Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
AIA Government & Community Relations News: Week of March 19, 2012
AIA headlines this week include:
“In the News” – links to other news sources:
By any measure, the City of Dubuque, Iowa, has experienced a number of successes since hosting a Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) in 2007. As Laura Carstens, the city’s Planning Services Manager, states, “Sustainable design is now the expectation for development in Dubuque.”
Kevin Eipperle, AIA, a member of the local steering committee for the project, said the SDAT process, “makes planning real.” Following the SDAT, the city launched the Sustainable Dubuque initiative, which seeks to integrate efforts across city departments and throughout the community around a common sustainability goal. It also passed a Unified Development Code, which addresses zoning subdivision, site development, preservation, and sign regulations while incorporating sustainable design and low impact development (LID) and meeting the city’s smart growth objectives. Carstens attributes the code “in large part to the Dubuque SDAT process.”
Sustainable Dubuque and the Unified Development Code have both earned state planning awards from the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association. In fact, Dubuque has been widely recognized for a number of its achievements, including being listed as “The Most Livable Small City” (2008), one of the “100 Best Communities for Young People” (2008), and among “America’s Top 100 Places to Live.” Each success has built additional momentum for further public engagement and partnership. The city created Dubuque 2.0, a formal process that “encourages public/private partnerships to shape our community's future,” which has continued to pursue future success through local partnership.
The city has also become a leading partner for national institutions. In 2009, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Dubuque as one of three partner cities for its Preservation Green Lab initiative to develop best practices in sustainability and preservation. IBM also chose Dubuque as the first “Smarter City” partnership in the United States, to pilot the development of new technologies and implementation strategies to create an international model of sustainability for communities of 200,000 and under (watch the video here). “One of the reasons IBM selected Dubuque was the fact that we have a longstanding approach to the use of partnerships. We realized long ago that the city can’t do it alone,” says Carstens.
The ‘Dubuque model’ has lessons for other communities across the country. The pursuit of cross-sector partnerships, broad public participation in the city’s vision, and innovative thinking about its assets are driving clear and tangible success. For more information about the Dubuque SDAT project, see the final report, or visit the City’s website, where users can view a video on the process.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) final size standards for architecture, announced on February 10, are now effective for the profession.
The new architecture size standard of $7 million in gross annual receipts is 63 percent lower than the SBA’s original proposal of moving from the previous $4.5 million standard to $19 million. With engineering increasing from $4.5 million to $14 million, the SBA’s move represents the first time that architecture and engineering have been separated into two individual categories.
Firms that meet the $7 million standard are now eligible for small business set-asides in federal government contracts. These firms will also qualify for a variety of loans from micro-loans to the 504 loan program, which can help localities get funding for redevelopment. To participate, firms must have less than $7 million gross annual receipts averaged over the last three years. This change will impact new contracts or loans announced after March 12, 2012, rather than existing contracts or loans.
Originally, the SBA proposed lumping architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering, mapping, and other related services into one category with a $19 million cap. However, 90 percent of architects who wrote to the SBA opposed the change. In fact, the SBA noted that, even though their proposed rule covered one third of all industries, more than 60 percent of comments submitted were about the architecture proposal.
Architects’ voice for a lower size standard has not been confined to just the SBA. Thanks in part to testimony from the AIA about the size standard, U.S. House Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced the Small Business Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 3987) on February 8. This bill prohibits the SBA from forcing any profession into a group size standard unless the individual size standard fits that profession. Effectively, it would prohibit the SBA from trying to force architecture and engineering into one common size standard. Although the SBA’s February 10 announcement abandoned the proposed $19 million size standard for architecture, passage of H.R. 3987 would ensure that such a move could not happen in the future.
For more information and to read the SBA’s size standard comment, click here. For more information on what the AIA did to protest the SBA’s proposed $19 million size standard, see the size standard web page. Finally, for more information on how to calculate your size standard, connect with an SBA size standard specialist. For questions on this issue, please contact Jessica Salmoiraghi, Director of Federal Relations and Counsel.
It is no secret that partisan politics and differing views over deficit reduction have led the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures to grind to a near halt over the past few years. Budget concerns, social issue debates, and partisan strategizing have left little time for legislating. Despite this legislative inaction on some of the most important issues to its members, the AIA continues to drive policy development that directly protects and benefits its members.
Take the recent advocacy for the federal Energy Efficient Commercial Building Deduction (179D) as an example. First enacted in 2005, 179D provides a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for energy-saving designs in commercial buildings; what’s more, architects can claim the deduction, or an “allocation,” for eligible work on public sector buildings. The AIA has been working to pass legislation in Congress to fix technical problems with the provision, as well as urging state legislatures to pass legislation ensuring state agencies allocate the deduction to designers.
Despite guidance from the IRS on the mechanics of the deduction, some states and federal agencies are having a difficult time navigating the nuances of the allocation process. On top of that, there are some misconceptions of the nature of the allocation, and so these agencies believe they should charge a fee for “processing” the deduction. These issues, in addition to a few others, are at the top of AIA’s list for legislative fixes.
But given the difficult climate on both Capitol Hill and in many state capitals, passing legislation to improve this provision is difficult. Therefore, the AIA continues to make improvements to 179D by working with federal and state agencies to establish policy addressing these issues.
Thanks to the efforts of AIA members, states like North Carolina and Texas have already established policy that makes pursuing this deduction easier for architects, while states like Tennessee, Massachusetts, Washington, and New Mexico are currently engaged in policy development. These successes demonstrate the ability of AIA members to design a way forward on policy despite legislative hurdles.
For more information about 179D policy development in your state, please contact Christina Finkenhofer, Manager of Federal Relations.
As a corporate partner of the National League of Cities (NLC), the AIA proudly supports NLC’s Sustainable Cities Institute, which works with cities to plan and implement sustainable development strategies. One of the goals of the Institute is to enable local officials, practitioners, and advocates in identifying, planning for, and implementing long-term sustainability measures.
The Sustainable Cities Institute offers an online toolkit that highlights nationwide best practices while also serving as a platform that localities can use to communicate with one another concerning their respective initiatives. Civically engaged architects, in particular, can benefit from the city profiles, case studies, and model policies and legislation that are available. Some of the covered topics include buildings, transportation, green infrastructure, land use, and economic development.
Ensuring that local officials have the resources they need to foster healthier and more livable communities provides a setting that reinforces the work of design professionals in shaping the built environment.
In the coming months, the AIA will look to continue supporting NLC’s efforts on behalf of healthier, more sustainable communities through the Sustainable Cities Institute. The Institute, founded by the Home Depot Foundation in 2009, has fully transitioned to NLC’s Center for Research Innovation as of March 2012. For more information on this endeavor or on AIA’s partnership with NLC, feel free to contact Vanessa Leon, Manager, Public Policy.
Government & Community Relations Archive:
This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to email@example.com.