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AIACC Releases Whitepaper to Address DSA Shortcomings

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The American Institute of Architects, California Council has published a whitepaper with specific recommendations for building a stronger Division of the State Architect (DSA), including consolidating the state’s construction related functions under a single, efficient agency, and “embracing project delivery methods that increase project value, reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.”

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With the state facing further budget cuts, the AIACC says it embarked on this effort to focus on “efficiency and effectiveness in the built environment.”

“The fragmentation of the state’s design and construction process over the years has increased costs to California taxpayers through over regulation and burdensome duplication of services,” says Paul Neel, FAIA, CDS, former California state architect from 1989 to 1991, commenting on the whitepaper.

“There is no single trusted advisor for the governor, or the legislature, to acquire accurate advice for the industry. Now that the state of California is facing unprecedented infrastructure, budget and environmental issues, the time has come to consolidate design and construction into one entity and restore the Division of the State Architect to the role it held during the previous Brown administration.”

The AIACC says the whitepaper, which is titled “Maximizing California’s Resources:

Recommendations for a Stronger Design and Construction Industry,” is intended to be a first-step toward assisting state government leaders in “addressing the myriad of issues regarding planning, design and construction affecting the quality of life for California’s citizens and its economy.”

“Architectural design has the inherent ability to solve problems that are physical, as well as social and economic,” the AIACC says in a press release. “Without direct internal access to government decision makers, the AIACC cannot effect the transformations needed that ultimately affect the greater community at large. Transformations such as new delivery methods that are more efficient and cost effective, designs that go beyond sustainable, and post occupancy evaluation tools that impact future designs for better building performance, are key to our goal for a preferred future.”

In the whitepaper, the AIACC says the DSA “has been weakened and fragmented in recent years. Along with it, the state’s design and construction services have been distributed across many agencies at great cost to the state, the industry, and California’s taxpayers. Bureaucratic paperwork and state government over-regulation have produced an unsustainable path for the building industry, making the practice of architecture increasingly burdensome, discouraging clients from entering the market, and making it increasingly difficult for contractors and subcontractors to stay in the market.”

According to the whitepaper, from its founding in 1907, through the 1970s, and into the early 1980s, the Office of the State Architect (as it was then known) was an insightful and energetic partner with the private sector. During the previous Brown administration, the state architect—under the leadership of Sim van der Ryn, AIA, and Barry Wasserman, FAIA—developed the nation’s first government-initiated, energy efficient office building program, completing five model structures in Sacramento: the Gregory Bateson Building, the Paul R. Bonderson Building, the California Energy Commission Building, the Department of Justice Building (as well as regional facilities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Long Beach, San Jose and Santa Rosa), and the Employment Development Department Building.

During the same time, the state architect authored the Capitol Area Plan, an early, successful, and nationally recognized model for sustainable urban infill and community redevelopment, the whitepaper notes. In addition, it introduced standards to assure universal access to state buildings for people of all ages and physical disabilities. These standards subsequently formed the basis for the national Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Unfortunately, as a result of the diminution of scope and authority of the state architect and the parceling out of its functions to dozens of state agencies, the state is no longer a sponsor of innovation, but rather an obstruction to it,” the AIACC says. “As the AIACC observed in its response to the California Performance Review of 2004: ‘Currently, design and construction authority is fragmented among several state agencies, resulting in little accountability and the lack of uniform application of policy. The current process encourages duplication of services, waste, and inefficiencies. The proliferation of design and construction authorities encourages non-productive competition, the development of disparate policies and procedures particular to an individual authority, and increased the development of bureaucratic barriers that complicate the entitlement and building processes – with no public benefit. The resulting project delivery process is expensive, time consuming, short-sighted, and ripe for conflict and litigation.’”

To view a copy of the whitepaper, go to www.aiacc.org.

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