Extending a helping hand

August 11, 2010

The September terrorist attacks have heightened the visibility of charitable endeavors in general. In this context, the performance of designers and contractors has been commendable.

Here are a few of our industry's responses to Sept. 11:

  • The Construction Education Foundation Family Support Fund raised more than $100,000 for families of the victims.

  • The Associated General Contractors of America's Education & Research Foundation established a "Terrorist Victims Fund" to assist children of victims. Disbursements will give preference to children of craft and management employees of construction firms. AGC members also were at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, assisting in search and recovery and cleanup operations. New Jersey and New York chapters assisted in a variety of ways, including the donation of equipment and manpower.

  • By mid-November, the "Sept. 11 Fund" of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) had raised $65,000.

  • Immediately following the September attacks, 16 design and planning organizations formed the "New York New Visions" coalition (www.newyorknewvisions.org) to develop design and planning recommendations that will provide background information for large-scale economic and real estate decisions that will be made in the coming months. "By offering their services and expertise, architects and other design professionals can help speed both short-term recovery efforts and assist in shaping an improved downtown," says Margaret Helfand, president of AIA's New York Chapter.

Christopher Choa, a New York City architect who chairs New York New Visions' liaison and communication team, noted that the gulf that has typically existed between designers and planners disappeared in the wake of the attacks. He thinks this is symptomatic of a growing realization in recent years that any successful major undertaking requires the cooperation of all segments of the industry. Just as New Yorkers were moved to wait hours to donate blood, many designers felt driven to contribute their expertise to the recovery effort.

  • Choa's employer, A/E HLW International LLP, donated design services to restore a vacant building where a party for children of terrorist victims will be held.

Designers and contractors don't rise to the occasion only in the wake of a disaster, however. Consider these contributions:

  • In Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, Lee Kennedy Co. donated general contracting services for a 17,000-sq.-ft. Paul McLaughlin Youth Center, and building trade union members funded various phases of the construction. Architects Mostue Associates and Buddy Christopher performed design services at a reduced fee.

  • Associated Builders and Contractors donated 10 computers and other office equipment to an organization that trains unemployed and underemployed Northern Virginia residents who cannot afford traditional training programs. ABC's South Texas Chapter co-sponsored a program that obtained Christmas gifts for 2,500 children.

Viewing the industry's charitable contributions more broadly, BSA Executive Director Richard Fitzgerald could easily have been describing a larger design and construction community when he observed that contributions of the design community are "widespread and continuous," extending to untold hours in the service of organizations such as planning boards.

Gordon Wright



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