Govt Snapshot: Randy Lavigne | Las Vegas Evaluation Journal

Randy Lavigne, the executive director of the Las Vegas chapter of the American Institute of Architects, is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. With a background in marketing, she caught the attention of architects in Las Vegas while on vacation. She was asked to become part-time general manager of AIA and accepted the job with plans to eventually return to Nashville. That was 20 years ago, and she said she was enjoying Las Vegas and still enjoying her position as CEO.

Question: How does the American Institute of Architects work on legislative issues?

We are a professional organization for architects and design professionals. Among other things, we monitor legislative issues and processes in the community that affect the functioning of the community and the practice of architects.

We have a lobbyist who works in Carson City, and over the years we’ve built really good relationships with all of our federal officials. So if there is a problem that affects architectural practice, we can take the right action. For example, at the moment we are looking at (the fact that in) most public contracts there is a part that deals with the so-called defense obligation, which places an unfair responsibility on the architect to bear defense costs regardless of the cause of the lawsuit; But the architect can’t even get liability insurance that covers this. So we want to say: “Let’s do it sensibly, let’s cut it back so that the full duty of defense does not lie with the architect alone …”

The architect is responsible for what he builds, and he always bears it, but to defend himself against anything that goes wrong with the client or any other person involved? That shouldn’t be the responsibility of the architects.

Question: What is special about the architecture in Las Vegas compared to other cities?

The first word that comes up is unique because we are a unique city. We are working on a different system. We’re a huge hospitality city and that makes a difference in how we work. The most famous architecture here is entertainment oriented.

But when you get off the Strip, we’re a normal, totally American town with the same needs as others – fire departments, churches and hospitals and all the things that have to be designed and built to serve the public.

Las Vegas is unique in our basic economy and our basic functionality. I like that and I think the rest of the country doesn’t quite understand that. The image projected from our city is that we are absolutely just a fun city, but there is a lot behind that, and when you get to the point, we are an American city with the same needs and worries as everywhere else in this country.

Question: What are the AEOI’s main legal concerns?

Most architecture firms are small businesses, especially here in Nevada. Therefore, we are particularly concerned about any laws that affect small businesses. There is a problem with the liens. As the law is now written: If an architect is not paid for services, he can only fall back on it after construction has started. However, the architect has already provided full service.

Before you get to the construction phase, the architect has already invested his intellectual property and everything necessary for this project. If he’s not paid, he’ll have to wait for construction to begin, and that could be two, three, four, five years, or never. One of the problems is that we need to adjust this lien so that architects have the right to protect themselves and to collect for the services they provide.

Question: What do you think about growth, profitability and stability in the industry?

I am very encouraged this year by what has happened. We have just gone through what is probably the toughest recession our industry has seen in many years. It has happened before; in the 80s and before that too. But this last recession – 2008, 2009, 2010 – the architectural community was 73 percent unemployed. It was devastated.

We’re on our way back up now. Many companies have changed the nature of the services they offer and their practices to reflect this, and we’re on the way again. Many of our companies have expanded into other areas and now have projects across the country and internationally. I am very optimistic.

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