As we look to the future of the chapter, 2020 is set to be a year of transition. Over the past several years, the leadership of AIA Central Pennsylvania has explored a partnership with AIA Pennsylvania in becoming a “Section” of the State Chapter. I am thrilled to announce that AIA National has accepted our agreement with AIA Pennsylvania and starting in 2021 we will officially be AIA Central, a section of AIA PA.

So how does this change affect you as a member? In short, you should see no change. Our goal with any approach to the chapter has always been to maintain all our current resources and to provide the ability to further expand those services and programs. You may or may not be aware that over the years AIA National has enacted many regulations and chapter requirements that we are required to comply with to maintain chapter eligibility. While we have been able to meet and exceed these requirements throughout that time, the administrative tasks associated along with the typical administrative tasks of the board have placed an immense burden on our volunteer board members. As a section of the state, AIA Central will be free from those administrative tasks and will be able to focus our efforts solely on providing the resources, education, programs, and events to our members. We are excited about the change and the ability to expand our reach to the membership. We hope this transition allows us to better connect, to increase our programs, and grow the membership as a more communal group.

This year I am tasked with coordinating that transition while maintaining our program continuity with all of you throughout the year. While we will no longer be an official chapter, we will maintain our operational independence, our voting rights, our board, and our by-laws; operating as we have always. If there are any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to discuss this in more detail.

As I write this letter, AIA Central Pennsylvania’s year of transition is taking on another meaning. As we navigate these uncertain times in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. AIA Central Pennsylvania along with our the state and fellow local chapters are discussing initiatives to assist our members with resources to help their firms, employees, and communities. We understand these are unprecedented times, and that our membership is faced with all new challenges. I am encouraged to see how active AIA Pennsylvania has been in discussions with government officials and pledge that AIA Central PA will be alongside to facilitate whatever measures we can for our industry. I see the value of membership in the AIA community now more than ever and I encourage you to utilize our resources, participate in our many programs and events throughout the year, and to connect with your colleagues by whatever means possible. We are in this together and we shall get through this together.

Further, I see this as an opportunity for you to get more involved directly with AIA Central Pennsylvania. We are actively looking to expand our board and committees so that we can expand our programs and resources. I hope that you will reach out to assist us in these ventures as I think you will find it a very valuable and rewarding experience.

I look forward to speaking with many of you soon. Until then, be safe, stay healthy, and get involved!

COVID-19 Resources and Updates

As the world faces an unprecedented “new normal” many organizations, including architecture firms, have taken steps in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to protect the health of their employees, clients, and the community. While every firm will have a unique set of circumstances, here are some general guidelines, resources, and programs that could offer insight into navigating the impacts of COVID-19 on architecture firm leaders, employees, operations, and business.

Click here for AIA Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Resource Round Up Page

Additionally, on March 19th Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining (including architectural services & construction) businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations, however, this has not been without continued updates and exceptions. Refer to AIA Pennsylvania’s Government Updates and Resources Page for the latest information.

March 31 Membership Lapsing Deadline Extension


In previous years, March 31st is the date traditionally used by AIA to lapse unpaid members. AIA has made the decision to extend the lapsing date from March 31 to April 28, 2020. Members who have not renewed received notice of the change last week. For those who cannot renew at this time, the hope is that the additional time and access to member benefits will help them.

Currently, the Dues Installment Plan (DIP) will be operating at usual.

Small Firm Exchange (SFx) 2020 1st Quarter Report

By Chris Dawson, AIA, LEED AP BD + C Pennsylvania’s Small Firm Representative


I had the pleasure of attending AIA National’s Small Firm Exchange’s (SFx) Annual Meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas from March 2nd thru the 4th as your Pennsylvania Representative. The SFx Member Group’s mission is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing within small firms. Please find more information on the resources related to those interests available to members on the AIA National Website under the Topics tab.

Attached please find a summary by outgoing president Christopher Toddy from Ohio of last quarter’s SFx efforts. I am happy to answer any questions and/or connect you to the best person within AIA to address your concern. Typical of AIA at all levels, there is great work being done on everyone’s behalf and tremendous resources available but given the intensity of our professional lives and commitments outside the office as a member one is often unaware.

77% of all firms in the country have fewer than 10 employees meeting the small firm definition and about 20% of AIA members work in small firms. About 30% of the AIA National Conference attendees are from small firms. Since “Convention” (as it used to be known) has been my primary connection with AIA National I joined, and now Chair, the SFx Conference Work Group. The 2021 AIA National Conference returns to Philadelphia and I will be seeking your help over the next year as we look to enhance the small firm practitioner’s experience at Convention.

Marlon Blackwell, FAIA was named an AIA Gold Medalist earlier this year and he was the very first architect I invited to lecture in Central PA in 2006 when I began chairing my local chapter’s lecture series. Marlon came and spoke to the SFx Executive Committee meeting on March 2nd and shared insights about finding success as a small firm. He is featured in a new book titled, Small Firm Success: How Small Firms Can Thrive in an Age of Acceleration by James P. Cramer & Scott Simpson which I recommend.

I was privileged to be able to have dinner with Marlon and gain further insights and inspiration from a small firm practitioner working hard, putting “purpose before profit” without being a martyr for the profession, and receiving well deserved recognition while dealing with the same issues we all deal with. I was surprised to learn that he has difficulty recruiting staff for an office not in NYC or LA, with clients making regrettable value engineering changes to design, and getting paid by clients, etc.

I am in my 11th year of practice as a small firm owner in Harrisburg, PA that has grown to 9 people. I will continue to share reports of the AIA National SFx activities and contribute to the new AIA PA SFx group and its Inaugural Seminar slated for September 30th in Lancaster, PA. Soon I will also be soliciting your help to prepare for A’21 in Philadelphia June 17th thru the 19th 2021.


Chris Dawson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Principal Chris Dawson Architect

Read Christopher Toddy’s Summary

Grassroots 2020 Recap

By Kyle Solyak, AIA, LEED AP

In February, AIA Central Pennsylvania President-Elect Rachel Haynes, Assoc. AIA and I had the pleasure of representing our members at the AIA 2020 Grassroots Leadership Conference in New Orleans, LA. Here we met with AIA Leaders from local and state chapters all across the country and from around the world to discuss topics impacting the future of the profession. Primary topics included civic leadership, equity in the profession, and climate change.

I was particularly encouraged by the discussion that took center stage bringing together several mayors from across the county to discuss how architects have and can impact their cities, specifically as we face the challenges of climate change. This year, Kathy Ehley, mayor of Wauwatosa, WI; Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, MO; and Wade Nomura, mayor of Carpinteria, CA, spoke with AIA 2021 President-Elect Peter Exley, FAIA about the challenges posed to each of their cities by extreme weather events, and how such events can have unexpected consequences on already-vulnerable populations.

I currently find myself pondering among the social distancing of how we as architects can prepare for future pandemics and other catastrophes. As architects, our job focuses more often than not, around bringing people together. But as protectors of the health, safety, and welfare of the public we must look to design communities that can withstand any challenge, climate-related, economic, or otherwise.

To be at the forefront of the decision making we must get involved. I encourage you all to contact and develop a relationship with your local officials. Being involved in the conversation is how Architects can become a primary resource for our communities. As well, please consider donating to the AIA PA Political Action Committee and look for further information on how AIA Central PA’s association with the state is advocating for Architects and our communities.

In addition to the mayor’s panel, we were able to experience numerous workshops for architects and chapter leaders facilitating meaningful discussion and offering a solution on how architects, engaged citizens, and civic leaders can work together to advance progress for our communities.

Next year’s Grassroots conference will return to Washington D.C. where we will once again meet with our elected officials on Capitol Hill. The event is open to all AIA members and I encourage you to attend and make your voice heard.

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