Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
March 31, 2011
AIA finds that an expired bond program backed up to $50 billion in projects; another federal government shutdown may be on the horizon; agency connections create opportunities; a Texas fight over the definition of practice heats up; a Southern California chapter hosts an architect-engagement event; and more.
In this issue:
State and Local Update
AIA Members Getting Involved
A recent AIA analysis shows the Build America Bonds (BAB) program has financed as much as $50 billion in building design and construction over the last two years. Consequently, the Institute is calling upon Congress to renew the program in full.
Part of the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), the Build America Bonds program was a new type of taxable bond that allowed a wider range of investors to purchase municipal debt and finance a broad set of infrastructure and construction improvements. The program expired at the end of 2010 as Congressional leaders were unable to reach a deal to extend the program, but President Obama and members of both political parties have made efforts to renew the program this year or in Fiscal Year 2012.
"The program has always been designed to provide liquidity in the municipal bond market while the AIA has been working hard to focus on access to private sector capital for the design and construction industry," said Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, the Institute's senior director for federal relations.
"But with a two-year record to examine, it is clear that the program has benefitted AIA members and their clients."
Using data obtained from Thomson Reuters and Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the AIA has estimated that BABs financed between $44 billion and $50 billion in building construction activity that was likely to require architectural services. Much of that money was used to finance construction in K-12 schools and higher education facilities, but it also financed office buildings, multi-family housing, theaters, and government buildings.
The AIA is collecting specific examples of Build American Bond-financed projects. If your firm has received work for a project that took advantage of BABs in 2009 or 2010, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the AIA’s analysis, click here.
For more information, contact Cooper Martin, manager, Federal Research and Policy Development.
White House and Congressional officials continue to spar over a budget plan for the remainder of the fiscal year as the next deadline to prevent a shutdown draws closer.
Currently, the federal government is operating under a a continuing resolution (CR), a stop-gap measure, passed two weeks ago. That resolution expires at midnight on Friday, April 8. If Congress does not pass, and the President does not sign, a full-year spending bill or another CR by then, federal agencies will have to shut down except for essential personnel.
The crux of the debate between the parties focuses on the amount of spending to cut. The Republican-led House passed a budget bill earlier this year that would cut $61 billion from domestic discretionary spending; Senate Democrats and the Obama administration have resisted cuts of that size. In addition, the House-passed bill included a number of policy changes, called riders, which affect everything from funding for Planned Parenthood to the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Democrats have balked at including such policy changes in the budget plan.
Each side in the debate is trying to balance the desires of their political bases with the fear of alienating independent voters. Many House Republican lawmakers, including a large number of freshmen members aligned with the Tea Party, believe that cutting spending is their top priority in Washington, and many are reluctant to pass another short-term spending bill. Republican leaders, though, remembering that their party was blamed for the last government shutdown in 1995, worry they would be faulted again if agencies close. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to satisfy a restive base opposed to more cuts to social programs by holding the line against further reductions, all the while knowing that the public wants to see the size of government reduced and may blame Democrats if the deficit is not cut.
Late last week, it appeared that progress was being made towards a compromise plan that would cut roughly $30 billion from the budget, but by the time the weekend was over both sides were trading angry press statements accusing the other of negotiating in bad faith. Meanwhile, federal agencies and their personnel find themselves in bureaucratic limbo as, lacking the certainty of a full-year budget, programs are being put on hold.
Keep reading The Angle for more updates on the budget debate.
For more information, contact Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, senior director, Federal Relations.
Do you or your firm have projects that have stalled due to a lack of financing? Do you know of projects that have benefitted from federal programs like the energy efficient commercial building tax deduction or SBA loans, or projects that may go forward if those incentives are expanded? We want to hear from you. Click here to help us tell the public how stalled projects are holding the economy back -- and how we can all work to rebuild and renew America.
The AIA and the High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC) held a briefing on March 29 to educate members of Congress and their staff on the roles of sustainability and security in embassy design. Embassies are iconic symbols of American diplomacy, but they also are subject to a range of security and terrorist threats. The integration of these design strategies has led to the construction of world class, high-performing American embassies around the world.
The briefing was moderated by Barbara Nadel, FAIA, who chaired the AIA's 21st Century Embassy Taskforce. She provided a background to understanding the unique security and terrorist threats that exist, but also stressed the importance of the diplomatic role embassies play in showcasing American values, ideals and culture.
Paul Phillips, AIA, presented several case studies -- Astana, Kazakhstan; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Karachi, Pakistan; Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; and Valletta, Malta -- showing how sustainability actually enhances security.
Phillips noted, "Embassies are multifunctional. They serve as offices, places of assembly, representational/diplomatic spaces, housing, power generation facilities and water purification facilities. Add this to the unique security demands, sustainability goals, and effects on diplomacy, it can be daunting. By utilizing features that accomplish multiple goals, we can protect the people inside the building, while also decreasing energy and water consumption, improving relationships with the host country and creating a welcoming space for people to work, live and visit."
Faye Harwell, FASLA, a landscape architect, illustrated the role of landscaping in security, with examples of how rain gardens can be used to collect storm water and how boulders, shrubs, and decorative walls can be used in the place of bollards to create a much more appealing security perimeter.
William Miner, Director of the Office of Design and Engineering at the State Department's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, also discussed his group's new design excellence program, which is to be officially announced April (i.e., during the Industry Advisory Panel meeting ). This new program is a strong direction change for the Department and is in part based on the recommendations from the AIA's 21st Century Task Force's report, "Design for Diplomacy -- New Embassies for the 21st Century." To read more about the AIA’s involvement with the implementation of a design excellence program, please click here.
AIA Federal Regulatory Relations Update
2011 AIA president Clark Manus, FAIA met with Commerce Undersecretary Suresh Kumar in Las Vegas last week. Mr. Kumar noted that America is one of the most wanted brands on the planet and that architects have a unique position in fostering this brand. By creating visual and physical impressions across the world, U.S. architects are helping to extend American businesses abroad. One point of discussion was SOM's work at the Burj Khalifa. Because of the American architect at work on this, the tallest building in the world, U.S. manufacturing and specialties were used throughout the development. Mr. Kumar saw great potential for additional exports through American architecture and the related technologies.
The discussion also touched upon payment issues and making sure that architects get paid. Another concern was the amount of fees that architects could charge in other countries. Some architects state that they cannot charge competitive fees in foreign countries. Licensing, partnering with local architects, and intellectual property rights were also touched upon. The AIA was very pleased to have this one-on-one time with a high level Administration official to have our interests heard.
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Thank you to the over 30 individuals who have signed up to participate in the Department of Commerce's Japan reconstruction database. (Click here to read more about this opportunity.) Commerce has asked non-profits and other professional organizations for names of members who want to participate in rebuilding in Japan. Architects and firms that are interested in getting on this database can send their name, company, address, city, point-of-contact, and specialty description to Jessica Salmoiraghi. There is no obligation to participate or a guarantee that entities that sign up will be contacted.
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The AIA is developing competencies for international practice while also creating resources for our members who are looking to move their practice abroad. Part of this strategy is to create trade missions to promising international areas for AIA members. The first trade mission for the AIA is scheduled for January 2012 and is targeting India -- specifically, New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
The goal of this trip is to get members contracts. Participants must demonstrate how this trip is part of their business strategy and show how the members can participate in the Indian market in four core areas:
• educational institutions;
• healthcare facilities; and
• master planning.
For more information, contact Jessica Salmoiraghi, director, Federal Regulatory Relations.
AIA State Relations Update
In a much-publicized fight, the Texas Society of Architects (TSA) is battling several bills introduced in the current legislative session which would override the state's "definition of practice" law, which mandates that architectural services be delivered by architects. One of the bills would give engineers the legal right to design buildings, while others aim to diminish the ability of the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners to redress the unlawful practice of architecture by engineers. The bills, which are the latest effort in a sustained campaign by the state's engineers to encroach on the business of architects, come on the heels of a 2009 district court decision that upheld the state's separation between the professions of architecture and engineering.
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The AIA Washington Council is urging its members to ask their senator to support Engrossed House Bill 1559, which unanimously passed the state's House of Representatives. The bill prevents state and local government agencies from including provisions in their contracts that require architects and design professionals to indemnify the agency against any lawsuits resulting from the project, regardless of whether or not the architect or design firm is implicated in the lawsuit. EHB 1559 makes architects and design professionals responsible only for damages that occur due to their own errors or misconduct, not of others involved in the project.
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AIA Arkansas sent an alert to its members regarding its opposition to HB 2210, which, if enacted, would amend the state's bidding process for public buildings so that construction management services would no longer be selected by state-defined, qualifications-based procedures but would instead be selected by competitive bidding. This legislation would lead to less coordination between the architect and construction manager in the design process and would decrease the efficiency and transparency of the design and construction process. AIA Arkansas is asking its members to contact their legislators and emphasize the importance of working with construction managers in the design process.
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And, in an example of the power of legislative engagement, the Hawaii Senate Economic Development and Technology Committee voted to put on hold a bill, which would have eliminated the General Excise Tax exemption for "contractors" including architects and engineers. An AIA Hawaii Action Alert generated testimony from over 40 AIA members and firms who argued that the bill would do significant damage to their businesses, causing them to pay while threatening the state's recovering economy.
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Finally, AIA Illinois members participated in the AIA Illinois Prairie Grassroots on March 30. The gathering brought AIA members to Springfield to meet with their elected representatives. Pictured below, AIA members discuss key issues with the President of the Illinois Senate, John J. Cullerton (D-6). Cullerton (second from left) is shown here with members and AIA Chicago Executive Director Zurich Esposito (to his left).
For more information, contact Chris Merriam, manager, State Issues and Programs.
The Local Relations team is pleased to announce that the issue briefs have been updated. The briefs provide synopses of the AIA's positions on a range of advocacy issues at the local level from green building to expedited permitting to city governance -- just to name a few. In all, there are eight issue briefs available to support the advocacy efforts of local components.
The AIA continues to emphasize the importance of having the presence of architectural professionals on local decision-making entities. For example, the Planning and Zoning Commissions issue brief highlights that there is an increase of architects on these authorities, with 226 architects serving as planning commissioners and another 55 serving as zoning board members. The Citizen Architect brief further reveals that there are approximately 1,250 architects currently serving in an elected or appointed position overall. This is a remarkable increase from the 800 Citizen Architects that were first identified in 2009.
The briefs have also been enhanced with more dynamic examples of localities that have or are working to implement the various measures. The Smart Growth/Transit-Oriented Development brief calls attention to a Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) project that has had success in securing federal funding for these initiatives. Likewise, the examples provided in the Green Building Programs issue brief are now hyperlinked to the corresponding Local Leaders in Sustainability case study. In this way, additional resources are made more readily available within the briefs.
On March 23, the AIA Palomar (CA) Chapter held a Citizen Architect program, which focused on how to develop a local Citizen Architect Program and how to organize a Regional and Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT).
The program included information on:
At the AIA Palomar event, nearly 30 percent of the chapter membership attended, demonstrating the great interest in this program. The agenda included a presentation by AIA National staff as well as presentations by Mark Gangi, AIA, and John Luttrell, AIA, from the AIA Pasadena and Foothill Chapter, which facilitates one of the most active Citizen Architect programs in the country.
AIA Palomar President, Warren W. Scott, AIA, commented, "This presentation gave us the vision to see the opportunities to engage our Chapter with assisting our local cities and communities. At the meeting several members expressed the immediate connection with their cities and Habitat for Humanity. Our representative from the local electrical utility company, who was also in attendance, is ready to join with the Chapter to develop further awareness for sustainability in the communities."
The Local Relations team has developed a Citizen Architect Guidebook, which will be made available to state and local components at the upcoming Citizen Architect Exchange at this year's Convention. The Citizen Architect Guidebook focuses on the importance of civic engagement, discusses the types of Citizen Architect Committees that have been established nationwide, and provides best practice materials for components that would like to develop their own programs.
The Angle Archive:
March 17, 2011
March 3, 2011
February 17, 2011
February 10, 2011 -- Special Grassroots Recap
January 20, 2011
January 6, 2011
December 16, 2010 -- Advocacy 2010: Year in Review
December 2, 2010
November 18, 2010
November 4, 2010 -- Design Decision 2010
October 21, 2010
October 7, 2010
September 23, 2010
September 9, 2010
August 12, 2010 -- Mid Year Report
July 29, 2010
July 15, 2010
July 1, 2010
June 17, 2010
June 3, 2010
May 20, 2010
May 6, 2010
April 22, 2010
April 8, 2010
March 25, 2010
March 11, 2010
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