AIA Vermont Gains Insights Through AIAVT Member Survey

By Catherine Lange, AIA

Firstly, we’d like to thank the 95 members who took the time to participate in our survey this spring. We appreciate your engagement with the organization, and helping us to improve AIA Vermont’s programs and initiatives to better serve the membership. We are always open to hearing new ideas for events, and how we can be a resource to the field of architecture in Vermont. 
Perhaps one of the most surprising results came from Q2, “What types of AIAVT Events are most appealing to you?” The two events that scored the lowest (with 66% and 61% responding “Not Appealing,” respectively) were the Golf Tournament and Trivia events -- two of our most successful and highest attended events of the year. The Golf Tournament consistently draws 70+ players, and is the exclusive fundraiser for student scholarships annually. We are able to provide promising Vermont architecture students a total of ~$6,000 each year, from proceeds earned at the Golf Tournament. Trivia night was a new event in January 2019, and drew a large crowd of over 45 attendees. The idea for Trivia Night came from wanting to provide an additional fundraising effort outside of golf, which only select members play. Trivia is an activity accessible to anyone, and is a fun, competitive, after-work activity. The AIA Vermont Programs Committee was impressed by the turnout of the first Trivia event, and plans to host it annually.

One answer we heard loud and clear through this question was that members are looking for Building Tours, Conferences, and Presentations by Subject Matter Experts -- in addition to more events outside of Chittenden County. Members are looking for more professional learning opportunities, and less for networking and social events exclusively. We will continue to run the Golf Tournament and Trivia events due to their success in supporting our initiative of assisting aspiring architects in Vermont, and we hear the message that members would like more content-driven programming.

If you have an idea or a lead on a potential lecture topic or presenter, you can always reach out to AIAVT's Executive Director, Sarah O Donnell -- our Programs committee is open to suggestions on topics, locations, and presenters. It helps us expand our event locations when we have local champions, so please reach out if you would like to see an event in your part of the state.

Another interesting insight came from Q5, “Please rank the public policy issues to indicate which are most important to you.” The clear winner is the Statute of Repose, with 89% of respondents identifying the issue “important, very important, or extremely important.” The Public Policy committee has been very active this year in the Contractor Licensing and DFS Permitting issues, specifically. The Contractor Registry article by Sandy Vitzthum, AIA and Sarah O Donnell in this newsletter goes into detail on the current status of the Contractor Registry bill. 

On the topic of permitting, The Department of Fire Safety (DFS) continues to handle projects under $200k with different rules. Some may be submitted without architects’ stamped drawings; drawings without stamps, and on some occasions, no drawings at all. The estimated number of projects receiving permits without appropriate stamped drawings is as high as 7,000 per year. This is an issue that directly affects architects in Vermont, and poses a public safety concern; the Public Policy committee is working with DFS to amend this rule to require licensed professionals on a larger number of projects.

The AIAVT Public Policy Committee gave attention to the Statute of Repose in 2015, introducing a bill after several months of diligent work that was defeated in its first Judiciary Committee vote. For more information about AIA Vermont’s history of work on the Statute of Repose and future efforts, you can read the article by Bob Duncan and Jesse Beck in this newsletter. The Public Policy Committee is re-energized and ready to tackle this issue again in the legislature, but needs significant member support. AIA Vermont is looking for a strong commitment from members to back the bill this time around. Without strong support, the bill will fizzle again. Email your support to Sarah O Donnell by October 15th (please see the article for details).

There were two consistent through-lines throughout many of the survey responses: addressing climate change, and increased public awareness. In the question that asked, “What would you like to see AIAVT accomplish in the next ten years?,” some answers included:
  • Increased public participation and awareness. [AIA Vermont] could be more active in community discussions for energy, construction, and planning. 

  • Focus on the public awareness of the profession, and the legislative issues outlined above.

  • Better-educated architects -- about construction, legal and legislative issues, and architecture. Better-educated public -- about architects

  • Continue to be the umbrella organization that brings professional architects together as a community to educate, network and socialize.

  • Government funding for meeting energy goals; Increase public awareness about the role and importance of architects on building projects.

  • Total commitment to a carbon neutral built environment.

  • Better educated architects for 21st Century

  • Help the public better understand the value of an architect. Make sure the State supports small firms and solo practitioners by following our State statute requiring public project to involve an architect. 


AIA Vermont is always looking for ways to better serve its members. We will focus on education programs that address issues related to climate change and the built environment. We will offer more professional learning opportunities in addition to social ones. We will look for ways to support carbon neutral and net zero building in Vermont, through education and legislation. We will look for ways to better educate the public -- through public awareness campaigns, events, and other. We will continue the work of the Public Policy committee to address the legislation that affects architects in Vermont. 
AIAVT's newly formed Public Outreach committee is taking the lead to define the scope and messaging of an awareness campaign intended to promote the work of architects to the general public. This committee will work in partnership with Public Policy, Programs, Communications, and other relevant committees as needed. This small group of just five members is also actively recruiting. If you are interested in getting involved with this committee's work, please email Sarah.

AIA Vermont is a volunteer-led organization, and we are always looking for advocates and champions for our events and initiatives. There was so much good information shared in the Member Survey, and many great ideas for future programs and efforts. The AIA Vermont Board and committees are here to support these efforts and work hard to make AIA Vermont a valuable asset to the architecture community. As a group of 11 volunteers, we can’t do it alone. Please reach out to Sarah if you are interested in championing something on behalf of AIA Vermont, and she will connect you with the right people to help you make it a reality. Thanks again to all for participating in our survey, it really says a lot about our small state -- we are so full of energy and ideas on how to make the world a better place.