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AIA Nevada Pushes “Pencil-Ready” Stimulus Projects

April 27, 2009

By Bruce Buckley

Architects in Nevada are placing their bets on a campaign aimed at steering much-needed stimulus package money toward design work in the state.

The Nevada chapter recently launched an initiative to convince state lawmakers to substitute shovel-ready projects with “pencil-ready” ones. Chapter leaders have so far met twice with state legislators in Carson City, educating them about the long-term effects of focusing on short-term projects, says Sean Coulter, AIA, principal at Las Vegas-basd Pugsley Simpson Coulter Architects.

In Las Vegas, where Coulter is chapter president, he says unemployment rates for architects are topping 50 percent as the commercial market slows to a crawl. Out-of-work architects today means out-of-work contractors tomorrow, he adds.

“We’re fighting this concept of ‘shovel-ready,’ which is all that legislators have heard so far in looking at how to use stimulus money,” Coulter says. “Our contention is, if we’re not working now, contractors aren’t working in the future. With shovel-ready, the state can get jobs done in a year, but after that there’s nothing. There’s nothing on the boards in terms of design now, which means [contractors] will have nothing to build after the stimulus is over.”

In addition to pushing for design-only funding, the chapter also is promoting the use of design-build and construction-manager-at-risk delivery models that keep a wide range of firms in architecture, engineering, and construction working in the near term.

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K. Brad Van Woert, III, AIA, president of Sheehan Van Woert Bigotti Architects in Reno, says chapter representatives are hoping to see an echo effect of the stimulus. Architects are lobbying to have projects moved from the state’s existing capital improvement programs (CIP) into the stimulus package. Funds freed up in the CIP could then be used for new long-term projects that include design work, Van Woert says.

With the right combination, Van Woert says the state help can get the A/E/C community, as a whole, through the current crisis.

“We don’t know where the chips may fall with this,” he says. “Given a little bit of time we feel, if things are done correctly, in the next six months to a year we might get rolling again.”

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