AIA Design in the Hills: An Engineer’s Perspective

Jody Titze, PE – SDRMCA

When a special invitation to AIA South Dakota’s Design in the Hills event was extended to me, I jumped at the chance to participate.  This was my second year as an attendee, and this is easily one of my favorite industry events.  Here’s why:

Tours:  Spending the last 25 years in the construction industry, I have become a big proponent for tours.  I don’t think we spend enough time on the job sites anymore, which is a trade off to the speed and design delivery methods used in construction today.  In my opinion, being on site is the best way to see interfaces between materials and construction methods, and should be mandatory for professionals in our industry, especially those just entering our fields.  The relaxed tour environment gives attendees the ability to learn by conversation and interaction with the design teams, owners, and end users of our spaces which can get lost in today’s digital age of communication and submittals.

One of the groups touring the Regional Health Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Hospital. Photo provided by Design in the Hills Committee.

Attendees:  Nobody really wants to talk about it, but AIA South Dakota has a larger percentage of female professionals in attendance than our engineering events usually do.  While I am used to holding my own with my male counterparts, it is refreshing to discuss building facades, civil site plans, and specifications at an event where I am not the only woman at the table.  Both professions still have a way to go with recruitment efforts, but I really do appreciate the opportunity to participate in this event and connect with my industry peers.

Charrette:  The conclusion of the event is the charrette.  If you are unfamiliar, as I was the first year, a topic or mock project is provided, and the room divides into small groups to do some hands-on sketching and planning to solve it.  It simply amazes and reassures me to see participants, who may be fierce competitors in industry, working together to produce viable project solutions.  Each group always has their own unique spin on the result, even though they all started with the same information.  The architects’ process to arrive at the results are different than the way I would generally approach them as an engineer, which is incredibly inspiring.  The attendees here collaborate, share, teach, encourage, and listen with general admiration and respect for each other, which makes this event truly a hidden gem.

Two of the design groups hard at work during the charrette. Photo provided by Design in the Hills Committee.
Third design group drawing their concept before presentation. Photo provided by Design in the Hills Committee.
Interactive virtual reality exhibit of the new Ascent Innovation building, provided by Strang. Photo provided by Design in the Hills Committee.

Featured Image: Group photo of Design in the Hills participants on the green roof at Rapid City Regional Airport. Photo provided by Design in the Hills Committee.

About Jody Titze, PE – SDRMCA

Jody is a licensed civil engineer in SD, MN and WI with a degree from SDSM&T.  She has spent 25 years in the concrete construction industry and currently resides in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as the Executive Director and Concrete Engineer for the South Dakota Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

One Reply to “AIA Design in the Hills: An Engineer’s Perspective”

  1. I have not been to Design in the Hills yet, but it sounds fantastic! I love that you talk about the urgency of needing to be on-site more. Working for a contractor is a great experience before diving into architecture and engineering.

    In addition to the A&E side, I hope the local contractors are also setting goals for hiring more women. By closing in on the gender gap, the work becomes more dynamic (workplace diversity increases productivity) and thus, the project more successful.

    Personally, I dread being the only gal at the table, and this anxiety becomes exacerbated by profession being traditionally masculine in conduct and behaviors.

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