Session 6: Philanthropy and Board Involvement

Date: March 6, 2015
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Carissa Gavin, LEED AP & Yiselle Santos, LEED AP BD+C

Session 6 PDF


The sixth session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at Perkins + Will and despite the miserable cold and snow, Yiselle Santos and Carissa Gavin had nearly a full house for their full day of discussion on philanthropy, advocacy and board involvement and how these affect practice.


Anica Landreneau, Global Sustainable Consulting Director at HOK DC, offered the recommendation to future leaders in the room that we, as design professionals, need to define the world in which we want to work; we need to lead the charge and advocate for such initiatives as green building and higher standards. Anica’s narrative of all her active roles on boards and in developing green building standards provided broad look into the interdependence between advocacy and profitable design practice.DSC_7361

To expand this discourse on profitable practice in the design professions, Brian Sykes, Project Manager at Perkins + Will followed Anica with an impassioned presentation on the discrepancy between creating “really good architecture” and the economic value of the services and products that are provided. Brian was vocal about the purpose of our profession (creating “really good architecture” through a harmonious combination of building science, culture and aesthetics) and the need for a market-based initiative to support quality and high standards in what we do regarding health, safety and welfare for users of our work.

Anica and Brian introduced us to the WHY of advocacy and active involvement. Up next were discussions on the HOW and introductions to a variety of ways to affect change.

Amanda Stratton, Senior Manager of AIA Advocacy Outreach outlined the basics on how to get involved through the AIA. The purpose of the AIA’s 2015 marketing campaign on advocacy is to provide opportunities for each of us to participate in delivering a unified voice to government and community decision makers. Amanda urged us each to take advantage of the programs the AIA already has in place that encourage communication, advocacy and outreach.

Sophia Lau, Chair of the AIA DC Advocacy Committee, discussed a smaller-scale, more organic approach to empowering and educating architects and clients. The AIA DC Advocacy Committee is a small group shaped by passionate members. They reflect upon the major relationships between architects and clients and our professional service to the community and humanity and organize meet & greets, education opportunities and collaborative events that bring together politicians, clients, architects, designers, and other important roles.

Nora Wendl, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Portland State University switched gears and presented a different approach to advocacy and public awareness of the power of architecture through contextual exploration. Examples including artist Theaster Gates and major architectural works like the Farnsworth House provided us a glimpse into the less traditional method of encouraging human interaction with the built environment. Typically, art is divorced from its surrounding context but Theaster Gates has made a life’s work of preserving and highlighting the beauty and value of things WITHIN their spaces and places.

Similarly, in an effort to raise money for and awareness of the Farnsworth House preservation and maintenance efforts, the The Farnsworth House Trust has launched some art exhibitions that use the architecture as not only an object but as an attractor and as a mediator human interaction with art.

To close out the presentation portion of the day, Katie Yanushonis, Leasing Director at Boston Properties, shared one of her prized philanthropic experiences. As Co-Chairperson of The JDRF Real Estate Games she spoke about some valuable lessons she has learned coordinating and participating in this event over the years. In order to balance work and extracurricular demands, Katie strongly recommends that one follows her personal passion when it comes time to choosing committee work or volunteerism. In addition to simply being a personally fulfilling endeavor, all speakers of the day have reiterated that they learned new skills in their philanthropic work and have developed professionally and personally.

DSC_7405Finally, the much-anticipated round-table format, the final speaker-led activity of the day, included Katie Yanushonis, Nora Wendl and Louise Boulton-Lear, CPSM Vice President at DAVIS Construction. Each roundtable speaker briefly listed their personal involvement in organizations or boards. This outline of their individual involvement acted as a collection of case studies that CKLDP scholars then had time to react to and ask questions about. We delved into topics including…Who should be on a board? And what makes a board fail or succeed?…Is a developing continuous message/mission important? What are some good strategies to do this?

This full day of presentation and discussion on advocacy, involvement, professional empowerment and philanthropy was capped off with a walk around the Perkins + Will offices past the technologically advanced shop with the fancy MakerBot and the innovative layout of work/office space with doors removed from the offices of the upper-level folks – followed by a very chilly walk the few blocks to Happy Hour at Bayou on Pennsylvania Ave.

Session 5: Design & Community Service

Date: February 6, 2015
Location: Steelcase Worklife
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Rachael Johnson, Assoc. AIA, EDAC & Mark Palmer, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Session 5 PDF


session5_01The fifth session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at Steelcase WorkLife on Friday, February 6. Mark Palmer and Rachael Johnson organized the session focusing on community service within the architecture industry. With a dense agenda including a panel discussion, three presentations, a breakout session on community involvement, and a tour of the Steelcase WorkLife showroom, the scholars were provided different perspectives on ways to engage within your architectural community.

session5_02The session started with a roundtable discussion between panelists representing the District of Columbia Building Industry Association, Architecture for Humanity, and the Washington Architectural Foundation. Each panelist briefly covered their experience with their association, and we delved into a deep Q+A. Gina Volpicelli, LEED AP BD+C, with Architecture in the Schools was the first to speak about her experience working with children in the schools, and how one can engage what the children are learning in class with the profession. “It can be extremely rewarding, helping students to understand what you are talking about, and seeing that light-bulb go off,” Gina said, as she passionately spoke about her experiences with the Washington Architectural Foundation’s program.

As Lam Vuong, AIA, LEED AP, from Tools of the Trade, said, in many instances, by engaging in the community and working with children, one has to be a quick learner and think on their feet. It also teaches better presentation skills, as when presenting to students, you have to learn how to be articulate about the more abstract ideas. “You have to understand your skills and weaknesses, particularly when a 9 year old questions you,” Lam remarked.

Jose Benitez, LEED AP, with DCBIA’s Community Improvements, spoke about Community Improvement Day, which is there to improve and promote DC as a community in which to live and work. A one day event, it pulls in over 800 volunteers, ranging from policemen and firemen, to college students and more, with the majority being non-design professionals.

Lindsay Brugger, Assoc. AIA, SEED, spoke about her involvement with Architecture for Humanity. Lindsay spoke about the local chapters, and the passion and forward thinking that can be seen there. As Architecture for Humanity’s Director for their Resilience by Design program, Lindsay spoke about the process of taking projects from start to the Schematic Design or Design Development level, before the project is handed off to a local build team. “A lot of it comes down to funding, and if the funding is there, and it’s local, you can be as involved as much as you want to be.” Sometimes the design comes first, in which sketches are required in order to help achieve the grants needed to help in the community.

Additionally, scholars from the class had a variety of questions ranging from “Why one would get involved,” to “How does AFH and the DCBIA organize troops,” and “How does fundraising play a role”, the discussion was passionate and informative. One comment that came out of volunteering for organizations like these was the chance to hone and improve skills you might not have access to exercise in the workplace, from Lindsay’s grant writing experience, to learning how to manage a bank of volunteers, as well as learning how to network and fundraise to reach one’s goals. The most important question of the roundtable came from the scholars: “Do you feel more valued doing your volunteer work?” It was a resounding yes, from being able to help boost your career with added skills, to personal fulfillment.

The second portion of the afternoon focused on pro-bono in the Practice, particularly the 1% program. Started in San Francisco by John Peterson, when he initially grew bored with the for-profit branch of his office, so he started the non-profit arm, pledging to donate 1% of each year’s billable hours to non-profits who needed design services. Rayya Newman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, SEED was here to speak to the program.

session5_03With 46% of Architect Magazine’s Top 50 Firms list participating in the program, pro-bono work has been thought of as an investment in the office and amongst the staff. By providing professional services of their employees in the sum of 1% of each year’s billable hours, firms can “start to show folks the value of design with people who would not necessarily come across a designer.”

A firm is allowed to offer reduced fee/no fee design services to non-profits and 501c3’s. Run as a standard project, complete with a contract between architect and client, many of these pro-bono services, could, in fact, lead to a potential job, as the initial design phases heat up, or a grant has been given, based on the schematics produced. With great conversation amongst the scholars on their current experience with this program, and getting employers on board, Scott remarked, “If we were able to talk about this from a business standpoint – one way to look at this program is this: How do we go about offering Pro-Bono services that end up landing us a job that is paid?”

session5_04After a brief break, and a tour of Steelcase WorkLife’s newly renovated showroom, our own Scott Cryer spoke about his experience with Public Interest Design and the AIA Knowledge Community, which is a website rich in networking opportunities, resource sharing, and discussion forums. One particular forum focuses on Public Interest Design, where many discussions on the programs spoken about today can be found.

The final portion of the day was a Public Participation Workshop, led by AIA’s liaisons from Community by Design, Joel Mills and Erin Simmons. Erin laughs, “We are AIA’s best kept secret.” Joel started with a brief history of the program, and quickly moved into case studies and modern methods of the projects they have been involved in over their 10+ years in their positions.

session5_05Working all over the country, Erin’s main focus is Design Assistance within communities that need help. On a good year, there can be up to seven or eight communities that need their help. Putting together a strategic team, heading to the city, and spending a few, long days with the citizens of the area, they are able to put together a plan that the town can move into action over a number of years. Sometimes, it’s a success, with towns coming back several years later, with massive improvements. Other times, the strategic teams depart, to follow up and realize little progress was made.

Once a baseline was established of what Community by Design does, the scholars were given a strategic problem of their own. As citizens of DC/VA/MD, they were tasked with looking at their city. Some questions that needed answering were, “What are some spaces that need help in the city? Why? What is the rationale for this? Who could we involve? Who needs to be involved?”

session5_06As they quickly learned, these sort of projects cannot be done in a vacuum, and need to involve anyone who is interested. A good example was the DC Metro’s expansion. Aside from the architects, engineers, and city officials, who else needed to be involved in the discussion? Local citizens in the areas of discussion, commuters, WMATA, policemen, neighbors, and many more. Wrapping up the day with a run-through of a Design Assistance Team’s grueling site visit, the scholars began to understand how complex some of these projects really were.

Session 4: Professional Ethics and the Law

Date: January 9, 2015
Location: National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: John Herrington, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C & Kimberly Tuttle, AIA, NCARB

Session 4 PDF


session 4_1
The fourth session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at NCARB Offices on Friday, January 9. Kimberly Tuttle and John Herrington organized the session focusing on professional ethics and the law with the architecture industry. With a dense agenda including three presentations, a breakout session on contract analysis, and a Q+A wrap-up session, the Scholars were provided different perspectives on ethics, legal standards, and contracts.

session 4_2As the Chair of the DC Board of Architecture and Interior Design, Ronnie shared with us some valuable insight into the standards of professional practice and how the board works to improve the profession in the DC community. He reviewed some case studies and helped the Scholars understand the concepts of legality and ethics. Life is not normally like the plot in a classic movie, Mr. McGhee explained, it’s not as simple as “bad guy versus good guy” where things are very black and white and easy to acknowledge – oftentimes, everyone has their own motivations for the decisions they make. The onus then is put on us, as professionals, to ask ourselves not only if our decisions are legally correct, but if they are also morally and ethically correct. He left us with a simple question, we must ask ourselves: “Are you proud of yourself in making this decision?”
session 4_3As the person who literally wrote the book on contract negotiation for architects, Ava Abramowitz urged the Scholars to recognize that what is best for us as architects on a project is what is best for our client. Proving that we can most aptly advocate for our profession by helping our clients become better business people, Ms. Abramowitz showed us ways we can calm the emotional and sometimes tense process of contract negotiation, by distilling everything down to simple business decisions for our clients to easily navigate. She showed us how to ask the right questions and come to understand our clients’ motivations, resulting in fair compensation and contract negotiations in the profession.

session 4_4Terrence McShane delivered an energetic presentation on law for architects. Going over specific contract language, he stressed to the Scholars to be actively involved and aware of the risks and liability issues. Mr. McShane used various case studies to impart helpful hints and tips in navigating the waters of liability and contract negotiations – including indemnification language in contracts, judicious documentation of all activities in a project, getting all scope and services in writing, and understanding your “standard of care.”

Afterwards the Scholars were able to work hand in hand with Mr. McShane and Ms. Abramowitz in analyzing and reviewing real contract samples and working on distinguishing what red flags might look like and how the Scholars might be able to find a solution. The Scholars broke out into smaller groups to dissect different contract samples and report back to the group their findings and discuss what they learned.

session 4_5Finally, the Scholars came back together for a Q & A session with Ms. Abramowitz and Mr. McShane to summarize what was learned and wrap up the session with some in-depth discussion into Integrated Product Delivery (IPD) projects and the various ways that project players can organize a mutually incentivized project delivery system.

Session 3: Office and Firm Management

Date: December 5, 2014
Location: House of Sweden
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Anthony Monica, Assoc. AIA & Seth Wilschutz, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Session 3 PDF


The third session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at the House of Sweden on Friday, December 7.  The session focused on office and firm management, and featured segments on starting a firm, successful financial management within the design profession, a summary on ownership transition and firm valuation, and finally a presentation on firm management on a global scale.  Scholars Seth Wilschutz and Anthony Monica organized the event.

1The afternoon got off to a lively start with roundtable discussion on starting an architecture firm.  Speakers Janet Bloomberg (KUBE Architecture), Christopher Gordon (KGD Architecture) and Alexander Zaras (Zaras & Neudorfer Architects) contributed a wide array of opinions relating to the early days of setting up a firm.  Ms. Bloomberg explained that, after going into practice “blind” to some of the realities and requirements of running a firm, KUBE has enjoyed success thanks to a combination of design focus, strong and long-lasting client relationships, an effort to stay ahead of potential problems, and doing a diverse assortment of marketing efforts.  Having started the firm shortly before the Great Recession, it took KUBE about 8 years before Ms. Bloomberg started realizing some significant financial success.  By contrast, Mr. Zaras did so less than two months into his foray into firm ownership.  Also in stark contrast to KUBE, Mr. Zaras’ firm does absolutely no marketing, and takes work as it comes, a model apparently similar to that of McKim, Mead, & White.  Mr. Zaras also shared arguably the most controversial opinions of the day, explaining that his firm has zero overhead expenses and also has no financial value as an entity.  This last comment related to the idea that he would eventually hand over the firm to a loyal employee, likely on the day that he is no longer able to practice.  He explained the importance of hiring a lawyer who is also a CPA, in an effort to keep the cumbersome paperwork of firm management to an absolute minimum.  In contrast to Mr. Zaras, Mr. Gordon explained that the idea of firm valuation and succession was one of the key issues he and his partners considered from the earliest days of KGD, which was set up as a ‘C’ Corporation for ease of scalability.  All contributors agreed that open and honest communication between partners is an absolute requirement.  They also agreed that it is helpful to have a spouse or significant other who can cover the cost of living during those lean early days of practice!

2During the second session, Michael Tardif (Building Life Cycle Group, Inc.) provided a starter course on financial management for design professionals.  Mr. Tardiff opened the presentation with a series of big-picture concepts to explain the vital importance of financial management.  He then provided more details including a typical chart of accounts, the absolute necessity of accurate time keeping, financial planning strategies and tools, and a wide array of financial reports and useful metrics that can be efficiently utilized by firm leadership to make strategic management and marketing decisions.  He explained that, if the right systems are in place, a firm leader can effectively manage firm finances spending only 4 hours per month on the effort.

3Herb Cannon (AEC Management Solutions) delivered a summary on firm ownership transition and valuation as the third presentation.  Mr. Cannon started by stressing the importance of a clear understanding of where your firm, including any potential new partners, fit on a diagram indicating primary and secondary areas of emphasis between two broad categories of “practice” and “business” focus.  He talked about several topics related to ownership transition, including the difference between a “qualifications” and “commodity” oriented firm.  He also summarized the diverse set of requirements for a firm leader, including that key, hard-to-identify characteristic that is so vital: entrepreneurship.  Mr. Cannon described two general approaches to ownership transition: share appreciated, in hopes to eventually sell to an outside bidder, and the use of current distributions that can help lead to internal transitions. In conclusion, Mr. Cannon walked the scholars through a case study, using several methods to calculate firm value for a weighted-average final sum to be used for an internal transition.

4The final session on global firm management was delivered by Mark Regulinski (SOM).  The presentation included a broad overview of the firm’s geographical and disciplinary organization under their 22 current partners.  He presented an overlapping Venn diagram indicating the 3 main areas of firm partner focus: technical, management and design, which Mr. Regulinski related to Vitruvius’ firmness, commodity and delight.  Using the diagram he explained that, in order for SOM to realize success, they need team members who operate at the edges of these three realms, but also those who work as collaborators between.  He described the SOM Journal, an internal critique effort aggregating external review commentary that helped the firm re-focus their self-image in an effort to return to core principles of simplicity, structural clarity and sustainability, with an emphasis on innovation and craft.  In addition to a few project case studies, Mr. Regulinski discussed the Great Lakes Initiative and a strategic partnership with the Renselear Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology.5