|Volume 3, No. 10 - September 23, 2009
Should Architects Care About Health Care?
by Brian J. Donnelly AIA, LEED® AP
Chair, Communications Committee
|I don't mind telling you, when my doctor said that spinal surgery was the only treatment option for my deteriorating congenital condition, I felt a little squeamish. It wasn't a life-threatening condition, but my overall health and well-being were definitely in jeopardy, so I had to weigh the risks of surgery against the potential and by no means certain benefits. Once I got over the basic creepiness of having someone cut open part of my back bone and adjust my spinal cord, I opted to have the procedure.
In making my decision, of all the things I considered and discussed with my family, I realize now that the monetary cost was never at issue. Our health insurance is provided through my spouse's employer, one of the largest public entities in Virginia, and our coverage is comprehensive, flexible and relatively affordable. Because we are only one of the tens of thousands of families in the plan, the risks and costs that we represent are distributed across a broad pool. One surgical procedure, no matter how delicate or invasive, doesn't significantly change the group's median health profile.
But if our circumstances had been different, if I relied on a small or medium sized architecture firm for coverage, or were self-employed, one surgical procedure would have been enough to substantially alter my risk profile, and my health insurance could quickly have become unaffordable or even unattainable. Under the current health care regime, architects, who are likely to work for small or medium sized companies, face a significant disadvantage, one that may actually be changing the structure of the profession. The prohibitive cost of health insurance as a small or sole practitioner is a considerable disincentive to starting a new firm, and reinforces the trend toward large-firm consolidation.
Of course, architects aren't unique. Since 2000, the cost of employer-based health insurance has increased by 59%. If current trends continue over the next decade, annual health care costs for employers could exceed $28,000 for each employee. Along with other business groups, the AIA is urging Congress to address this issue by passing legislation that will provide affordable health care for American businesses and workers. One strategy the Institute is advocating is small business or association health plans. Association health plans would give members of professional and trade associations the opportunity to participate in group health insurance plans, using the larger pools of participants to structure more affordable coverage.
Inevitably, any legislation will create controversy and partisan squabbling. But the cost of leaving unchanged the current system, and its growing impact on small businesses, is untenable. When I think about the good fortune I've had, and consider the increasing vulnerability of many of my colleagues, particularly those who are just entering the profession, I get a strange hollow feeling in the small of my back.
AIA Northern Virginia's 34th Annual Dinner + Honors Celebration
October 21, 6:30p
Crystal City Sports Pub
529 South 23rd Street
Crystal City (directions)
Please join us for our annual Chapter dinner. During the evening we will honor the service of several colleagues as we present our Honor Awards, vote for our 2010 officers and directors and watch highlights of this years events along with a variety of sports events on the 35 LCD screens at the pub.
Guests are welcome to attend. Dinner is $35 and includes appetizers and dinner buffet. There will be a cash bar available. Information on the Chapter elections is available here in the September/October newsletter.
Pre-paid reservations are requested by October 14. For additional information, to make reservations and to pay with a credit card online, click here.
Arlington County Offers Design Award Opportunity
Arlington announces the inaugural DESIGNArlington'09 awards program to recognize and celebrate design excellence in Arlington's built environment. Distinctive architectural, public art and landscape projects completed within the past five years, regardless of size or classification, may be eligible. For complete program details, go to the County home page at www.arlingtonva.us, enter "DESIGNArlington" in the search box at the top of the page. Or, go directly to the Architecture Initiative page, which includes the Call for Entries. The submission deadline is October 16, 2009.
Architecture Exchange East Returns in November
ArchEx registration is now open. The conference, organized by Virginia Society, takes place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center November 4-6, 2009. This event features over 60 educational sessions, architectural tours and special events, with over 125 vendors in the ArchEx Exhibit Hall. Additional information and registration are available here.
Phelps High School Book Drive through September 30
Do you have extra architecture books you may be willing to donate to Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School in Washington, DC? Phelps is a new DC Public school with a unique focus on architecture and construction. You may drop off books at three Virginia locations:
Donations may also be made through the Phelps Amazon.com Wish List. For additional questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- AIA Northern Virginia Chapter, 205 South Patrick Street, Alexandria.
Contact Debbie Burns at email@example.com or (703) 549-9747
- Lessard Group, 8521 Leesburg Pike, Suite 700, Vienna.
Contact Jon Penndorf at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 760-9344
- MTFA Architecture, Inc., 2311 Wilson Blvd, Suite 200, Arlington.
Contact Monica Watson at email@example.com or (703) 524-6616
Sidwell Friends School Athletic Facility
|For more than a century, Sidwell Friends School has provided a coeducational program of academic excellence in the DC Metro region. Home to a middle and an upper school, the urban 14-acre campus possessed limited land for physical education programs and activities. Cannon Design, in conjunction with Kieran Timberlake Associates, was retained to study the overall athletic master plan. With land at a premium, the study explored the feasibility of locating new athletic facilities below grade, under an existing 400m track and football field.
Sidwell Friends School subsequently commissioned Cannon Design to design the 75,000 SF, three level underground facility, featuring a four-court gymnasium with competition courts, retractable bleacher seating for 600, a fitness facility, a wrestling room, coaches offices and lockers for students, faculty and officials. The school also elected to retain and reuse the existing athletic facilities.
In addition to preserving space and views above ground, the underground design also avoids contributing to light pollution and heat-island effects. Much of the building's cooling is provided by the surrounding earth. To dehumidify constantly ventilated spaces such as locker rooms without overcooling them, the air handling system uses desiccant wheels to remove moisture from the air stream. A molecular sieve energy recovery wheel pre-treats the stream of incoming outside air by transferring energy from the incoming air stream to the exhaust stream, cooling the incoming air in summer and warming it in winter. The project is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion by mid 2010. Sidwell Friends School is pursuing LEED® Gold certification for this new facility.
September 27 - Fellows Application Kickoff Meeting
2:00-3:30p, at the Chapter House, 205 South Patrick Street, Alexandria 22314. Learn about the requirements and application process for AIA Fellowship. Join potential candidates and Fellows Committee members to discuss the process. Interested members should contact Committee Chair Al Cox, FAIA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 28 - Architecture in the Schools Classes Begin
Volunteers work with teachers and students to introduce concepts of architecture and design into the class curriculum, culminating in a creative class project. New sessions begin every semester. For additional information and to volunteer, contact Jean O'Toole, AIA at email@example.com.
October 13 - Cannon Design Office Tour | AIA Northern Virginia Board Meeting
4:30p board meeting, 6:00p office tour, at Cannon Design, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 2900, Arlington 22209. Members are invited to participate in the board meeting and tour or just the tour. 1 AIA/CES LU. Tour is free and registration is not necessary. For information about Cannon Design, visit their website here.
October 14 - Women in Architecture Happy Hour
If you would like to receive information, please email WIA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 15 - Improving Energy Performance in the Building Envelope
9:30a-4:00p, at the Beatley Central Library, Alexandria. Workshop will present information on air barriers, wall cladding, energy analysis, vegetative roofs and photovoltaics. Earn 5 AIA/CES HSW SD Learning Units. Includes breakfast & lunch. Register early to take advantage of substantial discounts: members $50 by September 30, $70 after; nonmembers $75 by September 30, $95 after. For detailed information click here.
October 21 - 34th Annual Chapter Dinner, Honors Celebration and Elections
6:30p, at the Crystal City Sports Pub, Arlington. See the announcement above.
October 28 - AIA Northern Virginia Lunch Series
11:00a-1:15p, at AECOM Design, 3101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 900, Arlington. Two seminars: Concrete Restoration and Masonry Restoration presented by Brisk Waterproofing Company. 2 AIA/CES HSW LUs. Free; lunch provided. Registration required. Please email email@example.com.
October 28 - Mid Atlantic Region Economic Recovery: An Update on the Downturn
10:00a-Noon, offered as part of NeoCon East, at the Baltimore Convention Center. Focused on current regional economic information, this interactive discussion of trends will help participants not only survive but thrive as the economy rebounds. Speakers: John McClain, Fellow with The Center for Regional Analysis and Valerie Hassett, AIA, IIDA. 2 AIA/CES LUs. $30. For additional information, click here.