Legislation, introduced during National Architecture Week, encourages right balance between design and security
Contact: John Schneidawind
For immediate release:
Washington, D.C. – April 16, 2010 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) today commended Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) for introducing the Embassy Design and Security Act, a ground-breaking piece of legislation that for the first time recognizes the vital role building design can play in transforming America’s embassies into high performance structures throughout the world.
“America's diplomatic missions abroad are the physical manifestations of our nation's values to the rest of the world,” said AIA President George H. Miller, FAIA. “They facilitate the vital work of diplomacy, serve as places of refuge and support for citizens of host nations and Americans abroad, and provide a platform to advance the leadership that America provides to the world.”
The Embassy Design and Security Act, which Sen. Kerry introduced late yesterday, establishes a Design Excellence program at the State Department and ensures that experts from the design, construction and security fields can advise the Department on its work. The legislation will help the State Department take a leadership role in high performance buildings by encouraging innovation in design, creating a framework for testing new technologies, and providing training in high performance building attributes. It would require the State Department to do a study that would consider alternative approaches to enable architects and engineers to design embassies that reflect the unique needs of a site at a foreign post and to incorporate appropriate standard design and construction components common to the building type.
“Our embassies and consulates are important reflections of the American values of openness, ingenuity, and innovation,” said Senator Kerry. “They should reflect the best of U.S. design, architecture, sustainability, and technology while maintaining security as the top priority. Our embassies and consulates are the frontlines of U.S. diplomacy and often are the first contact people in foreign countries have with the United States. As the Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan strongly affirmed, they should reflect ‘the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American National Government’.”
Senator Kerry’s legislation comes in response to a report released July 9, 2009 by the AIA that recommends ways the State Department should go about designing and building 21st Century embassies.
The report, “Design for Diplomacy: New Embassies for the 21st Century,” called on the State Department to integrate embassy security with design excellence. It included 59 recommendations made by the AIA’s 21st Century Embassy Task Force, an unprecedented collaboration of more than 50 leading architects, engineers, landscape architects, ambassadors, diplomats, Foreign Service personnel, public art experts and art and architectural historians.
The report recommended evaluating the current embassy design program, which was implemented after the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa, to improve security and expedite the construction of new facilities with a standard design that could be replicated anywhere in the world. The report called also for an analysis to review the effectiveness of the standard embassy design program in meeting current and future goals for building performance and cost-effectiveness.
Other recommendations from the AIA “Design for Diplomacy Report” include:
- Developing a program that integrates security and design excellence for new embassies
- Integrating sustainable best practices in all new facilities
- Establishing a multi-disciplinary peer review process that includes diplomatic and Foreign Service stakeholders, design and construction professionals, art advisors, senior Diplomatic Security officers and those familiar with the foreign post as peers
- Widening the pool of firms to include women and minority owned businesses, and emerging firms
- Allocating resources for public art in all embassie
“It is entirely fitting that Senator Kerry introduced this bill during National Architecture Week, when our country celebrates the value that design brings to our communities,” said Barbara A. Nadel, FAIA, chair of the 21st Century Embassy Task Force, and principal of Barbara Nadel Architect. “Good design is as important in the buildings we design and construct abroad as those at home. The Embassy Design and Security Act speaks to the ideal that design matters to the health, well-being and security of our nation, not just at home but abroad as well.”
About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. By using sustainable design practices, materials, and techniques, AIA architects are uniquely poised to provide the leadership and guidance needed to provide solutions to address climate change. AIA architects walk the walk on sustainable design. Visit www.aia.org