Buildings are infrastructure

US Capitol

As Congress debates infrastructure policy, AIA advocates urge lawmakers to support building infrastructure, including provisions to promote energy-efficient and resilient building practices.

With Congress poised to vote on infrastructure legislation as early as July, now is the time for architects to speak out.

The message is simple: Buildings are infrastructure.

Horizontal infrastructure – roads, bridges, and waterways – tends to dominate infrastructure debate. But building infrastructure – including schools, hospitals, civic centers, and affordable housing – is the other side of the coin.

In an action alert campaign starting Tuesday, June 22, AIA members are calling on Congress to ensure that any comprehensive federal infrastructure package includes at least $300 billion for building infrastructure.

The pandemic has highlighted the built environment’s impact on health, well-being, and economic security. With those lessons still unfolding – and ever-growing threats from climate-related disasters –  investing in the spaces where Americans live, work, learn, and gather is urgent.

Architects know that the nation’s public building stock needs significant investment to meet 21st century demands, and the American people agree. Surveys show that 82% of Americans agree that public buildings are as important as transportation in defining community infrastructure, while 75% of Gallup Poll respondents agree that the federal government should spend more to improve infrastructure, including buildings.

As Democratic and Republican negotiators debate a variety of legislative proposals, the price tag remains a major sticking point. That makes the economic benefits of upgrading building infrastructure pivotal. Promoting energy-efficient building practices will lower energy bills for taxpayers and the government alike and generate millions of well-paying jobs. It’s equally essential to adopt resilient building strategies to address disaster costs – which are both staggering and preventable. According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, between 2014 and 2019, major weather- and climate-related disasters alone killed nearly 4,000 people and caused more than $550 billion in damage. Yet with new investments to support forward-thinking planning, design and construction, the building industry can be a leader in saving lives and reducing costs.

Infrastructure investment is a major plank in AIA’s Policy Platform, and members are engaged in a comprehensive campaign to advance this critical priority. Through Hill Day during February’s Grassroots Conference, more than 600 participants engaged in over 300 meetings with members of Congress. In regular meetings and outreach, AIA’s federal team has reinforced the message throughout the year with the Biden administration and with bipartisan members of Congress. A letter to policymakers in May brought more than 20 design and construction organizations together to urge support for a stronger, safer built environment – just one of a number of coalition efforts spearheaded by architecture professionals.

“Buildings are a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure,” said AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Not just airports, train stations and utility facilities, but also the schools where our children learn; the civic centers and hospitals where we receive essential services; and the homes where we live. The vast majority of these places are far more vulnerable to natural and manmade disasters than is acceptable. We must take urgent action to fix these problems, and be visionary about how we design and build new construction to withstand threats for decades to come. As we’re seeing already, climate change is expected to fuel another above-average year for wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and other severe weather. The time to act is now.”

The voice of each one of AIA’s 94,000 members is important, and joining the campaign is simple. Watch your email next week for a link to contact Congress, and let them know that buildings are infrastructure.

Image credits

US Capitol

Getty Images

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