3 Cool Competitions During #AIA2012

The 2012 AIA National Convention is just days away here in DC. While I can’t say enough about how fun the tours and Host Chapter Party are sure to be, there are also some really unique competitions worth highlighting. The competitions range from honoring High School students to recognizing architects from some of the largest firms in the country – quite a diverse group of designers!

30x30x30 – Student Design Competition: Architect’s Workstation of the Future

This competition “takes me back” to architecture school. It poses a fantastic challenge for students from six area universities to create an architect’s workstation of the future with some very specific design criteria.

  • 30 Sq. Ft: The installation must fit within a foot print no larger than 30 square feet, with a maximum dimension of 5’- 0” in the smaller direction – a challenge in the judicious use of space.
  • 30 Dollars: The mock-up submission must cost $30 or less to create – a challenge in the re-use and re-purposing of materials.
  • 30 Miles: All materials used in the installation must be sourced within 30 miles of your school campus – a challenge to be local.

The entries will be judged on the Convention floor.

Could Be: The AIA|DC Awards for Unbuilt Architecture

This year is the fourth year of the AIA|DC Unbuilt Competition. The winners of this year’s competition were announced last month and are now on display in the exhibition Could Be: The AIA|DC Awards for Unbuilt Architecture at the District Architecture Center’s SIGAL Gallery. The awards recognize and celebrate projects that have been prevented or delayed from realization, as well as concepts that are entirely theoretical.

The exhibition includes winners from the previous three years of the program as well, and is organized by the National Building Museum and presented in partnership with The American Institute of Architects, AIA Legacy, ARCHITECT Magazine, Hanley Wood, the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|DC), and the Washington Architectural Foundation. Award winning projects will be displayed at the District Architecture Center’s SIGAL Gallery until June 30th, so make your way off of the convention floor to go take a peek!

2012 Constance Whitaker Maffin Memorial Competition

The Washington Architectural Foundation and the Constance Whitaker Maffin Foundation will present the 2012 Constance Whitaker Maffin Memorial Competition Award to a student from Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (Phelps ACE) High School during the convention. Students from the DC high school, their families and faculty will attend the award ceremony, and competition entries will be on display prior to the awards ceremony.

This competition required students to design an outdoor performance space on the Southwest Washington waterfront. The overall goal of the competition is to raise awareness among students about the built environment and public space. The competition also provides students experience in planning and design, motivates them to use analytical skills and creativity in problem solving and inspires community action.

The 2012 Constance Whitaker Maffin Memorial Competition Awards will be presented at 3 PM on May 18 at the AIA|DC Salon, Booth 2627.

4 Tips to Put Your Sponsorship Dollars to Work

The AEC Industry really doesn’t have a long history of “marketing” in a true sense of the word. Business Development is a little more prevalent than marketing in many ways – there are almost always expectations placed on principals or other senior folks.

However, the one marketing tactic that does seem to come up over and over, even in firms that don’t think they market at all, is sponsorships.

  • My son’s little league team – slap a logo on that shirt.
  • My spouse’s local charity  – absolutely, we’ll pay a few hundred bucks for an ad in the program.
  • Industry conference/convention – may be a little pricey, but what the heck, we get a mention in the print magazine AND the website, go for it.

What tends to happen, is that all of these sponsorships add up at the end of the year and management is looking at a $5,000 line item in the budget (often grouped together as advertising) and saying “What the heck happened? We spent 5K and didn’t see a single new lead from our advertising efforts!”

The issue isn’t that sponsorships aren’t worthwhile – it’s that money was put in the wrong place and not backed up by a solid commitment. Here are a few recommendations to make those sponsorship dollars have more of an impact on your firm’s bottom line.

Show up.

If you want to sponsor an event, don’t just throw money at it. Go to the event, volunteer with the team – do what you can to show that you and your firm care about the cause.

Stay on brand.

It’s easier to show up, when you actually DO care about the event, team or publication you’re sponsoring. With that in mind, choose to support things that make sense for your brand. Sure, it helps from a marketing perspective, but it also allows for greater buy-in and less teeth-pulling to actually get people to participate.

Stay on budget.

If you don’t have a marketing budget, you should. And if you have one that doesn’t include a line item to support sponsorships, it should. It’s inevitable that your firm will place an ad in a program or on a banner throughout the year, so track that cost and be realistic about how much you plan to spend.

Include your message.

I’ve written on the importance of a good name and logo countless times, but let’s just say that your firm happens to have an acronym of your principals’ last names. Placing your acronym logo on a banner, in a program or on a shirt does nothing to build awareness or even show your firm’s support for the cause if people don’t already know who you are. Be sure to develop a logo with some form of messaging included, if it isn’t already immediately recognizable what your firm does.