2023 Legislative Session Recap – Part 1

With the 2023 Colorado legislative session behind us, let’s take a look at the bills that will most impact the architecture profession.

Thank you to our Government Affairs Committee members and especially the legislative subcommittee members who collectively reviewed all 610 bills introduced.

2023 Legislative Subcommittee Roster

And, as always, a special thanks to our lobbyist, Jerry Johnson, Hon. AIA CO. Jerry continues to work tirelessly on our behalf at the state capitol to help us succeed when we need to act.

The 2023 Legislative Session by the Numbers

This year, there were 610 bills introduced: 

In this article, we’re going to focus on the five bills where AIA Colorado took action:

House Bills

HB23-1005 New Energy Improvement Program Changes

AIA Colorado position: Support

Bill Status: PASSED

Colorado’s existing Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) allows building owners to finance energy improvement projects through local property tax special assessment payments, instead of, or in addition to, a traditional bank loan. Local governments must opt into this program, but when available, effective rates are often more favorable than other loan types.

As a result of this new update, qualifying project types have been expanded into resiliency and water efficiency improvements. The program also no longer requires certain public notifications and meetings that were found to be a strictly bureaucratic step that didn’t have a meaningful effect on the application process.

Members affected: architecture firms with clients who want to go above and beyond minimum energy/water efficiency and resiliency requirements, but may not have the up-front funding for such improvements.

HB23-1233 Electric Vehicle Charging and Parking Requirements

AIA Colorado position: Support as amended

Bill Status: PASSED

Governor Polis vetoed last year’s attempt to require more commercial and multi-family residential buildings statewide to install or pre-wire for electric vehicle chargers. HB23-1233 scaled back the scope to focus on just 10,000SF and larger multi-family residential buildings already covered by the statewide energy code bill passed last year. New electric vehicle infrastructure/charger requirements will now go into effect statewide on covered projects submitting for building permits after March 1, 2024. More compliance details will be forthcoming when the state adopts the newest National Electric Code later this year.

Members affected: architecture firms that do multi-family residential projects above 10,000SF. Be sure to understand the applicable new Model Colorado Electric and Solar Ready Code requirements just finalized by the Colorado Energy Office. The electric vehicle charging provisions will go into effect even if a local building department hasn’t adopted the full package.

HB23-1302 Housing Accessibility

AIA Colorado position: Oppose

Bill Status: FAILED – voluntarily pulled by legislator who introduced the bill.

Existing Colorado law has a unique formula to determine how many Type A/B accessible units must be included in multi-family residential buildings. This bill would have changed the formula to increase these unit type counts and apply them to more residential building types, including a percentage of single family homes in a multi-home development. It also introduced certain clarifications to grey areas the current version of ICC/ANSI A117.1 for items such as smoke alarm and mailbox operable parts. If this were the extent of the scope, it’s unlikely AIA Colorado would have taken a position on the bill.

In addition, this bill also would have created a new category of discrimination lawsuit for buildings not constructed to required accessibility standards. Such a lawsuit could be filed against any “construction professional” who “participated” in the project, which in Colorado includes architects and professional engineers. This language was written with no requirement to determine fault before targeting every possible construction professional. This would have been a huge liability risk for architects even when our designs and construction documents were in compliance. We also could have been sued twice for accessibility-related construction defects. Once for the defect itself and again for discrimination. AIA Colorado testified in opposition to this bill in its first committee hearing, where its sponsor realized that it would be impossible to find a solution to the bill’s liability language so late in this year’s session.

SB23-016 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measures

AIA Colorado position: Support

Bill Status: PASSED

This far-reaching bill, introduced by AIA Colorado legislative champion, Senator Chris Hansen, covered 14 (eventually 25) different efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado. Many of these were focused on utility infrastructure and oil/gas extraction, which are issues we don’t take positions on as they’re a step (or more) removed from the architecture profession. The important part of this bill is that it updated Colorado’s emission reduction goals to a full 100% reduction from 2005 level by 2050 instead of the existing 90% goal. It also added more interim steps along the way to better guide ongoing efforts. While these goals aren’t enforceable law on their own, they inform legislation and state policies and align with AIA’s own carbon emission reduction goals for the profession.

Members affected: in addition to air quality and climate improvements for everyone living in Colorado, we expect to see future statewide energy code updates in particular affected by this bill.

SB23-166 Establishment of a Wildfire Resiliency Code Board

AIA Colorado position: Support as amended

Bill Status: PASSED

In the aftermath of numerous recent wildfires throughout Colorado, legislators have recognized the value in better identifying at-risk areas and setting resiliency standards for buildings in these areas. This bill creates a state wildfire resiliency code board that will formalize a wildland-urban interface map and what code (such as the ICC IWUIC) the buildings in those areas will be designed to. While these codes will be used directly by architects, we didn’t have a seat on this board alongside local government representatives fire safety professionals.

AIA Colorado is proud to say we successfully lobbied to change one of the “building code professionals” on the board to specifically be a Colorado-licensed architect. We’ll have updates on this effort when the state puts out the request for nominations to this board.

If you have questions about any of the details in this report, please contact me at nikolaus@aiacolorado.org or call 303-228-3914.

About the Author

Nikolaus Remus, AIA

Nikolaus Remus, AIA, is the Advocacy Engagement Director on staff at AIA Colorado, where he manages state and local advocacy initiatives and monitors legislation that may impact architects. He is the staff liaison to the Government Affairs Committee, Architectural Advocacy Network, and the Academy for Architecture Health Knowledge Community.

A licensed architect, Remus previously spent nine years working at CTA Architects Engineers Denver office. He is a LEED AP with a BD+C specialty.

Before joining the AIA Colorado staff, he was an active AIA member, serving on and chairing the Government Affairs Committee and the Legislative Subcommittee. Remus was a guest lecturer for the Architectural Registration EXAM (ARE) ASAP program, was a mentor lead for the inaugural group mentorship program, and is an A3LC and ULI Colorado member.

Contact him at nikolaus@aiacolorado.org.

© AIA Colorado 2023