Architect Testifies: Federal Design-Build Contracting Laws Hurting Small Architectural Firms and Competition

Washington, D.C., May 23, 2013 -- Current federal contracting laws are harming the livelihood of small architecture firms, costing the government more money by increasing the number of firms competing, while discouraging small firms from entering the market, according to AIA testimony presented  today on Capitol Hill.

Testifying before the House of Representatives Small Business Committee, AIA First Vice President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, called for reform of the design-build contracting process so that design and architectural firms can bid on federal contracts without fear of bankrupting themselves in the process. The federal market has been a key for architecture firms’ survival in the recession, and increased competition has forced many small players to stop participating in federal contracts. 

“When teams are shortlisted in two-step design-build, an architecture firm spends a median of $260,000 to compete for a design-build project, by making plans, models and other materials,” Dreiling testified. When approximately 76% of firms make less than $1 million annually, this creates a “Hobson’s Choice” on spending limited capital for the chance to win a federal contract. 

“In almost 87 percent of federal design-build competitions, there are no stipends provided to the architectural firm,” she said. “The firm must hope that they win to make up the costs they expend in competing for the job.”

Dreiling said there is a great need for Congress to reform federal contracting laws so that small businesses can both survive the bidding process and bring quality work to the federal government.

“We ask the Committee to look at tightening the statute so that all firms can accurately determine the risks and rewards of participating in this market,” Dreiling testified.  

About The American Institute of Architects

Founded in 1857, members of the American Institute of Architects consistently work to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public well being.  Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders, and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit


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