Renewing with AIA

I became registered in 2010 and subsequently decided to pursue a graduate degree in architecture and urbanism. I'm now out of grad school, working with a small group in Brooklyn, and not sure whether renewing my membership is a smart decision. They want $693 for a one year renewal. I'm really watching my spending as many young architects now and can't imagine shelling this out. Anyone else in this position with some insights?
Jan 20, 13 6:28 pm

I'm shocked that you haven't already been deluged with anti-AIA vitriol yet, Jeffrey.  But it'll come.

I'm in the same boat you are; there are several of us here.  I do see value in AIA membership, though precisely how much value when times are tough and money is tight is the question.  To be honest, I haven't yet decided if I'll renew this year.  I know that some chapters are allowing members to pay off in monthly installments, which could help, I suppose.

Jan 21, 13 10:57 am

The AIA is a club, if you aren't being a club member, don't pay the club membership.

Jan 21, 13 12:24 pm

I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have a person like me as a member.

Jan 21, 13 12:40 pm

Thanks Citizen. I suppose as long as I pay my licensing dues through the state, I am still a "licensed Architect", but will give up any AIA associations. I just don't see the value right now...perhaps in the future. 

Jan 21, 13 3:11 pm

ok, so i'll give you a contrary viewpoint: for the past two years, i've been serving as aia georgia's representative on our board of regent's facilities advisory group. i know, it sounds like a mouthful. except that the group is made up, largely, of the head facility officers from each of the colleges and universities throughout the state, along with the head administrative officers (the vice chancellor, all the department heads, etc.)


this group selects 5 architects from across the state at any given time. so, you have 1 to 2 slots opening each year. aia has been given the opportunity to help select one of those 5 slots. i was chosen after volunteering. there were 3 of us who answered the email looking for interested people. do i really need to describe what kind of access and opportunity it's been? (btw - i'm voluntarily giving up my seat this spring since i was voted to the executive committee of aia georgia this year. if anyone in georgia is reading this). 


aia is, as always, whatever you want to make of it. if you're looking at it as a club, then it's going to be a club. if you see it as a platform to use and do interesting initiatives, meet other people, etc., then it's all available. do you want to volunteer to be on the national committee on the environment's board? you can. want to lead a design competition for high schoolers? yep. want to figure out how to get peter zumthor to speak at your state convention? yeah, tougher, but possible.


so, the value is what you want to make of it. just like most things. if you find that value elsewhere, that's fine too.

Jan 21, 13 3:31 pm

Seconding what Gregory said.  I was very active in my local AIA for a few years, then in 2008 let it lapse.  now I'm back and serving on the Executive Board.  In one meeting I've already met with people who have given me connections and insight into a project I'm working on.  So yes, it's expensive, but if you're an active participant the payback can be worth it.

And jeepers, Gregory, how do I get on my local version of that facilities group?! That's networking gold!

Jan 21, 13 4:34 pm

Wow, a positive, productive conversation on Archinect. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm still leaning toward lapsing for a bit, but this has given me something to consider. 

Gregory and Donna, it does appear that you've made the most of it--nicely done.

Jan 21, 13 4:47 pm

donna! - happy new year by the way. not sure we've spoken here since then. 

the facilities board: no idea. our vice chancellor was very, very proactive about creating that group and actually reached out to aia to help appoint someone. i'm not sure if any other boards of regents have that or not. you could ask the vice chancellor for your system and see. if i were in your place, i'd offer to help set one up if there isn't one. i am willing to bet, though, that they have programs for the facilities officers - at least 1 or 2 system wide meetings each year. that's pretty typical.

Jan 21, 13 4:48 pm

Some additional thoughts on why you may want to remain a member:

1. AIA is the only practical voice for the profession. While we can debate all day long whether it's an effective voice or not, it's a fact that AIA remains the only organization with any positive clout whatsoever when issues arise that have the potential to affect the practice of Architecture in the US. Many who refrain from joining AIA love to complain about what the AIA doesn't do for the profession -- only those who are members have any opportunity at all to exert a positive influence on the agenda and the priorities of the association.

2. AIA has made a strong commitment to the continuing education of its members -- and many state licensing boards have chosen to require a certain amount of continuing education for license renewal. Last year I met 100% of my continuing education requirements (for both AIA and my two state licensing boards) for free by participating in the regular on-line "webinars" that AIA offers at no cost to its members. Moreover, AIA provides its members free access to its online CES transcript service to track completed programs, which transcript is accepted by my state licensing boards as 'proof' of my continuing ed compliance - I do virtually zero recordkeeping. These two features alone (the free webinars and the online CES transcript service) make my AIA dues worthwhile.

3. Greg Walker is correct - the real value of AIA comes from active participation in the life of the Institute. Over the course of my career, I held just about every local and state AIA office available to me. I also served on quite a few national AIA committees, including the advisory committee for a national Knowledge Community and the committees that published two separate editions of the Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice. These experiences were invaluable to me in terms of a) expanding my understanding of issues important to the profession; b) broadening my exposure to individuals and firms in other parts of the country; c) developing my own leadership and managerial skills; and d) giving me a structured way to give something back to my profession.

4. Finally, through AIA I had the chance over the years to meet -- and have conversations with -- many strong and interesting architects (including many so-called "starchitects") who live and work in other states -- I never would have met these people otherwise. Some of those individuals have become close personal friends and valuable professional colleagues.

Just some food for thought.

Jan 21, 13 4:56 pm

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