Category Archives: Editorial

Point/Counterpoint: The Jersey Shore


The Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and The Resurrection of


by Laurence E. Parisi, AIA


The residents of New Jersey are experienced with hard hitting storms which have caused death and destruction; however, Superstorm Sandy has topped them all as the most destructive hurricane ever recorded in the Garden State. Hurricanes are ranked by the number of deaths and the amount of destruction they cause. There is only one unnamed storm that landed on the Jersey Shore, in 1806, which stands second in line to Sandy. Hurricanes such as Irene, Floyd, Felix and Doria are all ranked as severe storms to have hit New Jersey. Homes were destroyed and some were swallowed by the sea; however, without hesitation the communities were rebuilt, renewed, and brought back to life and existed as the Jersey Shore we know and love without being raised fifteen feet above sea level.

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WORKING WITH THE MEDIA – “Bridging” your Message

AIA-NJBelow is the sixth in a series of “Working with the Media” articles. With your help, we hope to be able to leverage our strength in numbers to help promote architects, architecture and AIA-NJ. The other installments of the Working with the Media series can be found here.

Previously in Working with the Media, we focused on the basic elements of delivering your message in an interview. In a nutshell, this strategy recalled the principles of the “inverted pyramid,” by which the interviewee emphasizes the most salient points first, followed by supporting details and minutiae. This strategy helps to ensure that your most important insights are recognized as such by the reporter.

That said, a reporter will often begin working on a story with a specific “angle” in mind. Perhaps they’re looking for commentary on a new piece of legislation from an architectural perspective, or maybe they’re writing about a controversial development project. These interviews carry several professional sensitivities, making it important as ever to prepare a clearly mapped message. While it’s always ideal to cooperate with reporters as much as possible, there will be times when a reporter is seeking response to a question you’re unable to answer for legal or other reasons – or because you don’t have expertise on that specific topic.

If, in the course of an interview, you are asked such a question, you may want to “bridge” your answer – that is, gently transition the topic of conversation in your response. This is naturally preferable to a “no comment” response, since you may be able to offer some valuable information for the reporter without hitting on the topic’s specific sensitivities.

A few phrases that can help you bridge your conversation:

  • While I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics on that right now, I can tell you that…”
  • “I think what’s most relevant is…”
  • “I can’t speak for any of the involved parties, but it is generally true that…”

The goal in bridging your message is not to be evasive and avoidant, but to guide the conversation to a space where you can provide valuable commentary without overstepping any professional boundaries. In some cases, the journalist’s “probing” questions may actually have the simple goal of moving the conversation forward, and your relevant comments, which don’t necessarily answer the question directly, will give them the additional color they were seeking.

Ultimately, while bridging within an interview may feel somewhat unnatural at first, it’s preferable to providing a reporter with an on-the-record comment that could have negative legal (or other) ramifications.

If you would like to read the previous articles in this series, please see the following links:

Working with the Media Pays Off

Building Relationships

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Personal Engagement

Composing a Press Release

Composing a Boilerplate

Kyle Kirkpatrick
Account Supervisor
Beckerman PR Real Estate Team

Earth Day Irony

AIAeagle_2016By Russell A. Davidson, FAIA

As the U.S. Senate passed its long-delayed energy bill April 21, the irony was acute. Here was the world’s greatest deliberative body voting to kill carbon-cutting requirements for the federal government – on the eve of Earth Day and the signing of the COP 21 climate treaty in Paris.

In three short lines in more than 800-pages of legislation, the Senate repealed a policy that is already helping buildings owned by Uncle Sam – the nation’s largest landlord – cut greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, the Senate voted to eliminate Section 433 from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires that new and majorly renovated federal buildings meet incremental targets leading to net zero energy consumption by 2030. The House last year also voted to repeal this provision in the landmark statute, an action which President Obama at the time said he would veto.

Through design, our profession is helping guide building owners, consumers and governments – particularly Uncle Sam – to be leaders in energy conservation and reduced dependence on the use of fossil fuels. Residential and commercial buildings account for almost 40 percent of both total U.S. energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. According to government statistics, better designed buildings have already saved our country approximately $560 billion in energy costs since 2005.

So why is Congress so determined to roll back this common-sense and money-saving provision? Section 433’s opponents (primarily the fossil fuel lobby) claim that it is simply too difficult to implement. But that ignores the realities of a market where such renovated federal buildings like the Wayne Aspinall federal courthouse in Colorado and the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Ore. are meeting the 2030 targets right now. In fact, the renovated Portland building was delivered 10 months early, saving taxpayers more than $900,000 in the process.

Meanwhile, stakeholders from a broad array of industries have been working with the Energy Department to implement this rule in a way that is smart, efficient, and effective.

Requiring significant energy reduction targets in new and majorly renovated federal buildings demonstrates to the private sector that Uncle Sam can set an example for other nations to follow. The targets help spur the development of new materials, construction techniques, and technologies to make buildings more energy efficient. And they show that significant energy reductions are both practical and cost- effective.

That’s why not only architects, but more than 300 other groups oppose efforts to weaken this energy-saving policy. We hope this short- sighted repeal is stripped from any bill that emerges from a House-Senate conference. And if it isn’t, the president should veto this mis- guided legislation.

Russell A. Davidson, FAIA, is president of the American Institute of Architects.

Working With The Media Pays Off

AIA-NJI hope you are familiar with our Working With The Media series. Having read these articles you might wonder if any of this really makes a difference? Well, here is concrete example of how it can work.

I recently read an article in my local newspaper announcing the groundbreaking for a new local public charter school. As we often see, the article named local and state politicians that were present, quoted the executive director of the new school and named both the developer and the contractor for the project. What was missing was the name of the architect.

I did a Google search to see if I could identify the architect for the project, but was unable to find any reliable information. However, I know the contractor and I know a local architect that does a lot of this type of work. Therefore, I sent them both text messages to try to confirm the name of the architect. While I waited for their responses, I sent the following email to the newspaper:

I read with great interest your article, Vineland School Breaks Ground, Saturday, May 28, 2016. I am glad to see this new school coming to our community. I also noted that the article referenced a local contractor with whom I have completed multiple successful projects – Capri Construction.

However, I was very disappointed to see that the article does not mention the architect for the project. This is especially troubling when one considers the focus on STEM (or STEAM) in education today. Architects, and careers in architecture, are a direct result of the STEM/STEAM educational program. It is sad therefore, that the architect is overlooked or deemed irrelevant to an article about the very buildings they are helping to bring to life by virtue of their STEM/STEAM education.

Every building project involves three primary entities: the owner, the architect and the contractor. It is the three-legged stool of every project. It should be fundamental to the who, what, when, where, and why of any article. I urge you to ALWAYS include the name of the architect in any article about any building.

Remember – be it a home, school, or an office; wherever we live, eat or pray; every building has an architect!


Bruce D. Turner, AIA
President, AIA South Jersey

I was pleased to receive a very prompt response from the newspaper:

Unfortunately – the name of the architect was not included with the information provided by the school.

However, I will keep your suggestion in mind next time I receive this type of information.

Thank you!

This is not an unusual response. And, the conversation could have ended there. But, I decided to continue the dialogue. Once I confirmed the name of the architect – Manders Merighi Portadin Farrell Architects of Vineland – I sent that information to the newspaper. I also offered that if the newspaper ever has difficulty finding this type of information for any of their articles that they could contact me. Within a very short period of time I received a reply from the newspaper that the information was added to the online version of the story. I was perfectly satisfied with this outcome. I thanked them and thought that would be the end of it. However, the next day my original email appeared on the opinion page of the newspaper. That was icing on the cake. Not only had I engaged in a positive conversation with the newspaper about the value of including the name of the architect, but I also got the opportunity to deliver that message to a larger public audience.

This is the value of working with the media. This isn’t difficult. Any of us can do it. In fact we all can. It won’t always deliver such immediate and positive results, but we need to try. If the media hears from enough architects on a regular and routine basis we can make an impact. After all, we are their readers. They will appreciate our attentiveness to what they write.

Bruce D. Turner, AIA
Co-Chair, AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee

For more suggestions, refer to AIA Best Practices – Getting Good Press on the web at Please note this is a password protected, member only website. Therefore, we cannot provide a direct link to the site for you. But you can find it under Practicing Architecture; Best Practices; Part 2 – Firm Management; Chapter 6: Marketing and Business Development. You might also find a lot of other beneficial material in this area of the website. You can also find samples of other quick responses here.

If you would like to read the previous articles in this series, please see the following links:

Delivering Your Message In An Interview

Building Relationships

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Composing a Press Release

Press Release Boilerplates

Personal Engagement

My Favorite Place – The Hidden Garden

AIA-NJThe following article was featured as a Letter to the Editor in the Time of Trenton and can be found online at

Written as part of the My Favorite Places Series:


National Architecture Week is being celebrated April 10 – 16. The week is designed to increase the public’s attention of architecture’s role as a force for positive change in our communities. This article, one of a series of “My Favorite Places” pieces, shares an architect’s unique perspective on a local place, focusing on both the location’s design and the broader impact that the design has on the lives of those it touches.

I call it the hidden garden.

Nestled in the center of the Princeton University campus, there is a garden behind one of the university’s oldest buildings, Prospect House. Currently, this building functions as a private dining club for the university’s faculty and staff, but it previously housed past university presidents. When Woodrow Wilson presided over the school, his wife fenced in the garden and laid out the flower garden we see today, which is actually shaped like the university’s seal. A combination of tulip trees, an American beech and annual plants and flowers make up the design.

The garden is ‘hidden’ in the sense that the Prospect House obscures its view from the rest of the campus. The garden is set at grade with the basement level of Prospect House while the building is set on a bunker. A later renovation of the basement provides a full glass front stepping out to the garden. Sitting in the casual dining room at basement level gives off the feeling of an outdoor experience while sitting inside.

To the other side, the garden is surrounded by tall, manicured evergreens planted in a half circle to create a visual barrier from the rest of the campus to the east. During Wilson’s time at Prospect House, “students began to take shortcuts across the lawns and garden,” which made this measure necessary.

Now that it’s a place that can be enjoyed by the public, I visit the garden rather frequently, especially in the summer. With its history and seclusion, I find it to be an ideal retreat, as the space provides fragrant flowers, the soft sounds of the central fountain, leisurely walking paths and calming views within the garden and the house.

Both the house and gardens are excellent pieces of landscape design, architecture and planning, which can, once again, be enjoyed by all.

Megan Pritts, Assoc AIA


Presidents Message – 2016 First Quarter

AIAeagle_2016It has been a very busy first quarter as your President and I wanted to share with you some of the events and projects that AIA-NJ has been busy working on…

February kicked off the year with a pair of building code seminars for the 2015 IBC and IRC at the Palace in Somerset.  There were well over 250 attendees to learn about the changes to both codes, which had not been updated since 2009.  As of March 21st we are officially beyond the grace period and into the new codes.  Hopefully, you were able to attend the code seminars, but if you did not, Robert Longo AIA, AIANJ Codes & Standards Chair wrote a brief article on the code changes you can find on our blog.

Also in February, more than 12 AIA-NJ leaders attended the AIA Grassroots Leadership Conference in Detroit, MI.  I have been attending Grassroots since about 2005 and I find that each time I attend I come back to NJ inspired and excited to implement ideas and programs for the new year.  aianj_grassroots2016This year was the first year since I began attending the conference that it focused on Leadership programming and did not have part of the event focused on Advocacy.  I have to applaud AIA on this change.  This July will be the second half of Grassroots, dubbed as “SpeakUp”, will happen in Washington D.C.  The event will focus on training AIA members to become leaders in Advocacy.  If you are interested in learning about the federal legislative process and how to become an active advocate for AIA and the built environment contact AIA-NJ.


Our Public Awareness Committee has been very active highlighting several of our members on diverse subjects.   On February 23rd Stephen Schoch AIA of Kitchen & Associates was interviewed by Construction Dive regarding FHA and ADA accessibility in multi-family housing.  William J. Martin AIA, Co-Chair of the AIANJ Public Awareness Committee and a member of the Bergen County Historical Preservation Commission was quoted in two articles regarding church fires in March due to their historic significance.  Kimberly Bunn AIA, AIA-NJ Immediate Past President, was featured in an article for Women’s History Month on none other than Eleanore Pettersen FAIA.  Most recently Stephen Schwartz AIA was featured in NJBIZ regarding architects who have taken the plunge into development.  To top things off our Public Awareness Committee had fun during National Architecture Week with #archselfienj for #archweek16.  Thanks to all those members that participated!

I have been fortunate to have maintained a close relationship with the College of Architecture & Design (CoAD) at NJIT and have been working with the Director of the School of Architecture, Richard Garber AIA, on a multi-week BIM program that will be held this summer at the school and offered to AIA-NJ members.  Not only will participants learn the basics on BIM, but will also learn how BIM can be integrated into your practice.

I am proud to announce that AIA-NJ’s Taskforce on Lightweight Construction, which was formed after the AvalonBay Edgewater, NJ fire in January 2015, has completed a whitepaper on “Building Design with Lightweight-Framed Construction and the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Public”.  This document will be issued in order to better educate the public and our legislators about the findings of the Taskforce.  I want to thank the Taskforce for its work and look forward to the discussions that will occur as a result of the whitepaper.  Members who are interested in joining the Codes & Standards Committee to continue the work of this Taskforce are welcome to contact AIA-NJ.

In closing, I want to congratulate our new Fellows, Dean Marchetto FAIA and Michael Schnoering FAIA who will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the 2016 National AIA Convention in Philadelphia May 19th-21st.  AIA-NJ will be honoring our newest Fellows at the AIA-NJ Fellows Reception on Thursday, May 19th at the Hotel Palomar, formerly the AIA Building in Philadelphia.  If you plan on attending please contact Laura Slomka at AIA-NJ to RSVP.  The AIA Fellowship Committee will be hosting a presentation on  “Demystifying Fellowship”on Tuesday April 26th at 5 pm at the NJIT AIA room and on Wednesday, April 27th at 5 pm at the office of KSS Architects in Princeton.  If you are considering applying for Fellowship then you need to attend.

See you at the Convention in Philly!JAM_headshot



Justin A. Mihalik, AIA

AIA New Jersey Presiden

Casting Call for Building Dream Houses

Loud TV (a Leftfield Entertainment company, is looking for individuals to be a part of new project in development about people who have built their own amazing and innovative homes and are now living mortgage-free.

About the project:

It’s the quintessential American dream to build and own your own home. In this show, we will want to hear the stories about the decision-making, the planning process, the build, and the final result for individuals who have made the leap to build their dream home. How have their lives changed? Would they recommend this lifestyle to others? We want to know about the fun features of the homes and what makes them unique.

If this sounds like something that you may be interested in learning more about, please feel free to reach out directly to Leftfield Entertainment at [email protected] or at 212-564-2607 ext. 2650.

WORKING WITH THE MEDIA – Delivering your Message in an Interview

AIA-NJIn our year end review of the 2014 activities of the AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee, we asked you to stay tuned for tools that will help you make a splash in the press. Below is the fourth in a series of articles that will help you in that regard. With your help, we hope to be able to leverage our strength in numbers to help promote architects, architecture and AIA-NJ.

Previously, the Working with the Media series has focused on the initial stages of media outreach: Building a relationship, contacting a reporter, and composing written materials on behalf of you or your company. Now, we’ll delve into the hallmark of journalism (and arguably the most important method for successful PR): The interview.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that news is increasingly “sound-bite” driven. Today’s messages are most effectively delivered through short, to-the-point bits of information – Twitter, “news reader” software, and blog-style news are all evidence of the evolution (or disappearance) of long-form feature stories. But, rather than debating the legitimacy of this age of information, let’s discuss how best to communicate in today’s media environment.

We’ll start by harkening back to high school English class. Remember the inverted pyramid?

Inverted Pyramid

The inverted pyramid reflects the important hierarchy of information, which is crucial to making sure that a reporter hears the most vital components of your message. Ask yourself: What makes (this project, my company, this law, etc.) newsworthy? This core message should be stated early and often – don’t be afraid to be redundant. A reporter may well be interested in the details about the processes of your work or your personal background, but it’s vital not to eschew the “newsworthy” aspects of your message in favor of the minutiae.

Remember: In many cases, a 30-minute interview can result in no more than a one or two-sentence blurb about you or your company. And, while some reporters may ask to record your conversation, reporters are human, and it cannot be assumed that they’ll publish your main focal point. As a result, it’s up to you to ensure that your message is being received.

A few tips:

  • Repeat or rephrase your core message at least two to three times throughout the interview
  • Draw the reporter’s attention to your core message (i.e. “The main point here is…”)
  • Condense your main themes into a statement that can be conveyed in 30 seconds or less
  • Make sure that any examples, supporting points, or details relate directly to your core message

If you would like to read the previous articles in this series, please see the following links:

Building Relationships

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Composing a Press Release

Press Release Boilerplates

Kyle Kirkpatrick
Account Supervisor
Beckerman PR Real Estate Team

Bruce D. Turner, AIA
Chair, AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee

Hurricane Preparedness Refresher

Joaquin Path 093015


Although the exact track of Hurricane Joaquin remains uncertain, since New Jersey is within the potential track area, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the need for proper hurricane preparedness. Please take a few moments to review the information on the National Weather Service website, which can be found here.

Lightweight Construction Materials – the Public’s Perception

Mihalick_2014Submitted by Justin A. Mihalik, AIA 
2015 AIANJ President-Elect

As a result of the AvalonBay fire in Edgewater, I was interviewed by PIX 11 news and Al Jazeera America as a representative of AIANJ, for the Architect’s perspective on lightweight wood construction materials.  Architects understand that the building code takes into consideration the use group of a building as well as the construction type of materials in order to determine how then to protect the materials being used in order to meet a minimum standard and to be considered “safe”.  But what is the public’s perception of “safe”?  After all, as Architects, it is our responsibility to design “safe” buildings.  In watching many Youtube videos and reading white papers on the subject of lightweight construction as I prepared for the interview, I found that the public’s perception of engineered lightweight materials, mainly wood I-joists, is that they are “cheap”.


There are a few reasons for this that I can understand from a lay person’s perspective.  One being that the material used for the web of the I-joist, which is oriented strand board or OSB, appears to be a cheap wafer board.  A second one is that after a fire, not much of a structure built with these materials is still standing.  Being interviewed at the AvalonBay site, it did not take an experienced eye to see that the stair towers and elevator shafts that were constructed of masonry concrete block were the only structures standing amongst a sea of wood debris.  It was clear to the eye that the masonry concrete block was far superior to the wood because it had survived the fire.

Architects also understand that the building code does not require the building to fully withstand a fire but only that it withstands the fire long enough for its occupants to escape in a safe manner.  The public does not understand that this is in fact the way the building code works.  It is up to the Architect and the owner of the building to design it in such a way that it potentially can withstand a fire and the effects of fighting the fire in order to minimize the reconstruction.  So is the public wrong for having the perception that engineered lightweight wood materials are cheap?  Or is it the industry’s fault for allowing this perception to exist?

There is one other party that should be involved in this conversation and that is the insurance industry since they are making the payouts on policies to then reconstruct these buildings.  Fortunately, no lives were lost in the AvalonBay fire.  So do we then believe that the building code was sufficient?

Any Architect that has been involved in repairing/reconstructing a building after a fire understands that it is a liability nightmare and that the best approach for the owner is to rebuild the structure.  Rebuilding instead of repairing should not be a problem since the insurance policy covers for the “replacement value”.  Well, anyone who has worked on a fire job also knows that the term “replacement value” is vague and does not guarantee that this “value” will in fact cover the full cost of the reconstruction.  A question for Architects to consider is the following: how sustainable or resilient are the current practices in constructing single or multi-family buildings if they cannot withstand a fire?

Recently legislation was proposed by Republican Assemblyman Scott T. Rumana, bill A4195 (, and if approved it would impose a two year moratorium on the use of lightweight construction materials in multi-family buildings.  The proposed bill not only includes engineered wood, but also traditional nominal wood and steel bar joists.  If approved, this bill would be devastating to the construction industry and would affect not only job creation, the housing market, but also architectural firms.  Safety is ultimately the most important issue when it comes to buildings.  Does this bill take this too far?