AIAVT Public Policy Committee Report by Committee Chair, John Alden, AIA, Scott & Partners

Public Policy Committee Chair John Alden speaks on behalf of the committee at Queen City Brewery
The Public Policy Committee has been quite busy over the last year.  While some of our efforts address certain long-term negotiations with state rules and governing authorities, other projects will become more visible to the general membership in the near future. Current efforts underway include:
Ongoing discussions with the State Fire Marshal’s office at the Division of Fire Safety:  We have objected to their new approach of allowing certain small projects under $200,000 to receive permits without a licensed design professional stamping the plans. While it continues to be an uphill battle to achieve sizeable changes to their permitting process, we have made some progress on fronts that put architects on DFS’s online list of resources.  We have successfully gotten a link to the AIAVT list of architects’ services added to the DFS webpage, along with a commitment to include AIA speakers at their training sessions held periodically around the state (if you are interested in being a speaker, please let Sarah know). The goal is to raise awareness of the value architects can bring to a project and educate about the kind of services we offer. A “Top Ten” list of services was posted on the AIA website in response to prompting by DFS.
Code books and training: AIAVT will be purchasing the current building code books and will make them available to any architect in the state through the inter-library loan program. This initiative was developed in response to stories shared about small, rurally located firms and solo practitioner offices finding it challenging to keep up with the acquisition of code books as they are updated and adopted. By donating copies to the library system, AIAVT aims to alleviate the burden on smaller offices, and do our part to make the permitting process as smooth and expedient as possible, both for architects as well as for the departments granting the permits.
Public Awareness Campaign (PAC): An idea that came up at the AIAVT Board Retreat in June carried on into conversations among members of the Public Policy Committee. The idea of a public outreach campaign, with the aim to raise awareness about architects, their value to projects and communities in general, has been building momentum among the committee and is now in the information gathering and fact-finding phase. The Public Policy committee is currently holding meetings with public relations and marketing firms to gather information and educate ourselves on some of the big questions, including what a PAC could accomplish, what ingredients would be needed to make it successful, and what the cost and scope for such a project might be. The committee will then discuss potential messaging and outreach strategies with the full AIAVT Board and Communications committee.
Statute of Repose and Good Samaritan laws: Both great ideas, but we are still tender from the previous losing efforts on these fronts.  We have had some interest from certain legislators that have expressed a desire to help us, and we are always on the alert for a catalyst that will allow us to jump on these with some momentum, but lessons learned from previous efforts include the need for an overwhelming groundswell of support from within our membership, and a willingness to get active and vocal on both topics through letters to representatives. This type of mobilization of our constituents needs to be paired with an event that would put the issue front of mind. Hurricane Irene was one such event, but with time, the motivation has died down. While the committee remains aware of the importance of these items, the initiatives outlined above are the current focus of the committee. We will aim to include some talking points about these items in the campaign.  A separate news story on the history of the Statute of Repose and Good Samaritan laws will be included in the next AIAVT News. 
Lastly, I wish to thank all the members of this committee for their excellent contributions to our work and for their tireless dedication to wrestling with state government and others as necessary to advance our cause. Thank you to Sandy Vitzthum, Bob Duncan, Daniel Sagan, Eric Morrow, Gregor Masefield, Jesse Beck, Keith Dewey, Marjorie Dickstein
If you are interested in becoming involved in this committee, please reach out to committee chair, John Alden or AIAVT’s Executive Director, Sarah O Donnell.