The economic woes affecting architects nationwide are echoing through the ranks of the AIA. The association has announced sweeping plans to cut costs as a means of combating slumping revenues brought on by the recession.

“The Institute is feeling the impact of the recession just as we are in our firms and practices,” said Marvin Malecha, FAIA, 2009 president of the AIA, in a March 23 statement.

In the first quarter of the year, the AIA saw a shortfall in membership dues, as some architects deferred payments and others ceased membership completely. Malecha also cited a decrease in revenues for its Career Center (an online job listing site).

Attendance for the AIA 2009 National Convention and Design Exposition in San Francisco, which starts today and ends Saturday, also is down. Matt Tinder, AIA spokesperson, said convention revenues are expected to drop by 12 percent compared to 2008. This year’s attendance is estimated at 22,000, nearly 2,000 less than last year.

To meet its 2009 operating budget, the AIA is focusing on trimming expenses without cutting its headcount. Rather than reduce staff, the association will institute a mandatory two-week unpaid furlough of all national staff “from the CEO down.” The furloughs are planned for the first week of June and the first week of August. During that time, staff will not be able to provide member services, answer phone calls, or e-mail messages.

“While our goal is to minimize the impact on our members and customers, we also know that closing the Institute will have implications,” Malecha said. “We will structure implementation of the furloughs to ensure the least disruption of member services.”

Reduced staff travel and face-to-face committee meetings are among the direct expense cuts. Staff and board members will rely more heavily on technology for communication.

Malecha added that despite the recession, the association’s finances are in “good condition.”  

“I am confident we will maintain our focus on providing service to our members during the economic downturn and, working together, emerge a stronger Institute and profession,” he said

Read more economic news in our Recession and Recovery special section.