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Updated: Apr 7, 2021

This past week I sat down with AIA Component Leadership from the Central States, Florida/Caribbean, Michigan, New York, Northwest, Pacific, and the Virginias for some live Q&A regarding my candidacy. Check out the video below!

Some of the questions asked were

  • How will technology help in resolving future and current issues of the AIA?

  • Can you share some specific examples of how AIA may elevate its efforts in fostering innovation nationally and at the local level?

  • What do you see as the future role of the Strategic Council?

  • And do you feel the role of this Council will be evolving or staying the same?

  • How can the AIA evolve to embrace and empower its members in non-traditional practice?

Feel free to share with me your thoughts on the discussion in the comment section below or email me at

AIA's Engaging with Component Leadership Candidate Webinar

Video Transcript:

Ricardo: Hello!

William: Howdy! Let me get my timer started here.

Ricardo: No worries

William: Yep good, so I'm just gonna get going here: How will technology help in resolving future and current issues of the AIA?

Ricardo: That that's uh that's a little bit of a softball question for me, but I'll take it! One thing we need to keep in mind with technology is that we tend to think of it, at the office level specifically, like this is like icing on the cake, we get the young kid to do it and they'll help us. The main thing we need to keep in mind is that this is a discussion that is rooted in business continuity and how sustainable our practices are, right. So how do we make that happen at the AIA level, at the Institute level we need to, I would say, accelerate the discussions that we've been having very similar to what a few of our colleagues have mentioned with the True Wind Capital, and the construction documents deal. But we need to formalize those. Formalize those in a way that we can look at it really as an institute, as a body. That means that the resources would need to be developed, in terms of people and funds to be able to have these discussions and figure out ways of how to get these learnings, these pieces of knowledge into the hands of components and practices throughout. Because the main issue that I see is how someone in a small to mid-sized firm is able to do and overcome these challenges if they don't even have access to the resources, the tools, and the knowledge, required to do that. I think we have we can play an active role in that, instead of doing it a little bit tangentially, you'll do it a little bit more directly.

William: Super, thanks. Can you share some specific examples of how AIA may elevate its efforts in fostering innovation nationally and at the local level?

Ricardo: Sure! So an example I give with that is the Practice Innovation Lab that the YAF put together a few years ago. I had the opportunity and I would say honor, of being a part of that cohort when that happened. I actually attribute that event with opening the window to someone like me who had spent 12 years in traditional architectural practice, to pursue an architecture-adjacent career in technology at a very large building product manufacturer. So if we formalize events and programs like that and we provide as the YAF has done, provided a toolkit, so that these types of interactions can happen more at the local and the chapter level, I think it would be very important right it would get us there. But we also need to have some sort of framework that helps us in overcoming the issues around knowledge and tech literacy. That I would say with the innovation part, kind of, would help us understand these from a fuller and comprehensive level. I'll give an example with the innovation part, the innovation is not only at the office level, what we can do with tech, it has to do with considering new business models and ways to engage, as we've seen with the pandemic, that in involves a lot of new ways that we interact with customers. These needs that customers and clients have of us have increased and have changed. We need to change with them. We could... The example of the construction documents is a good one, and I know I'm kind of giving a long-winded discussion because it ties into everything. We could be developing intellectual property that could be shared with our members and it could serve as a form of revenue for the Institute as well. So these are all different things of that web, so hopefully, I didn't confuse anyone with that.

Ricardo: Shoot me with the next one!

William: Super! What do you see as the future role of the Strategic Council? And do you feel the role of this Council will be evolving or staying the same?

Ricardo: I think the role of the Council needs to evolve. I see that as a fundamental thing that needs to occur and a big problem needs to be tackled. We like to think of the work that we do in the Strategic Council, for instance, myself on the Technology Impacting Practice (TIP) workgroup as a think tank. But, at the same time, it's mostly that we don't have the resources to provide a real think tank. A think tank provides knowledge in a very sort of "white-paper kind of way" and that knowledge has a direct impact on the Strategic Plan and how that actually comes into action. So from my perspective, the Strategic Council, if it's what really looks at a little bit more forward, it needs to be opened up to professionals that are outside of the traditional practice setting. We need to look for these voices that are already happening in the market, that could help us overcome a lot of these changes and that really could serve as our brain trust in guiding a lot of these discussions. But, more importantly, from people that have the practical knowledge on how a lot of these innovations and changes occur. A lot of those just happen to be outside of our field, and we need to acknowledge that we're not the center of the universe, that we need the help of others in overcoming a lot of these things. So yeah!

William: All right. We got about a minute left. Here we go one more, I think we can squeeze in. How can the AIA evolve to embrace and empower its members in non-traditional practice?

Ricardo: Yeah, obviously, that's one that I feel very very strongly about. I think we need to open up opportunities in a very honest way and look for these folks that are outside of the norm. I, to some extent, represent a small, but very growing sector of practice that we are increasingly going to be reliant on in order to function as businesses. Right so, for instance, when I started my Bytes and Mortar blog, of course right now it's a little bit more on the candidacy side of things, but the idea is that we use it as a means of providing resources to folks that have the type of skill set that I have, that are our architectural technologists, generative designers. These people are redefining how practices are going to happen. Those are the ones that we need to have as principles of firms, as strategic partners, in order to be able to maneuver around all these changes, right. So, I would hope to hear a lot from each and every one of you. I want to talk to you about how to make this happen. So, feel free to reach out to me. Thank you for the opportunity Bill, and the AIA.

William: Thanks.

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Updated: Apr 28, 2021

I’m confident it might seem strange for an architectural professional who had the privilege of spending over a decade in corporate practice to veer into an “alternative” path. However, my passion for advocating for the immense value an architect’s voice brings to technology innovation required me to be creative with my career track. Our industry, architectural practices particularly, is faced with a myriad of challenges. Digital transformation is one topic that stirs strong emotions — especially considering that the AEC industry ranks next to last, above agriculture, in the digitalization index.

I grew up in San Germán, Puerto Rico, and pursued a Bachelor of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, where I graduated Cum Laude in 2007. I've benefited from working alongside industry leaders at Gensler, NIKA Solutions (formerly NIKA Architects + Engineers), and an Associate / Project Manager at WDG Architecture. After practicing in corporate architecture for the past 12 years, Ricardo recently transitioned into a Global Virtual Design & Construction Specialist role at MBCC Group (formerly BASF). I was also an inaugural scholar and served as Chair of AIA|DC’s Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program, one of the most rewarding career opportunities. At AIA|DC, I also served as Chair of AIA|DC’s Emerging Architect’s Committee, guest lectured for AIA's Leadership Institute, local institutions, and even mentor a couple of startups.

Due to my leadership trajectory, I was awarded AIA|DC's Emerging Architect of the Year, Young Architect of the Year Award by the DC Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies, and was selected as one of the 60 nationwide attendees for the YAF’s Practice Innovation Lab. A frequent industry speaker and panelist, I've presented “Rage Against the Machines: Surviving the End of Architecture” at AIA’s Conference on Architecture 2018 in June, speaking on “Modern Times - AEC Business Transformation in the Era of AR/VR,” and a panelist at VRX Conference & Expo 2018 in San Francisco.

For my work with startups and AEC tech innovation, in 2018, I was honored by BuiltWorlds, as one of the Nation’s Top 50 Adoption Leaders.

When tallied up, between 2018 through 2021, I had the opportunity to speak at 30+ National & International events. Given my commitment to thought-leadership and advocacy within the industry, AIA National elected me to serve on the Strategic Council as an At-Large Representative in 2020-2021. The AIA National Board of Directors also honored me as AIA / Collateral Board Liaison to the American Institute of Architecture Students organization, a role I'll serve until 2023.

My current position at MBCC Group has provided me with the opportunity to work along with multidisciplinary professionals across the globe. The tech revolution, and the market disruption that comes with it, are now upon us. Though fueled by the novelty factor, tech leadership is directly related to our relevance in the market and tied to sustainable business practices. Increasingly a significant number of stakeholders are expanding their scope into our traditional roles. Consequently, we cannot be idle while value and ROI are measured exclusively in currency. More trained architects are needed at the tech development table to transform policy and progress with social responsibility.

Designers are experts are in crafting a vision, adding value, and creating consensus. The AIA is crucial in this undertaking as we define a clear stance in our relationship with digital transformation. When we talk about overcoming the issues of climate change, equity, diversity, inclusion, and architectural education, the discourse usually spends little time on "the how."

We can make little progress if we continue to ignore that we need effective digital tools, data, solutions, programs, education, and resources to alleviate these problems.

Thus, I intend to use my leadership platform to bring visibility to these and accelerate action.

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Many of you feel, as I do, that we need to reshape our current practices to achieve meaningful progress regarding climate change, diversity, and architectural education. I’m Ricardo Rodríguez, candidate for Director-at-Large, and I’m ready to help overcome the challenges our profession faces in a digital-first market.

As a virtual design & construction leader, I’ve spent these past years focused globally on strategic partnerships and implementing innovation programs. Serving as a bridge between two industries requires me to rely on my 15+ years of architectural practice experience. In these, I’ve had multiple leadership roles at AIA|DC, where I chaired the Emerging Architects Committee and the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development program.

In 2020, I served on the Strategic Council’s Technology Impacting Practice workgroup, where I helped lead our Virtual Summit. This event brought together 12 leaders revolutionizing the industry worldwide. Their voices called us to action, and I hope we can share these discussions with you shortly.

Our profession is at its most pivotal point in a century. The lag in evolving our business models has overlapped with the immediate needs of a global pandemic. Soon tech-centric companies could begin to outperform our members’ services.

We need to decisively respond to this shift and turn these risks into opportunities. I believe we can empower our businesses through four objectives:

1. First, elevating the strategic importance of AIA’s role in fostering

innovation. By formalizing efforts like the Practice Innovation Lab to

incubate and fuel growth.

2. Partnering with outside experts to address current needs, as we’ve

3. Redefining our Member Services to streamline access to the resources

needed to navigate these changes.

4. Bridging the gap in digital education across all experience levels.

We need to be agile in how we execute the strategic plan. By building upon existing efforts, we can help our members find better ways to serve their clients. Let’s also open our ranks to professionals, such as myself, bringing forward our unique and practical expertise.

I’m committed to supporting our organization in leading this transformation. It is not an easy task, but one we can overcome together.

Participating in YAF's Practice Innovation Lab
Participating in YAF's Practice Innovation Lab

I trust I can count on your vote. Reach out to me at ¡Muchas gracias!

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