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AIA Pitches Congress on Safety, Funding

Friday, January 17, 2014

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Stronger bridges, safer structures, tighter buildings—and a funding mechanism to pay for them all—lead America's architectural agenda for 2014.

Those are among the goals outlined by the American Institute of Architects in a new six-point list of priorities for the 113th Congress.

AIA released its legislative "Punch List" this week.

House wrecked by Sandy
Wikipedia / Proud Novice

Model codes like those promoted in the Safe Building Code Incentive Act could help prevent some of the destruction from disasters like Hurricane Sandy in 2012, AIA says.

“America needs to create more jobs, to strengthen communities, and find help for millions of young people to succeed in the new economy,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, "so we've created a punch list—a term that enumerates unfinished items in a construction contract."

'Priorities of the American People'

Ivy says that AIA's agenda reflects not only that industry's interests, but also "the priorities of the American people."

The AIA list urges Congress to:

1. Re-enact Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives

Several tax incentives expired Jan. 1, including the so-called 179D deduction that allowed building owners to claim a tax deduction of $1.80 per square foot to install systems that reduce the total energy and power costs by half or more when compared with a reference building.

The deduction was originally enacted in 2005 to encourage the development of energy-efficient commercial buildings. AIA wants it back.

Construction Workers
White House Photo / Pete Souza

Construction workers in Washington, DC, listen in November 2011 to President Obama's call for a national infrastructure bank as part of the American Jobs Act. The funding authority has since drawn bipartisan support.

2. Reform Government Procurement

The AIA says it is "aggressively pushing for passage of" The Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013 (H.R. 2750), introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) in July.

That measure would reform federal procurement rules to allow more design and architectural firms to bid on federal contracts "without fear of losing money in the process," the AIA contends.

3. Increase Student Aid

Warning that "the design and construction industry faces a severe shortage of talent, at exactly the moment we need to start rebuilding for the future," AIA is urging Congress to pass the AIA-designed National Design Services Act (NDSA), which would provide loan repayment assistance for architecture students in return for pro bono community service.

The organization says doctors and lawyers in training have similar programs.

4. Invest in Infrastructure

AIA wants Congress to pass a multi-year transportation reauthorization,saying the measure "would allow for long-term planning that not only repairs roads and bridges but helps communities prosper."

Skagit River Bridge Collapse
Wikimedia Commons / Martha T

Investing in infrastructure could help avoid future disasters like the 2013 collapse of the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State, the AIA contends.

AIA is also backing a National Infrastructure Bank (officially, an Infrastructure Financing Authority), an idea that has drawn bipartisan support in recent years.

The idea surfaced most recently as part of the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act, introduced in the Senate in November by a bipartisan group of 10 senators.

"Such moves would help free up capital for private sector building projects, and new ways to invest in public sector buildings, providing jobs in the short term and a more competitive economy in the long run," according to AIA.

5. Pass Energy Efficiency Legislation

The AIA is calling on the full Senate to take up the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year.

The group calls the bill "common-sense" legislation "that would encourage families, businesses and the government to save energy."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sponsors the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013. In 2011, Shaheen stumped for an earlier version of the bill at an aerospace firm.

AIA also warns Congress to "oppose efforts by the fossil fuel industry to repeal existing policies that save energy."

6. Support Stronger Building Codes

Arguing that stronger building codes can help protect lives and property, the AIA wants Congress to pass the bipartisan Safe Building Code Incentive Act, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), which encourages states to voluntarily adopt and enforce nationally recognized model building codes.

"Each year, natural disasters kill tens of thousands of people worldwide and inflict billions of dollars in damage," AIA says. With the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, "Congress can help communities fortify themselves from such disasters...."


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Bridges; Building codes; Construction; Economy; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Finance; Government; Infrastructure; Jobs; Laws and litigation

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