecture and design services that we will provide.

I am not suggesting that Architects compromise their passion and skill for designing and documenting buildings – we need to keep focused on our primary role. However, if individually and as a profession we commit to expand our command of the business topics that motivate our clients, then the standing of our profession within the industry should rise, and we may convince more clients to invest in higher quality design and architectural solutions. More on this theme to follow…Please let me know your thoughts on topics of interest and ways we can re-charge our approach to practice in 2012 and beyond.

AIA NS Professional Practice Committee Chair: Ronald C. Weston, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Email: rweston@psands.com

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