A look at AIA’s legislative victories in 2022

Published: September 1, 2022 | Updated: September 20, 2022

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One of AIA's key goals is to continue to be an effective voice for the profession on Capitol Hill.  In 2022, AIA member testimony and an active presence in congressional offices moved the needle on issues critical to the profession.

In June, bipartisan leaders in Congress authorized the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse, which passed as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This was an AIA and member-backed priority since 2018 and its approval marks a significant legislative victory for the organization.

AIA, in conjunction with the member-led Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE), has been and continues to be active on school safety issues. The Clearinghouse resources that AIA and its members support are not a mandate for schools to follow, but best practices and other information for them to make informed decisions that best fit the needs of their schools and community. The clearinghouse does require stable funding, and so Congressional authorization helps ensure that it will continue to operate through future administrations.

School design cannot prevent all incidents of violence, but design best practices can help craft safe and welcoming learning spaces that encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion for the well-being of students and educators. AIA is a steadfast partner in the pursuit of safe learning environments for all students everywhere and the authorization of this repository ensures that these best practices will remain available to schools for years to come.

In July, The House Select Committee on Congressional Modernization unanimously approved a slate of recommendations, including many of the recommendations made by Katie Irwin, AIA, in testimony, she delivered before the Select Committee in March.

Though Select Committee recommendations are not binding, this was a sign Irwin’s testimony, on behalf of AIA, was heard and heeded on Capitol Hill as the Congressional Members consider ways to update and improve their office space and practices.

Select Committee-Approved recommendations made by Irwin include:

  • Improve navigating the campus: To improve wayfinding, the House should consult with internal and external experts to assess and implement navigation improvements necessary to make it easier for visitors to find their way through the Capitol campus.
  • Digital displays for hearings and events: The House should provide digital signage displaying information about current public hearings and events.
  • Inventory existing space: The House should study the use of its space to understand how it is used, who controls access to various spaces, and how it is managed in the House and the Capitol.
  • Offer expanded options for meeting space: The House should establish and designate shared meeting spaces that will allow for members and staff to use on a drop-in basis and not require reservations.
  • Portal for all reservable space: The House should develop an app and expand the current web portal to include all reservable space in the Capitol and House Office Buildings.
  • Flexible and modern member office templates: The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) on Capitol Hill should provide a broad menu of furniture options and suggestions for member office space that considers modern and flexible design and function concepts.
  • Flex hearing space: The House should identify and develop a space that can be used to hold hearings with alternative seating formats such as a roundtable style.

Irwin, a senior associate at Quinn Evans, provided the bipartisan committee with a starting point to assess and develop improvements to the U.S. Capitol and its campus. The full set of adopted recommendations is available here.

Additionally, the Congressional passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (H. R. 5376) in August, which addresses AIA’s policy priorities including provisions for building codes, climate tax incentives, and affordable housing, is a major legislative win for the organization.

Key AIA provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act:

  • Building Energy Codes: $330 million in grants to states and local governments to adopt the latest energy codes that meet or exceed the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and/or ASHRAE 90.1-2019. It also provides an additional $670 million for states and localities to adopt and implement zero-energy stretch codes.
  • Federal Building Energy Efficiency: $250 million for General Services Administration (GSA) facility retrofits, and $2.15 billion for the Federal Buildings Fund, to be used by the GSA to acquire and install low-embodied carbon materials and products for use in the construction or alteration of buildings. The legislation also includes $975 million for GSA to invest in emerging and sustainable technologies.
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: $7 billion in competitive grants to enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to deploy or benefit from zero-emission technologies, including distributed technologies on residential rooftops, and to carry out other greenhouse gas emission reduction activities.
  • Rebates for Home Energy Efficiency/Electrification: $4.3 billion to state energy offices to develop a HOMES rebate program, which will reimburse homeowners and aggregators for whole-house energy savings improvements. The legislation also provides an additional $4.275 billion to state energy offices to establish a high-efficiency electric home rebate program. The rebates may be used for appliance upgrades, such as heat pumps, electric stovetops/ovens, and non-appliance upgrades, such as insulation, electric wiring, and ventilation.
  • Tax Incentives: The legislation also makes significant changes to multiple tax incentives, including the Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction (179D), the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit (25C), the New Energy Efficient Home Credit (45L), and the Research and Development tax credit (R&D).

AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Lakisha Ann Woods, CAE, said that she is “proud of the work AIA has done to get Congress to include language addressing our legislative priorities.”

“AIA’s sustained commitment to advocating for legislation addressing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment as well as resilient and affordable communities is evident throughout this bill. Though the climate crisis still requires our unrelenting attention, this legislation is a step in the right direction,” she said.

With the 2022 election impending, AIA urges its members to elect candidates who look to protect the interests of architects around the world. Make your voice heard on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8.

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