Category Archives: AIA WI Disaster Response Program


Do what you can with what you have where you are.

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.”   Theodore Roosevelt


Considering recent questions on the purpose of project “Architect Unseen,” I respond with this.  All that remains undone is overwhelming and the path, at times, seems insurmountable.   However, if one can break down a big idea into manageable projects, it is possible.

The project launch is a focus on fundraising for a volunteer trip to El Salvador.  The purpose of this trip is to learn firsthand from a successful recovery program in a country similar to Haiti in climate and geography.  With hopes to bring home an understanding of what it takes to empower people with the knowledge to help themselves, I hope to apply this locally and globally – especially in Haiti.

My advice, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

 Following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I asked – “What can I do to help?”  Closely connected to Key West, I traveled south to help pick up garbage from the shorelines.  Neither scientist nor marine biologist, the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming.  On returning home, I asked the question a little differently, “What can I do as an architect to help?”  I searched for architecture volunteer programs and sent a few emails.  The next day, Rachel Minnery, co-founder of Architects Without Borders Seattle, asks if I would like to talk with her about an upcoming Haiti relief trip. Three weeks later, I am on an airplane to Miami to meet 11 architects and engineers and travel on to Petit Goave, Haiti.

It was the beginning of this journey and a fitting introduction to this project, Architect Unseen.

Visiting and working with people from other cultures provides an opportunity to learn more about one’s own.  Now certified as a disaster assistance – safety assessment program trainer, it is time to start training.  Exposed to the worst case situation in Haiti, it is time to find a way to prevent it.   With your help, project Architect Unseen will continue to evolve and find ways to help people.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.



Rebuild, Restore, Renew New Jersey



As I work to prepare for El Salvador and my role as AIA Disaster Assistance Coordinator for the state of WI, there are lessons to be learned from Hurricane Sandy.  I remain in touch with AIA contacts in Washington DC and New Jersey. Below is an update on the slow, but steady progress made in New Jersey.

A little more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, the focus is still on emergency response.

The 3 stages of disaster response are as follows: 

1. Emergency: The first response, it relies on quick action and involves providing emergency shelter, medical assistance, food, and other such services. This stage can last two to three weeks

2.  Relief: Short-term housing, health services, and employment counseling are provided. Formal assessment of damage begins with examinations of buildings, including analysis of historic properties and other structures. This stage may last up to six months.

3. recovery:  up to and beyond 3 yrs +This stage is characterized by rebuilding, with an emphasis on long-term comprehensive planning to enhance the physical fabric of the community. Regulatory changes may be necessary to mitigate the effect of future disasters. This period may last three years or more.

As we work toward relief and recovery, AIA architects in New Jersey remain closely involved in the efforts.  A letter below from Cooper Martin, AIA National, shares that most building damage assessments have been completed, but that the future focus will be not only on rebuilding, but also making sure that a better infrastructure is in place should there be another disaster.

Subject: RE: AIA and the California Safety Assessment Program – New Jersey


Our assessments have been completed where we were allowed to help conduct them, and right now I think we have more local volunteers than we know what to do with. Most of our current activities are roundtable discussions such as this:

If you haven’t seen it already, there was a good story on the obstacles we experienced in our aid efforts at:

Our next step will actually be to organize a couple of training sessions and to prepare to lobby the state legislature to pass Good Samaritan law for the next disaster. Our partners at Arch. for Humanity are assessing needs and identifying gaps in the recovery activities that federal funding will support.

Cooper Martin
Manager, Community Resilience
The American Institute of Architects


Keeping it global…. A student’s experience in Honduras

Just one week ago, I met with the UW Milwaukee SARUP (School of Architecture and Urban Planning) students to talk about the architect’s role in disaster assistance.  They asked some very good questions,  one of which was, “Does it make sense for an architect to travel to a foreign country and physically build homes:  shovel dirt, carry rocks, stack masonry, pound nails, etc.?”   My answer, with full conviction, was, “Absolutely!”   Early on, I struggled greatly with this idea.  Someone asked, “Is it making best use of your skills?”  What better way to become a better architect than to build it with my own hands.

Immediately following my “Architect Unseen” presentation at last week’s SARUP event, Zach walked up to tell me about his volunteer experience building structures for families in Honduras.  It was refreshing to hear his stories and I’d asked to see the photos from his work.  He responded with a very touching letter and I’d asked if I could share it on my blog.  Fortunately, he agreed.

Thank you Zach because you have inspired me.  I am now more sure than ever that El Salvador is the right thing to do! 



 Below are Zach’s letter and the link to his photos.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Hello Ms. Glaeser,

This is Zach Pate who talked to you about my excursions in Honduras at your speech in Milwaukee on Monday night. I have to say I’m so glad we had a person talk about the subject of architecture and poverty in third-world countries, it was a very riveting speech and is something some of us Americans just don’t think about that much.

Anyways, this url is a shutterfly website that shows what our group did in Tegucigalpa.  Now I’ll warn you this is a photo pool, so it has about 1,000 pictures from the trip so obviously you don’t have to see every single one but I thought if you were interested you could check this website out. We had a total of about 14 members this last year and also stayed with a Honduran family. I plan on possibly going back on this mission’s trip either this summer or the following. However if you would ever be interested in joining us for one of our trips, I’m sure you would be an asset to the mission’s team, just a random idea to throw out there. My church that sponsors this trip is the CrossPoint Assembly of God in Portage, just north of Madison. I know this is plenty of random ideas to be throwing your way, but again its just an idea. Anyways thanks again, it was a pleasure meeting you.

Zach Pate

AIAS Events Committee



AIA Disaster Assistance Program

End of week 2.  Hal schedules Saturdays as the “long run.”

Today I ran 5 miles.  Though it is a gorgeous November day.  It was difficult, but these socks gave me the boost I needed.

Just received two very generous pledges for the run: One friend pledged $5 per mile and my sister in law pledged “exponentially” – $1 for mile one, $2 for mile two, $3 for mile three, etc.  How clever!  Thank you both!


On today’s run, my mind sorted through the AIA State Disaster Assistance program “to do” list.  As the state coordinator, I’ve put a call out for volunteers – now the next steps are to create a roster database and start training all volunteers.  It is going to be a busy 2013.


The Disaster Assistance Committee, organized by AIA National, can help components and members prepare for disasters before they strike. This document is a first step to guide State Components as they establish a new disaster assistance program.

  • Put out a call for interested volunteers in chapter newsletters.
  • Delegate one point person to lead the working group and be the primary point of contact for the state Disaster Assistance Program.
  • Meet with the State Emergency Management Agency.
  • Build your network of professional volunteers and maintain a roster of trained architects in your state.

Establish a long-term Disaster Assistance State Coordinator. This person should have experience responding to at least one disaster and be qualified to conduct additional AIA training sessions for architects within your state. This person should also be committed to serve in the role for 3 years and be responsible for identifying a potential replacement.