Category Archives: Legislative & Government Affairs

Regulations or issues that affect the practice of architecture in NJ.

Today marks the 106th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of New York City

On March 25, 1911, mere minutes before closing time, a fire broke out in a garment factory, just off of Washington Square.

triangle shirtwaist factory image

While the building was equipped with two fire escapes, one only opened inward and the other was locked from the outside to prevent theft. Of the four elevators, only one was operational. Fire sprinkler systems were available, but the owners avoided their installation in order to continue the practice of secretly starting their own off-hours factory fires to commit insurance fraud. With corrupt and unscrupulous owners such as these, a long history of greedy and irresponsible behavior in their past, the underpaid, exploited workers, mostly desperate and undocumented immigrant young women, stood little chance of survival.

Of the 500 employees, 145 died tragically, trapped inside the inferno, many jumping to their death from the 9th floor, rather than being burned alive.

Despite public outrage, the owners got off virtually scot-free, eventually paying the victims’ families a mere $75 per life lost, and continuing most of their outrageous, life-threatening business practices for years to come.

The most horrifying of the realities surrounding this incident is how many of these atrocities still exist today. Garment factories, and many other industries, in CA and NY, especially, still employ many of the same terror tactics to keep their employees powerless to protect themselves. Undocumented immigrants still dominate America’s lowest level work force, permitting them to fall through the cracks of labor law protection. Large cities are frequently understaffed and too overworked to make the necessary inspections, ensuring that every workplace is properly constructed and maintained to meet regulations for the safety of their employees. And when it is possible, very often city government corruption allows for criminal business owners to find ways around the requirements. On top of all of that, we hear almost weekly of another fire ravaging a community, taking lives, robbing people of their homes, possessions, workplaces and loved ones.

The 2017 AIA Statement of Values includes standing for equity and human rights. It includes standing for architecture that strengthens our communities. It includes speaking up to policymakers to protect the Health, Safety and Welfare of the public.

AIA NJ continues to work, lending expertise and information, writing white papers and influencing legislation, to do our part to protect society from potential future tragedies. Look for upcoming reports on our current efforts and actions on behalf of all of our members, or better yet, join a committee and lend your voice to the call!  We invite you, we challenge you, to be a part of the solution.

For a complete record of this tragedy, click here.

The PBS documentary can be found by clicking here.

AIANJ To Host Day at the Capital

Save the Date for:

AIANJ Day at the Capitol

Where: Trenton, NJ

When:  June 12, 2017

More details on this event coming soon.
Architects, Associates, Students – save the date to participate in this inaugural event.

AIA Call For Issues Survey

AIA-NJThe AIA biennial Call for Issues for our federal agenda is currently open, and we are hoping to get as wide participation as possible. This is a chance for all members to weigh in on what issues they want the AIA to bring to Congress in 2017.

This is something that has been done for almost 10 years, and it is perhaps as important as ever to give members the chance to speak out on the AIA’s agenda. This Call for Issues will also appear in AIA Architect, but we wanted to share the survey and the message below directly with our AIA New Jersey stakeholder group.


In a few weeks, a new Congress will take their seats on Capitol Hill and begin debating issues that affect all of us. It’s critical that lawmakers hear from architects and that you be involved in those discussions that affect our profession.

That’s why the AIA has launched its biennial Call for Issues. Through this survey, you can inform the AIA about where you stand on the major issues for architects. Your feedback helps us to prioritize the policies and issues that we will advocate on before Congress and the White House for the next two years. Essentially, your responses shape the AIA’s advocacy agenda.

In the past, your responses to the Call for Issues have led the AIA to advocate for sustainable design policies, financial incentives for healthier and more resilient communities, and policies that reduce unnecessary red tape on architecture firms. Your voice has made the difference.

Make sure your voice is heard: take the Call for Issues survey by December 16, and please feel free to share with other AIA members. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the AIA’s Government Relations and Advocacy team at [email protected].

WIA Lecture Series: Women and Democracy

WIA Final LogoPlease Join Us – All Welcome

A NIGHT OF NETWORKING, LIGHT HORS’DOEUVRES, REFRESHMENTS AND DISCUSSIONS WITH FELLOW WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY

Speakers:
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi

When:

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

6:00PM TO 9PM

Where:

MWW GROUP | 1 MEADOWLANDS PLAZA EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ 07073

RSVP by SEPTEMBER 21

to Kim Vierheilig at [email protected]
AIA Members: No Charge | Non-AIA Members: $20 (at door) 1.0 CEU Pending Approval

THANKS to our Sponsor
Pella-Windows-e1427296056817

 

WIAspeakers_9_16

President’s Message -Illegal Practice

JAM_headshotEarlier this month a story broke out of California from Fox News on two people who posed as licensed engineers and using stolen software, drew up plans for homes, apartments, commercial properties and strip malls in at least 56 cities in Southern California since 2003.  These two men worked for a Professional Engineering firm and were “moonlighting” and were even poaching clients of the firm that employed them, which is what eventually led to the demise of their illegal actions.  “There has never been a case involving alleged engineering fraud of this magnitude”, was a quote from the Detective on the case, who further was quoted saying,“ we just don’t know if the houses are safe, unsafe or suitable for habitation”.

I have spent many of my years as the Chair of the Licensing Subcommittee on the AIANJ Legislative & Government Affairs Committee, and throughout that time received communication from many members about people practicing architecture illegally in their community and what AIANJ would do about it.  When I explained that it was their individual responsibility as a Registered Architect in NJ to report to the State Board of Architects of said illegal practice, the members were not willing to act.  Why?  Well in most cases they were afraid of some kind of repercussions.  What repercussions could be worse than the effects that illegal practice has on our profession?  Cheaper fees, sub-par services including construction without supervision, etc.  I have said to each and every person who talks to me about this subject that it is OUR responsibility to police OUR industry.  I personally submitted a complaint against a “designer” who proudly displayed their lawn sign, proudly marketed their services on their Facebook page with testimonials from clients and proudly presented themselves as an Architect.  It was the lawn sign that told me the person was not a registered architect and led me to check with the State Board of Architects website and voila, no license!  The designer gave all the necessary evidence through their Facebook page and website for me to use against them.  I submitted a complaint to the State Board of Architects and a couple months later received a copy of the findings of the Board, which resulted in over $9,000 in fines.  But the fines were not only levied against the designer, but against the registered Architect who signed and sealed the plans.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars lost to the illegal practice of architecture here in NJ.  The people practicing illegally are employees who are moonlighting, designers who went to architecture school but just don’t want to commit to the licensing process, design-builders, contractors, the list goes on.  AIANJ is committed to take this problem on by way of educating the public about illegal practice and the dangers of those people who are posing as registered Architects.  This subject is very important to the organization, but we cannot do this alone.  We need our members to act vigilantly and report illegal activity to the State Board of Architects by filing a complaint.  The form is very simple and takes 15 minutes to complete.  I am also providing a link to a AIANJ Blog article on this subject providing more detailed information on filing a complaint.

We must all understand that the real repercussions by not filing a complaint are allowing those who are practicing illegally to continue to do so and to have a direct impact against our businesses and livelihoods.  Once we take this seriously, we will begin to elevate the Value of the Architect.

Justin_sig

Justin A. Mihalik, AIA

AIA New Jersey 2016 President

What Architects Need to Know About Responsible Charge

by David Del Vecchio, AIA
AIANJ Legislative & Government Affairs Chair  (L&GA)

A2023 was signed into law in New Jersey on January 11, 2016.  The bill revises the definition of “responsible charge” as it pertains to licensed professional engineers and land surveyors.  AIA New Jersey requested amendments to include architects along with the professional engineers and land surveyors included in the original language.

The original bill sought to revise the standard of supervision a professional engineer or land surveyor must give to individuals whose work affects the quality and competence of the professional services of the building design professional.  More specifically, the bill would change the definition of “responsible charge” as it pertains to architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, or land surveying work.

The bill defines “responsible charge” to mean the providing of oversight by a competent building design professional by means calculated to provide personal direction to, and quality control over, the efforts of subordinates of the licensee which directly and materially affects the quality and competence of the professional services rendered by the licensee.

The bill amends a section of law that currently lists various acts or practices engaged in by a licensed closely allied professionals that are deemed to be acts or practices in which that licensee has not rendered proper supervision.

The bill removes from this enumerated list of acts or practices contained in current law reference to the regular and continuous absence from principal office premises from which professional services are rendered, except for performance of field work or presence in a field office maintained exclusively for a specific project.

AIA New Jersey Legislative Committee was successful in having the bill amended to revise the definition of “responsible charge,” as it relates to engineers and architects, to mean the provision of regular and effective supervision by a competent professional engineer or architect, as the case may be, who shall provide personal direction to, and quality control over, the efforts of subordinates of the licensee which directly and materially affects the quality and competence of the professional services rendered by the licensee.

The amendments specify that a licensee engaged in the rendering of a limited, cursory or perfunctory review of plans or projects in lieu of providing sufficient direction to, and quality control over, the efforts of subordinates of the licensee shall be deemed not to have rendered regular and effective supervision.  Plan stamping is still plan stamping.

So while the bill allows building design professionals to provide personal direction and quality control to staff not located in the same office location, it maintains the prohibition Plan Stamping.

National Design Services Act Re-introduced in Congress

red_eagleAs of June 25, 2015, the National Design Services Act has been re-introduced by Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7). This program would authorize student loan debt relief for architectural school graduates who provide volunteer services to communities in need through nonprofit community design centers. Help secure the future of your profession by asking your member of Congress to co-sponsor this vital legislation today!

Emerging architectural professionals currently face some of the highest student debt loads when compared with graduates in other fields. Beyond tuition, additional costs unique to architecture, such as modeling materials, technical books, and specialized software only add to the burden. In order for the profession of architecture to remain relevant, we need to ensure that our emerging professionals have every opportunity to gain experience, pay down their debt, and find rewarding work in the architectural field.

This program would reduce the burden of debt on emerging architectural professionals while bringing quality design within reach for underprivileged communities. Contact your member of Congress NOW and ask him or her to co-sponsor the National Design Services Act!

ArchiPAC Update- Race for the ArchiCUP!

ArchiPac_2015AdvocateThe Convention in Atlanta was a great success for ArchiPAC and I wanted to thank those AIANJ members that contributed while there!  Thus far ArchiPAC has raised $24,000 and recruited 225 members.  This year at Convention to make things interesting there was a competition amongst the Chapters and team ArchiAdvocates, which included AIANJ, took 4th place and raised $4,326.50 with 31 contributors!  It was a very close race and was all in good fun!  I wanted to provide AIANJ members with a legislative update to understand that AIA Advocacy is working hard on your behalf and we continue to need your help so that AIA can continue to lobby on behalf of its members with our legislators.  Here is the latest update from AIA headquarters:

  • Design-Build reform: Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that takes steps to improve the design-build process federal procurement process.  A similar bill, Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2015 (HR 1555) was introduced by Representative Sam Graves (R-MO).  AIA has been a critical factor in the emergency of Sen. Portman, Rep. Graves and others as champions for reforms within the federal procurement arena.
  • Small Business Administration size standards: Ron Reim, AIA, testified on June 4th before the House Small Business Committee on the issue of SBA’s size standards.  Ron spoke in favor of a bill introduced this year by Representative Mike Bost (R-IL) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the Stronger Voice for Small Business Act (HR 1429), which would allow small firms to appeal size standards they see as unfair directly to the SBA rather than having to go through the costly federal courts.  Standards established by the SBA defines a “small business” and firms fitting that description are eligible for SBA loans and set-aside projects from the federal government.
  • Tax Reform: as the debate over tax reform continues, members of Congress are looking everywhere for possible ways to trim the tax code, including a number of provisions that directly benefit architecture firms.  An example of this is Section 179D-Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings (passed as part of HR 5771) which allows building owners and tenants who make expenditures to cause new or renovated commercial buildings to be more energy efficient will be eligible for a tax deduction up to $1.80 per square foot.  Currently this deduction expires annually but efforts are currently under way to introduce legislation that would make the deduction permanent.  That push is being led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
  • Student Loan Forgiveness: Legislation was introduced last Congress as the National Design Services Act of 2014 by Rep. Earl Perlmutter (D-CO) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) that would provide some level of student loan forgiveness for architecture students who volunteer design services within their community. The program would mirror ones in the medical, legal, and even veterinarian professions.
  • Building Codes: Rep. Diaz-Balart (R-FL) recently reintroduced bill HR 1878- Safe Building Code Incentive Act incentivizing states to strengthen their building codes, mitigating the various negative impacts of disasters.
  • 2030: Both chambers of Congress are contemplating language to repeal the 2030 fossil fuel reduction targets for federal buildings as part of comprehensive energy legislation. AIA is working with allies to advocate against a repeal of the 2030 targets, a critical issue for the design industry.

I am happy to speak with any members that have any questions regarding the issues above and/or how members can get involved as “Architects in Action”.  Please visit the ArchiPAC website to become an advocate as well as to INVEST in ArchiPAC!ArchiPAC_Invest Sincerely, Justin A. Mihalik, AIA 2015 ArchiPAC Steering Committee Member

AIA New Jersey Interviewed by WPIX TV Regarding Lightweight Wood Construction

edgewater-fire-chopper-2In the wake of the tragic events of the Avalon at Edgewater fire, Justin Mihalik, AIA, the newly elected President-Elect of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was recently interviewed by WPIX TV regarding the use of lightweight wood construction.  You can see the WPIX report here. The report is 5:26 in length.  Justin’s comments start at approximately the 1:59 mark and run through the 3:00 mark.

Granted, the conversation is far more complex than can be explained in one minute of TV time. And, the issue has received significant attention, including legislation proposing mandating fire sprinklers in all residential construction (Bill A1698) and a proposed two-year moratorium on all lightweight wood construction. Given the severity of the event and the public attention, it is more important than ever that architects and AIA New Jersey have a voice in this discussion.

This issue is being actively addressed by our Codes & Standards Committee, chaired by Robert Longo, AIA, our Legistative & Government Affairs Committee, chaired by David Del Vecchio, AIA, our Public Awareness Committee, chaired by Bruce Turner, AIA, our President, Kimberly Bunn, AIA, our Executive Director, Joe Simonetta, and the Executive Committee. Therefore, please make sure you share your opinions with your leaders of AIA New Jersey and your political representatives. Architects cannot stand on the sidelines while others determine the shape of the built environment.

Bruce Turner, AIA
Public Awareness Committee Chair

Reciprocity With Canada

Grassroots 2009In his recent trip to Canada, Governor Christie said “I’ve gotten the impression over time, watching American foreign policy, that Canada has been an afterthought……I don’t think we pay enough attention to this relationship as Americans in general. I’ve made a very conscious decision to come to Canada and to come here to Alberta because we should treat our friends with both respect and attention.”

This statement comes on the heels of a recent tri-national agreement by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Canadian Licensing Authorities (CALA), and the Federacion de Colegios de Architectos de la Republica Mexicana (FCARM), making it possible for architects to work across North American boarders.

With all of this in mind, it is time for the State of New Jersey to take specific action to address New Jersey’s relationship Canada relative to the practice of architecture. Specifically, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects renews its call for the State of New Jersey to resolve impediments to cross border licensure with Canada, and stands ready and willing to work with all relevant parties to find a workable solution for New Jersey.