The Administration's executive order on infrastructure: AIA's take
Last week, the Administration issued an executive order that would roll back certain rules regarding environmental reviews for infrastructure projects and restrictions on federally-funded projects in flood-prone areas. This announcement is a part of the Administration's ongoing efforts to streamline regulations and address aging U.S. infrastructure.
According to the Administration's announcement, the order is aimed at speeding approvals of permits for highways, bridges and pipelines, among other horizontal infrastructure projects. Among the key changes, including a "goal" of shortening the environmental impact review period for infrastructure projects to two years, is the revocation of a previous executive order that required any federally funded project to be located outside of a floodplain, using FEMA's flood insurance rate maps as a key measure of the likelihood of flooding.
Rolling back common-sense safeguards of taxpayer money, like avoiding projects in floodplains, is a mistake. And although this was done through an executive order, which is a tool for the President to establish federal policy on a myriad of issues without going through Congress, the AIA will continue to lead the fight against rollbacks on the safeguards put in place for American homeowners and businesses alike. Designing projects to avoid exposure to natural disasters like floods, fires and earthquakes is not only important to the health, safety, and welfare of the nation's citizens, it makes economic sense. In 2016 alone, $46 billion was spent in response to natural disasters, and that is only in "direct costs." And these disasters seem to be multiplying.
The AIA has worked for the last decade or more to reduce and mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and natural disasters on the nation's economy and infrastructure. We convened a CEO-level industry round-table on a resilient built environment that worked closely with the previous administration in the development of its resilience policies. AIA continues to offer guidance to the current administration, including most recently submitting comments on several key FEMA resilience proposals.
From fighting the attack on building codes in the state houses, to pushing forward programs that promote a safe, healthy, and resilient built environment for all, like the recently released Disaster Assistance Handbook, the AIA is taking these rollbacks on all levels of government very seriously, and takes every opportunity to deliver this message to policymakers. To be clear: the AIA opposes rollbacks of policies that endanger the built environment, and more importantly, endanger the humans that live in it. Stay tuned next month for a major statement on infrastructure from the AIA - one that challenges the notion that sustainable, resilient design is somehow an expendable "burden" on projects and makes the case for buildings as part of America's infrastructure that so badly needs a renaissance.
Sarah Dodge is AIA Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Relationships