Tuesday, May 25, 2010

S-Corp Tax Increase Info

Mark C. Wills 
Manager, State Issues and Programs 
The American Institute of Architects 

For those of you unable to take part in the 2-3 p.m. Eastern conference call on the proposed congressional increase in S-corporation taxes, we promised that a web page would be up-and-running in short order…Click here to access the page.

Should you have any questions about:

· the proposal itself and the implications for architects and their firms, contact Andrew Goldberg at agoldberg@AIA.org;
· grassroots/grasstops advocacy fighting the proposal, contact Adam Melis at amelis@aia.org; and/or
· press/media outreach, contact John Schneidawind at johnschneidawind@aia.org.

Monday, May 24, 2010

TSA Facebook Group Update

We’ve moved! TSA is moving from a group page to a fan page on facebook, so please visit us and become a fan at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Society-of-ArchitectsAIA/122207924466277 . New features on the fan page include feeds from twitter and the blog. We’ll be deleting the group page in one week, so please become a TSA fan today!

Friday, May 21, 2010

2010 TSA Design Awards Announced!

Eleven of 201 entries were selected for 2010 TSA Design Awards on May 21. Winning projects will be recognized at a ceremony in San Antonio during the TSA Convention, Oct. 14-15. Jurors were Adèle Naudé Santos, FAIA, dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, and a principal of Santos Prescott and Associates; Tom Phifer, FAIA, of Thomas Phifer and Partners in New York; and Edward Bosley, director of the Gamble House in Pasadena, Calif., and an art historian on the faculty of the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture. Awarded projects will be featured in the September/October issue of Texas Architect.

The sponsor for this year’s jury is Blackson Brick.

2010 Design Awards

• Cinco Camp (Brewster County) by Rhotenberry Wellen Architects

• Grauwyler Park Branch Library (Dallas) by Oglesby-Greene

• Lance Armstrong Foundation (Austin) by Lake/Flato Architects and The Bommarito Group

• La Lomita Mission Chapel (Mission) by Kell Muñoz

• Mod Cott: Guest House (Lake Buchanan) by Mell Lawrence Architects

• The Overlook Pavilion at H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens (State College, Pa.) by Overland Partners

• Pearl Stable Restoration (San Antonio) by Ford Powell & Carson

• Sid W. Richardson Visual Arts Center (Fort Worth) by Gideon Toal

• Stone Creek Camp: Master House (Big Fork, Mont.) by Andersson Wise Architects

• U.S. General Services Administration Regional Field Office (Houston) by Page Southerland Page and Leo A. Daly/LAN

• Windsor Residence (Austin) by Alterstudio Architects

If You're an S-Corporation Beware of Increased Taxes

AIA National has sent out a congressional alert regarding a proposal to increase taxes on S-corporations. It appears that this proposal will be voted on by Congress some time next week and the Senate soon thereafter. The purpose of the proposal is to close a loophole where S-corporation owners can currently avoid payroll taxes by reporting what theoretically is salary as shareholder profit instead, which is not subject to the payroll tax. If your firm is organized as an S-corporation, don’t miss a phone briefing by the AIA on Monday to find out how you can help.

At 2 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, May 24, participate in the AIA briefing:

· Call-in toll-free number (US/Canada): 1-866-699-3239
· Attendee access code: 200 326 47

Thursday, May 20, 2010

TSA Advocacy Update: Budget Shortfall Could Impact Professional Sales Tax Exemption

Yvonne Castillo
TSA General Counsel

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee chair dropped a bombshell when he announced that the projected budget shortfall is now $18 billion…yes, BILLION. That’s 20% of the overall budget for the biennium. This number came as a big surprise to everyone because the numbers we’d been hearing were more in the range of $11 – 12 billion, not great, but not THIS bad. 

Couple this new fact with the fact that the “rainy day” fund has (we’re told) about $8-9 billion and things start to look pretty grim for legislators next Session charged with balancing the budget. We’re hearing many legislators say they will not vote to dip into the rainy day fund, but I’m guessing that’s going to change pretty quickly when folks start getting desperate. 

While I’m not thrilled with the option of raiding the “rainy day” fund, I’m also very concerned that the professional tax exemption for architects and others is already being closely scrutinized as a possible source of revenue. I think I’d rather legislators consider it a rainy day under the circumstances but even if they do so, where are they going to come up with an additional $10-11 billion? Unfortunately, they’ve got to make some hard decisions regarding cuts but cuts won’t “cut it” by themselves (pardon the pun). They’re still going to need to find some revenue to balance the budget and right now they’re very focused on the current professional sales tax exemption. TSA members need to stay alert and heed any calls for action when they come. TSA is reconvening its 2006 “tax swat team” in June, the volunteer architects who helped with the tax effort relating to public education. We’ll be strategizing and making some decisions on how we want to approach the newest possible tax assault so stay tuned…

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

JAC Committee Meets to Address Issue of Engineers Practicing Architecture

by Yvonne Castillo
TSA General Counsel

Yesterday afternoon the Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) (Committee of members from the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners and Texas Board of Professional Engineers) met for the first time in almost nine months. This is the Committee that was legislatively mandated to help with the issue of engineers practicing architecture and vice versa – the latter not really being the issue.

Since its creation in 2003, nothing has been accomplished, including yesterday’s meeting. In fact, it took a longer-than-normal time (about 1 ½ hours into the meeting) for the engineers to start in with their same old, same old rhetoric: that engineers can design whole public buildings without architects as long as they’re “competent” to do so; the example they use that as long as there have been no problems with the building, they are competent to design them).

That’s like saying (and I’m borrowing this example): as long as I can conduct an appendectomy safely because I read a lot of books and I’m a pretty smart gal, it’s okay for me to conduct this kind of surgery without a license! This is why we have licensing laws.

The State of Texas licenses certain practices by establishing minimum criteria in education, experience, and examination. The three “e’s” as we call them are created to establish a minimum level of competency. Why the engineers think that the end result of the building should be a factor in that competency formula is beyond me.

It’s also beyond me to understand that when asked whether the reciprocal situation where an architect successfully and safely designs a structural beam that exceeds 24 feet could do so without violating the engineers licensing law, the answer was “no.” Stan Caldwell – one of the engineer board members - responded that “odds are,” the board of engineers won’t be going after them. Imagine the fairness of that! Architects, you can try it, but at your own risk!

Regardless of this illogical discussion, the Committee is forging ahead with lots of busy work. They’ve delegated to a sub-committee the task of creating a “scorecard” that matches objectively certain tasks to the three “e’s” with the hope that, in the future, cases that get referred to the JAC will have some objective criteria to resolve whether a subject professional crossed the line into the “other” profession. I “get” the utility of creating such a “scorecard” but the work seems premature, to me, if the engineers are still hanging onto the idea that an engineer can practice architecture without a license as long as they can do it competently.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Call for Bloggers

Are you interested in contributing to the Texas Society of Architects blog? TSA is seeking contributors from its membership and beyond to blog about relevant topics related to architecture/design, sustainability, construction, and more. Contact writer@texasarchitect.org to get involved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New AIA/Hanley Wood Integrated Media Partnership

Washington, D.C. – May 11, 2010─ 
American Institute of Architects

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reached agreement on a five-year integrated media partnership with Hanley Wood, LLC that will increase the value of AIA membership as well as expand the reach and impact of member knowledge and expertise. The AIA / Hanley Wood agreement, unprecedented in its proposed use of digital media, integrates AIA member knowledge and thought leadership through Hanley Wood magazines, web sites, events, the AIA Annual Convention, joint research initiatives, and support for AIA chapters.

The wide-reaching agreement, effective January 1, 2011, creates an integrated media offering that encompasses print, online, the AIA convention, and digital platforms to serve the AIA in achieving its goals to meet the professional development and communication needs of its members. 

Under the new partnership agreement, AIA members will receive four Hanley Wood publications as a benefit of membership. Hanley Wood’s ARCHITECT becomes the official magazine of the AIA. It will feature exclusive coverage of all AIA programs, and initiatives, including AIA Knowledge Communities, State and Local AIA Chapter activities, and efforts that involve individual members, with an increased focus on three primary areas-design, business, and technology. The magazine will showcase design and design excellence wherever it is evident.

Members will also receive digital editions of Hanley Wood titles residential architect, EcoHome and Eco-Structure, including full access to their respective web sites. Each of these magazines will provide AIA members with the information they need to take their practice—or careers—to the next level through news, case studies, and research on essential sustainability practices and products as well as a niche focus on residential design, important to a large number of AIA members.

Read the full press release here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fire at Arthouse

Photo Credit: Julie Pizzo

Austin, TX -

A fire at Arthouse, a contemporary art center undergoing a $6.6 million renovation, has shut down Congress Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets.

According to an Arthouse employee, tweeting about the fire, firefighters have brought the blaze under control. According to the tweets, it was caused by a roof tar cooker. An Austin police report attributed the fire to a generator.

A column of smoke is visible for several blocks and traffic is backing up in both directions.

Click here to see some photos taken by TSA Art Director Julie Pizzo

Free AIA Webinar on New Healthcare Law

On May 19, at 1:00 pm eastern, AIA is sponsoring a free webinar for members on the new healthcare law and what it means to you and your firm. The AIA wants to help prepare members as this law takes effect. This is a webex event, so members will need to register and test their system in advance of the event. Finally, AIA will make the archive available following the presentation.

To get more information visit: www.aia.org/healthcare

Thursday, May 6, 2010

USA Today Spotlights Dallas' Woodall Rogers Park

Urban Parks Take Over Downtown Freeways
by Haya El Nasser
USA Today

Cities are removing the concrete barriers that freeways form through their downtowns — not by tearing them down but by shrouding them in greenery and turning them into parks and pedestrian-friendly developments.

This gray-to-green metamorphosis is underway or under consideration in major cities seeking ways to revive sections of their downtowns from Los Angeles and Dallas to St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Transportation departments are not opposed as long as the plans don't reduce highway capacity. In most cases, traffic is rerouted.

"It's the coming together of people wanting green space and realizing that highways are a negative to the city," says Peter Harnik, director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence. "Covering them with green space gives you a wonderful place to live and work."

Groups that are not always on the same page — environmentalists and developers — are embracing the "capping" or "decking" efforts for different reasons. Environmentalists encourage more trees and grass to offset carbon emissions and promote walkable neighborhoods to reduce reliance on cars. Developers are eager for space to build on in prime downtown locations. Citizens want parks and amenities they can reach on foot.

"Highways are extremely destructive to the fabric of urban life," says Harnik, author of Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities. "The noise that emanates from it, the smell."

Capping freeways dates to the 1930s. A recent example is the Rose Kennedy Greenway over Boston's "Big Dig," which created open space by putting elevated roadways underground.

The resurgence of downtowns has turned available pieces of land into hot commodities. At the same time, the drumbeat for more parks in smog-choked cities is getting louder.

"It's essentially like creating oceanfront property," says Linda Owen, president of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation in Dallas. "It's an economic engine."

The group leads the effort to build a 5-acre park on the eight-lane Woodall Rodgers Freeway that runs north of downtown, between U.S. 75 and Interstate 35E. Traffic will be channeled to a tunnel. It's part of a bigger plan to revitalize the city's core and connect all corners of a 68-acre cultural district, from museums, restaurants and residential towers to a new opera hall and performing arts center.

"The freeway is like our medieval wall," Owen says. "You couldn't get over it. … The park is just being created out of thin air."

Read more here.

Update on Governor's Mansion Renovation

Mansion Addition Concept Approved
Slight change made to 1,555-square-foot plan; building permit expected by late June.

by Mike Ward
Austin Statesman
May 5, 2010

After nearly seven months of politically charged debate, Texas Historical Commission officials have approved a modified plan for an addition to the burned-out Texas Governor's Mansion a far smaller add-on than one that triggered controversy last fall.

The approved plan is the larger of two that the State Preservation Board had proposed in April to replace the separate, two-story, 3,000-square-foot addition that drew howls of protest from former governors, preservationists and historical officials before it was abruptly shelved in January.

Though the approval of the conceptual plan for the addition's size is not the final step, the remaining approval from state historical officials will probably be just a formality unless new issues arise.

The proposed addition will be built onto the back of the mansion, its west side, where it will not be visible from the front. The controversial addition was to have been on the north side and could have been seen from the front.

The approval marked a victory for Preservation Board officials who have been pushing to expand the footprint of the mansion to meet modern building codes and future space needs, a position now supported by most historical and preservation groups.

And it was a loss for some remaining critics who argued that Texas' most famous house needed no addition at all or wanted to save a large tree that will be cut down for the project.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Burnette to Lead Jury for Studio Awards

Wendell Burnette, AIA

With the entry deadline set June 18, Phoenix-based architect Wendell Burnette, AIA, has been confirmed as the lead juror for this year’s TSA Studio Awards. Rounding out the three-person jury will be two colleagues whom Burnette will select. The panel is scheduled to meet in the offices of Wendell Burnette Architects in mid-July with Texas Architect Editor Stephen Sharpe in attendance to facilitate the event.

TSA Studio Awards recognize innovation and excellence in the design of unbuilt work. The competition was established in 2004 to encourage real or theoretical projects that go beyond the boundaries of architecture by addressing current critical issues.

Burnette’s practice evolved from his three-year education at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and a subsequent 11-year association with the studio of William Bruder, which culminated in a six-year design collaboration with Bruder on the Phoenix Central Library.

He established Wendell Burnette Architects in 1996. The firm’s work is recognized for its focus on the qualities of light and space, context and place, and the environment and landscape. In addition to his practice, Burnette also is an assistant professor at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Arizona State University.

The work of Wendell Burnette Architects has received several national awards for design, including a 1990 Young Architects Award from Progressive Architecture, a 1999 Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League of New York, a 1999 P/A Design Award, three “Record House” Awards (1996, 2000, and 2008), and a 2007 National AIA Honor Award for the Palo Verde Library/Maryvale Community Center. He collaborated with Rick Joy, AIA, and Marwan Al-Sayed on the Amangiri eco-resort hotel in southern Utah that opened last year.

A Message to Members from the AIA

With Washington in the midst of debate over jobs and the economy, the AIA has been relentless in reminding lawmakers that our profession is still struggling, yet has solutions that will put our profession back on a solid economic footing.

Yesterday, for example, AIA President George Miller, FAIA, had the opportunity to address more than 3,000 policy makers, elected officials, labor leaders, environmentalists, business leaders and the media at the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference. He discussed the need to pass legislation that will get our profession and country back on our feet - legislation that will provide tax relief to struggling businesses, help make affordable housing more sustainable and more available and encourage investment in energy efficient green buildings to get architects working again.

Today, Chris Green, AIA, will testify before the House Small Business Committee. A small firm owner from Colorado, Chris will tell the Committee how his business is down significantly from last year because of the lack of access to credit, and how passing legislation to spark the economy will make a huge difference to him and thousands of our colleagues.

Congress and the White House are beginning to listen to our message. But we need your help getting common-sense legislation passed, bills like:

- * The Expanding Building Efficiency Incentives Act to make financing for building projects more available
- * The BuildingSTAR retrofit rebate program
- * The GREEN Act for green affordable housing

Please send a message to your representative in support of legislation to help our profession rebuild and renew our nation.

Thank you.
Christine McEntee
Executive Vice President & CEO
American Institute of Architects

Call for Entries: Cocktail Napkin Sketch

Architects have long been known to grab a cocktail napkin and start sketching when explaining or working out a design concept. In this increasingly digital age, Architectural Record hopes to encourage this time-honored, analog form of spontaneous creativity with its own cocktail napkin sketch contest. Click here for details. Deadline June 21.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Healthcare and Wellness Facilities

The May/June issue of Texas Architect, Healthcare and Wellness, hits stands this week. The issue features projects ranging from Texas Children's Hospital Feigin Center in Houston by FKP Architects to Equinox Fitness Center in Highland Park by Good Fulton & Farrell Architects to The Bridge homeless shelter and assistance center in Dallas by Camargo Copeland Architects and Overland Partners. A photo essay on Le Corbusier's St. Pierre church in Firminy; information regarding Perkins+Will's blacklist of harmful chemicals; and an interview with the authors of Evidence-Based Design round out the content for May/June.