Tag Archives: Justin Mihalik

President’s Message – The Second Half of the Year

JAM_headshotThe second half of the year has just flown by and that’s because there has been a lot of good things going on for AIANJ.  In July leaders from the six Sections and AIANJ met to have a mid-term review on our Strategic Goals and to plan for the second half of the year.  You may recall that under the leadership of Kimberly Bunn our immediate Past President, over the course of two day long workshops, leaders brainstormed and collaborated on a new Strategic Plan with four main goals involving architects and the profession, the public, and AIANJ membership.  These goals incorporate the work of all of our committees as well as collaboration with our six Sections.

Just two weeks ago, leaders met once again for a President’s Roundtable Leadership Conference, which focused on our transition over the next six weeks to our incoming President Ben Lee.  The President’s of the six sections gave a State of the Section report and then we began the planning of 2017.  I am very happy to say that the plan for 2017 is in keeping with the strategic goals and the collaboration between the Sections is growing.

In September, a small group of us attended the annual Large States Conference in Austin TX hosted by the AIA Texas Society of Architects.  “Large States” is made up of eight state components that are single state Chapters, which NJ is the smallest, and these Chapters make up almost 50% of the AIA membership.  This is a two-day conference focusing on issues that affect our members as well as AIA leadership and we share best practices in order to improve the level of service.  I am very proud to say that AIANJ is right there at the top with the largest of the state components in services and activities.  Probably the most important of the roundtable discussions was that regarding “credentialing”.  This has been a topic hanging around AIA for more than 30 years and it finally seems that it may have enough traction to move forward.  The only example of credentialing thus far in the AIA is the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA).  This group was formed out of the original knowledge community on this subject.  The recommendation made to AIA leaders was to create additional specializations from other knowledge communities using the ACHA as the model.  Standby…

This year at the League of Municipalities, I will be making a presentation to the Department of Community Affairs Fire Safety Commission regarding AIANJ’s position on the use of lightweight construction materials and the recommendations we have made in our whitepaper, which you can download through the AIANJ website.  This is an important step for the organization in which AIANJ will be recognized as the expert on this subject.  AIANJ will continue to work with our legislators and educate them that legislation is not the right place for changing the building code.  I personally have shared the whitepaper with several construction officials who have agreed with our recommendations.

So what I have left in my bucket list are two main items: Large Firm Roundtable and the AIANJ Scholarship Foundation.  I am currently working with several principals of NJ large firms (20+ employees) to rejuvenate this adhoc committee in order to bring large firm involvement back into our seven components.  I want to thank the ongoing dedication of firms including Gensler, KSS Architects, Kitchen & Associates and NK Architects.  The success of AIANJ comes from its diversity in all aspects of life, but also in firm size.  Last but not least, discussions have begun with the AIANJ Scholarship Foundation in order to re-energize this very important foundation, which primarily provides scholarships to architecture students on a yearly basis.  Many other state components have broadened the mission of their Foundations and my hope is that we will be able to do the same.

Sincerely,

Justin_sig

 

 

Justin A. Mihalik AIA
AIA New Jersey President

Presidents Message – The AIA World Gets Smaller Everyday…

JAM_headshotOne of my goals this year is to meet with several firms across the state to discuss with them their involvement with AIA, the value of AIA to their firms, and to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.  This month I met with Stephen Schoch AIA, Managing Principal of Kitchen & Associates Services, Inc. in Collingswood.  Kitchen & Associates currently has 80 architects, engineers, planners and interior designers, and was founded in 1971 by Benjamin Kitchen AIA.  Stephen and I had not met one another before and we had no problem with diving into many issues.  As we discussed things, Stephen mentioned that he grew up in Hackensack and I said so did my wife.  Well Stephen and my wife grew up three houses from one another and it was one of those, “what are the chances of that” moments!  That just made the conversation even easier.

With my involvement at AIANJ, I know several K&A employees who are involved in local AIANJ Sections and the AIANJ Board of Directors, and have been for years.  This involvement comes with the all to important employer support and I wanted to take the time to applaud Stephen for his dedication to AIANJ and the profession.  We all need to take a page from the K&A playbook when it comes to this dedication, as K&A just supported 14 of its employees joining AIA by paying for their membership so that they could take advantage of going to the AIA Convention in Philadelphia for free with the new membership offer from AIA!  This effort goes hand in hand with the recent challenge from Russell Davidson FAIA, AIA President, where he announced that his firm is closing down the office for two days so that their employees can attend the Convention and take advantage of all that it has to offer.  These are great examples for all employers to consider.

Another topic that we discussed is the AIA Large Firm Roundtable.  The LFRT is comprised of chief executives from more than 60 large firms, the mission is to further the special and unique interests, both national and international, of large firms by working with and through the AIA.  Don’t worry small firms, there is also an AIA Small Firm Roundtable, which has recently been renamed to the Small Firm Exchange (SFX) and has a similar mission for small firms.  AIANJ is represented on the SFX but is not represented on the LFRT.  It is important that AIANJ is represented at both levels, as our membership is represented by both small and large firms.  In order for AIANJ to be a leader at the LFRT, it is paramount that we first start here on our home turf by resurrecting the AIANJ LFRT. If you are an executive of a NJ large firm and are interested in joining this committee, please contact me.  I will be reaching out too many of you to join this committee and will host a meeting to get the ball rolling.

Sometime over the next month, take the time to meet with one of your peers, enjoy a meal to discuss the profession and how to get connected with AIA, and you never know, your worlds may be closer than you think.  Hope to see you in Philadelphia!

Sincerely,

Justin_sig

 

 

Justin A. Mihalik, AIA

AIA New Jersey Creates Task Force on Lightweight Wood-Framed Construction

edgewater-fire-chopper-2

 

TRENTON, N.J. (March 2015) — In the aftermath of the Avalon Edgewater Building Fire, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) has announced the formation of a task force of member architects to review possible improvements to design practices and building codes and standards in order to enhance building safety in New Jersey.

The Task Force will examine various issues specific to lightweight wood-framed buildings and make recommendations that, if implemented, could reduce property damage, provide additional time for people to reach safety, and allow the fire service more time to effectively address these emergencies.

Justin Mihalik, AIA

Justin Mihalik, AIA

Chaired by Justin A. Mihalik, AIA New Jersey President-elect, the AIA New Jersey Task Force will build upon its standard code advisory processes and conduct these additional meetings to review lightweight wood framing design issues and formulate recommendations to assist New Jersey policymakers in promulgating regulations that will make buildings of this type safer.

“Improving building safety through smarter design has always been a priority of architects,” said Justin A. Mihalik, AIA. “AIA-NJ is prepared to further assist public safety officials in this shared goal with the creation of this task force.”

The Task Force will make advisory recommendations on containment methods and use of lightweight wood-framed construction materials. These recommendations will be formulated into a written report to be presented to official agencies with the intent of improving building safety in the Garden State and around the country. Task force members will include David Del Vecchio, AIA, Robert M. Longo, AIA, Jason Lutz, AIA, William J. Martin, AIA and Yogish Mistry, AIA. The Task force is expected to complete this work in the coming months.

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 (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A4500/4195_I1.HTM), 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?

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