By Nikolaus Remus, AIA, AIA Colorado Government Affairs Manager
I recently attended the annual AIA State and Local Government Conference with Government Affairs Committee secretary Brandon Gossard, AIA. Every summer, this event brings together AIA members and component staff who have a passion for state legislative issues. 2019 also marks the first year that the conference formally includes local government policy as well.
This year there were three primary topics: energy efficiency policy, resiliency and disaster response efforts, and school safety. Each category represents advocacy opportunities at the federal, state, and local levels of government. Coordination of these efforts is key to their success. How are these efforts relevant to AIA Colorado members?
We all know how to design energy-efficient buildings, but to face climate change head on we need to simultaneously raise the bar and encourage our clients to embrace energy efficiency. A building owner that can’t afford a high-performance building today is a missed opportunity that could last decades. The AIA is pursuing tax credit incentives at the federal level, and promoting the adoption of programs such as C-PACE financing at the state level. While Colorado already has a C-PACE program in place, it can only be used when adopted by the county collecting property taxes for a building.
The increase in recent years of extreme weather events has put resiliency into the spotlight. It’s more than just designing earthquake- or hurricane-resilient buildings though. Every state has a unique set of factors to address, whether they’re natural disasters, climate change, or social and economic issues. Some states have very sophisticated approaches to resiliency already, while there’s still a struggle in some states to offer liability protection to architects who volunteer in local disaster recovery efforts.
AIA members across the country are working together on best practices for safe school design, supported by AIA’s federal advocacy team to make sure the architecture profession is represented in any nationwide efforts. In response to recent school shooting tragedies, state legislatures are also evaluating ways they can support local school districts. The most common approach is a state commission and we heard how the Texas Society of Architects has successfully lobbied to ensure an architect has a seat at the table.
We also discussed perennial state policy topics such as licensing, affordable housing, and contracts and professional liability. It’s great to connect with colleagues across the country that are in the trenches every day looking at these issues and sharing our experiences with each other to advance the architecture profession across the country.