Statewide Energy Code Update Bill Passed

AIA Colorado was proud to recently support HB22-1362: Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions, an energy code modernization bill that will result in more use statewide of the 2021 and 2024 International Energy Conservation Codes (IECC) as the new baseline for energy performance for every new building in Colorado. Representative Tracey Bernett of Longmont introduced the bill and was a strong partner as one of the many stakeholder groups offering input.

The Colorado constitution largely prevents our legislature from implementing strict statewide building codes, but HB22-1362 makes some important changes to what kinds of energy code local building departments can enforce moving forward. What’s not changing is that no local jurisdiction will be forced to update its codes until ready to do so. But when they do, they will have to meet the following requirements depending on the year of their next update:

  • Before 2023, energy codes must be one of the three most recent versions of the IECC.
  • From 2023 to July 1, 2026, energy codes must be equal to or better than the 2021 IECC and include solar- and electric-ready language to be developed by a state energy code board.
  • After July 1, 2026, energy codes must be equal to or better than a future “model low energy and carbon code” developed by the state. This code will mostly likely be based on the 2024 IECC with its net-zero appendix. However, there are many restrictions in place that prevent the state from going further than the stricter of either the 2021 or 2024 IECC. Affordability and other factors may result in more flexible requirements.
  • Nothing stops a local jurisdiction from writing its own equivalent energy codes or adopting newer energy codes sooner. Even cities that are pushing the envelope on energy efficiency like Denver and Boulder have timelines putting net-zero code adoption in 2030/31.

AIA Colorado worked to ensure that an architect will be one of the 11 state energy code board members selected by the Colorado Energy Office. The Department of Local Affairs will select an additional 10 members. This will create a diverse board including both design and construction professionals and will include members with both commercial and residential experience.

Finally, the state will invest $25 million divided between grants to help install high-efficiency electric heating and appliance upgrades and to help train design/construction professionals, and building department officials/inspectors on how to implement the new energy codes.

AIA Colorado would like to thank members of both our Government Affairs Committee and Committee on the Environment for helping our staff and lobbyist effectively represent the profession at the Capitol as we worked to get HB22-1362 across the finish line. If you have any further questions, contact AIA Colorado Advocacy Engagement Director Nikolaus Remus.

Architecture Rules Update

In 2021, AIA Colorado led a bill that successfully amended the practice act to remove a requirement for architects to demonstrate retention of the material presented in continuing education courses. The goal of this change was to end the need to complete DORA structured report forms for each course taken.

Although the bill was signed by Governor Polis in April 2021, new laws typically can’t go into effect immediately. Additionally, our DORA licensing board publishes a set of rules and regulations that Colorado architects are required to follow. These rules also had to be updated to come into compliance with the change in law. Now that the rule-making process is complete, here we summarize the changes and records that architects need to keep.

First and foremost, the state of Colorado expects each licensed architect to read and understand both our practice act and our rules. The current versions are always available to download (alongside the board’s policies) from the DORA AES Board website. The full continuing education text is located in the rules under the “Renewal of Licenses” heading.

There are two exciting changes for courses taken in 2022 and on. Per our original intent, structured report forms are no longer necessary for courses offered by organizations such as the AIA. These forms will still exist for use after other types of CE activities when there is no provider to vouch for the content or attendance. The second change is that “board-approved transcripts” are an acceptable means of documenting you completed a course. You can now rely on your AIA transcript to show both your attendance and course details as an acceptable record. Separate attendance certificates are no longer required for any AIA courses you take.

What hasn’t changed? Architects are still required to complete 12 hours of continuing education in health, safety, and welfare (HSW) topics every calendar year. The AIA’s HSW criteria remain consistent with the state’s. Credits cannot be carried over to past or future years, and records must be kept for six years.

Before you rip all your old structured report forms to shreds, remember that new rules don’t apply retroactively. For your state-required CE courses taken in 2021 and earlier, AIA Colorado recommends keeping certificates, course details (available from your AIA transcript if needed), and completed structured report forms until they are older than six years.

If you have any continuing education questions, reach out to Advocacy Engagement Director Nikolaus Remus.

Meet the 2020 Legislator of the Year

Sen. Chris Hansen

The AIA Colorado Design + Honor Awards recognize people making a difference in their communities and the architecture profession more broadly. Recipients typically include design firms and individual architects but have expanded to include a number of legislators whose efforts align with AIA Colorado’s imperatives. State Senator Chris Hansen received the 2020 Legislator of the Year award, and we recently sat down to ask Senator Hansen about his achievements.

How do you feel as though you are making a positive impact on the built environment here in Colorado?

Every day, we witness the harmful effects of the changing climate that have a direct impact on tourism, jobs, and the natural beauty of our state. We must work together to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and I have and will continue to work in the Colorado Legislature to propose new and innovative solutions. One of those innovative solutions focuses on the built environment in Colorado. I am working to make a positive impact by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in the construction stages of new buildings but also in the life cycle of these buildings. These policies range from reducing the embodied carbon in construction materials to the beneficial electrification of buildings as we work to reduce emissions from electricity generation.

How did you decide which specific construction materials to target in your embodied carbon bill, and how did those decisions change or evolve over the life of the bill?

I spoke with different stakeholders, like AIA, and manufacturers to put together a list of materials that would best achieve the embodied carbon goals while also being accessible to the construction industry.

Have your priorities for legislation changed since moving from the House to the Senate?

I entered into the Colorado General Assembly focused on helping Colorado to better address the climate crisis. During my time in the House, I worked to pass several bills to accomplish this goal; however, there are many sectors that still need specific plans to meet our economy-wide goals. As I transitioned into the Senate, my legislative priorities have remained focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change effects, but serving on the Joint Budget Committee means that I also work on economic, tax and fiscal policy, social justice issues, education, and healthcare policies.

What more do you think Architects can be doing to address the climate crisis?

Architects play a critical role in the infrastructural development of our society. As architects look forward to new developments, they can integrate tactics to minimize buildings’ carbon and environmental footprint. This can include sustainable design to take advantage of passive environmental factors in the temperature regulation of buildings, selecting materials that lower the embodied carbon of a building, and electrifying the built environment. There are many innovative ways for architects to be involved in addressing the climate crisis, and I look forward to working with them to create a supportive set of policies in Colorado.

How has your relationship with AIA Colorado changed or shaped the way you view issues relating to the built environment?

My relationship with AIA Colorado has allowed me to have a network of experts and allies in the architectural field who are as passionate about increasing sustainability in Colorado as I am. AIA Colorado’s commitment to environmental stewardship has paved the way for reducing the impact of the built environment in Colorado.

What else would you like Colorado Architects to know about? Are there any big ideas or potential forthcoming bills we should begin educating ourselves about and rallying for?

I remain committed to addressing methane emissions, working to establish more comprehensive electric grid planning, and decarbonizing building materials. Getting Colorado to our net-zero goal remains on the forefront of my agenda to tackle the climate crisis with urgency. I am working on a comprehensive bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across several sectors, including a proposal to eliminate sales taxes on low or zero emission building materials.

A Conversation with a Boulder City Council Candidate

Lauren Folkerts, AIA

As part of the AIA Colorado Architectural Advocacy Network (AAN), committee members help to expand our advocacy efforts across the state and in local communities. AAN Committee Chair Erin Braunstein, AIA, recently sat down with Boulder City Council candidate Lauren Folkerts, AIA, to discuss her vision for Boulder, the path to architecture, and how you, too, can get involved.

Lauren Folkerts, AIA, is one of us. She’s an AIA Colorado member, an architect, and a passionate Coloradan. There’s one big difference, however. She’s running for Boulder City Council.

Folkerts’ campaign is motivated by the city’s affordable housing crisis. “What we say we want as a community is not aligning with the policies that Boulder has in place,” she said. “There are significant mismatches.”  

Now in her third year of chairing Boulder’s Design Advisory Board (with a term limited to 5 years), she has seen the unintended consequences of the existing regulatory language. Should Folkerts be elected to Boulder City Council on November 2, her knowledge of designations within zoning definitions, use codes, and how envelopes are dictated will be invaluable. 

 

How She Got Here

Graduating in 2010 from University of Oregon, Eugene, with a Bachelor of Architecture, Folkerts now works at HMH Architecture + Interiors specializing in sustainable design.  

We asked Folkerts, “Why architecture?” People around her as a child would suggest architecture as a career path given her strengths in math and art. While her childhood girlfriends would imagine marrying their crushes, she would design houses for the imaginary newlyweds. Folkerts grew up outside of Seattle, Washington, and at age 9, she visited the University of Oregon with her mom. During the tour, she questioned the guide “Do you have a good architecture program?” Years later, she asked herself what would make a meaningful impact and lead to doing good. University of Oregon’s strong sustainability program was a natural fit. And then came Boulder.

“Moving to Boulder and working in architecture, I expected something more from a sustainable city,” said Folkerts. “But the way the regulations are set up, while it’s good in some aspects for sustainable design, it restrict us from important options. A big part of why I decided to run for City Council was to change some of these rules. It’s time to make changes and incentivize the kind of sustainable design you would expect from a city with a reputation like Boulder.”

Creating Change

To help shepherd that change, Folkerts’ platform is based on solutions to help our community’s affordable housing crisis along with strategies to address the climate crisis.

She also believes that that Boulder needs to provide day-treatment services, and she would like for the city to implement more harm-reduction strategies regarding drug use. With current enforcement of the camping ban, she is concerned the city is causing additional harm. Many people fall in-between, and the housing fulfillment process is not fast enough for them. She cites statistics indicating that the number of days without housing increases one’s risk of not finding stable housing again. According to Folkerts, criminalizing people makes it harder to qualify for housing, which makes the problem more intractable.

There is a ballot initiative endorsed by many underrepresented groups titled, “Bedrooms are for People,” which addresses affordability of housing. The proposed ordinance modification would adjust the occupancy figures in housing. Folkerts supports that initiative and in expanding transportation options to connect where people live. Increasing density in some zoning districts, she says, is part of the affordable housing solution.

How We Can Help

We discussed how architects may make a difference in their communities and get involved. She noted that architects are trained in design thinking, trained to look for opportunities and to solve problems. Architects have information how sustainable improvements are essential to both the affordable housing and climate crisis. Those facts are incredibly useful for policymakers to hear. The education we can offer to shape government policy is under appreciated, especially when it so well aligned with voter’s wishes. The council has an existing work plan to make meaningful progress; the use code is due to be updated. Folkerts noted making significant changes in Boulder depends on the synergy with nine people on council.

There are huge opportunities to make sustainable gains for buildings and transportation—opportunities are the forces at play. At work, one project at a time, we do the right thing for our clients and make these sustainable choices. Architects have skills and understanding to address issues at large in a larger context and not be afraid of public advocacy involvement. Our time is limited. We need support from our firm leaders to be involved with these initiatives. We need to be involved and shape our communities and educate where we can. By sharing what we know regarding embodied energy versus operational energy, we can increase the level of understanding. Both the general public and policy holders do not have strong understandings about these issues.

Why should firms encourage community involvement? “Because it’s a good way to give employees experience in leadership and engage the community at large, while furthering goals among the architecture profession,” said Folkerts. “So you get two really big boosts from that. It’s about educational opportunities within the firm, but also leadership within the community. Whenever you have chances like that, it takes investment from the firm, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.”

What’s Next

Folkerts has earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, Boulder Weekly, and the Boulder Labor council. She has also received endorsement from current Boulder City Council Members Aaron Brocker, Junie Joseph, and Rachel Friend. When asked her where she imagines she will be in 15 years, Folkerts acknowledged she is focusing between now and November 3—after the election of course.

As we left our meeting, “Boulder Strong” signs were omnipresent. It’s a good reminder that the strength of any community is precious and worth advocating for—and to get out there and vote.

Meet the 2020 Outstanding New Legislator

Rep. Cathy Kipp

As part of the Design + Honor Awards, AIA Colorado has introduced legislative awards to honor and recognize legislators whose work aligns with our imperatives. Among the recipients are Representative Cathy Kipp, who was named 2020 Outstanding New Legislator. She recently sat down with AIA Colorado to discuss climate change and how architects can help further efforts. Read on to learn more from the conversation.

How are you making a positive difference in the built environment in Colorado?

I’m really proud of the work we have been able to accomplish by teaming up with great groups like AIA Colorado to make a difference here in Colorado. I’ve been fortunate during my three sessions in the Colorado legislature to pass legislation to help reduce carbon emissions, which not only helps to mitigate climate change, but also gives people better places in which they live, work, and enjoy.

During 2019, my first year in the legislature, we were able to pass legislation to ensure building codes in Colorado comply with one of the three most recent versions of IECC (International Energy Conservation Code). The IECC is updated every three years, so passing legislation that has continuous improvement built-in, is a big win for improving building codes and energy efficiency now and into the future. In 2019, we also passed a bill to improve appliance energy efficiency standards, which among other things, kept light bulb efficiency standards in place when they were rolled back for a time nationally.

For the past two years, we’ve been working on the building benchmarking and performance bill, which will improve the energy efficiency of large commercial buildings in Colorado. This bill builds on benchmarking programs already in place in Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder, and will ensure energy performance of these buildings improves over time.

How did you become interested in pushing the issue of using more current energy building codes?

One of the people I ran against when I was elected to the Colorado House reached out to me after the election and asked to work with me on legislation to address climate change. I came from the world of education and didn’t have much experience with environmental issues, so I gladly accepted her partnership and her expertise. We have been working on bills together ever since and have become good friends.

How do you see this issue changing in the future?

We need to continue to make progress in the areas of energy efficiency, clean energy, and reducing carbon emissions. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly obvious here on planet Earth. Let’s hope that, as a species, we choose saving the planet at the cost of a little inconvenience.

What do you think is the most impactful aspect of the building energy benchmarking/performance bill from the 2021 session?

At least 15 percent of Colorado’s carbon emissions comes from the large commercial buildings the benchmarking/performance bill addresses. This bill means we will be helping building owners to save both energy and money while helping to achieve Colorado’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

How has your relationship with AIA Colorado shaped the way you view some of these issues?

Part of doing my job well is making sure I listen to people who have expertise in all the areas touched by the legislation I run. It is important to me to be able to rely on the architects at AIA Colorado for their valuable perspectives and advice. Thank you, AIA Colorado, for your involvement in crafting this meaningful legislation!

What can architects do to further your efforts?

I hope you will all stay engaged and reach out to share your ideas and advice. You make the laws we pass better.

Is there anything you want to add that I should have asked that you’d like for architects to know?

Thank you for recognizing the challenges Colorado has and for being part of the solution. There is a lot I don’t know. I truly appreciate the architects reaching out to engage and make sure I learn what I need to know before we pass legislation. It’s much easier to solve potential problems than actual problems.

Meet the 2021 Outstanding New Legislator

Rep. Tracey Bernett

House Representative Tracey Bernett (District 12) is the esteemed recipient of the AIA Colorado 2021 Outstanding New Legislator Award. Representative Bernett was an instrumental force behind the landmark HB21-1303: Global Warming Potential For Public Project Materials embodied carbon bill, known as the “Buy Clean Colorado Act,” signed into law on July 6. The bill requires the Office of the State Architect and the Department of Transportation to establish policies to limit acceptable Global Warming Potential for asphalt, cement, concrete, steel, glass, and wood on state-funded building and transportation projects.

She sat down with AIA Colorado to discuss her motivations, the influence architects have had on her perspective, and her plans to improve Colorado for future generations.

What inspired you to seek office and how will the office allow you to make a positive difference in the built environment in Colorado?

I want to make the world a better place! My dad was an engineer, and he instilled in me the values of honesty, integrity, and the pursuit of excellence. My mother was a lifelong activist for environmental causes and inspired my brothers and me to make the world a better place. My core passions are the environment, education, and equity. I am also a world-class runner, No. 1 in my age group for indoor mile, with asthma. I’ve completed 36 marathons. I have to check air quality when other runners just look at the weather. I know that we are in a climate crisis that is also a health crisis.

I worked as a Research and Policy Analyst for environmental legislation with Mike Foote and Faith Winter. My first report was 86 pages on the Health Effects of Climate Change in Colorado. I attended a seminar on new energy and became interested in buildings as the hardest nut to crack. Buildings are the most difficult to transition to the new economy, and I wanted to start on the hardest problem first.

How has your experience as a civil engineer influenced your values and priorities in the state legislature?

I am not afraid to ask technical questions. My sweet spot is technology and business, specifically how technology impacts the business world. I went to Cornell for Engineering and Harvard for an MBA. I worked on the design of nuclear engineering plants, in the aerospace defense industry on international development projects, and was an entrepreneur as a computer industry analyst consultant before being elected to the legislature. I connect technical topics to real impacts that people care about.

Let me tell you a story. It was 10 p.m., Saturday night on the house floor, we were talking about concrete. There I was, talking about concrete in the middle of the night, thinking to myself, “Who the heck cares about concrete?” Let me tell you why you should care. Concrete generates 14 percent of the total greenhouse gas in world. Cement, if it was a country, would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. If we address concrete, we can decarbonize, greenhouse gas is reduced, and pollution is reduced because we can use recycled content. Colorado has some of the greenest steel and concrete suppliers in country, so it’s good for our economy, too.

What motivated you to add CDOT projects into the “Buy Clean” embodied carbon bill? Do you see potential for the bill to expand in the future?

The Buy Clean Colorado Act is only the second Buy Clean bill passed in the U.S. and is unique in its scope. Colorado’s bill not only covers both buildings and transportation, but also is the most comprehensive in terms of materials. It was proposed in 2020 but didn’t pass. I took it in 2021 and included the State Architect and CDOT. I heard from the AIA, suppliers, and manufacturers that so much asphalt, steel, and concrete are used in transportation projects. Transportation projects are challenging. There was a lot of education in transportation stakeholder discussions. They need more latitude to understand life-cycle costs even per mile between asphalt and concrete. I partnered with the Carbon Leadership Forum to demonstrate the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool, worked with the Asphalt Association to share that Arizona has systems that use half of the emissions of Colorado, and that it would apply here. There will be tweaks; we need to give people time to learn.

What are your other priorities for legislative action regarding the climate crisis in Colorado?

My priorities are to continue to work on decarbonization and buildings. I worked with Senator Chris Hansen on HB21-1238: Public Utilities Commission Modernize Gas Utility Demand-side Management Standards, known as “The Clean Heat Plan,” a gas-demand, side management rebate from utility companies for using more efficient gas furnace and appliances. This will encourage the use of more energy-efficient items, like moving to heat pumps, and adds a social cost to carbon dioxide and methane generation. This is a first-in-nation plan and could reduce greenhouse gas by 22 percent by 2030. I want to build performance and impact at on a large scale as well as at the individual building scale.

How can AIA members help in those efforts?

Send Ideas! I’m a big picture thinker that is interested in sustainable infrastructure, the grid, resilience, decarbonizaton, and how to transition from fossil fuels. There is more work to be done in the future and I am excited to help.

Has your daughter’s degree in architecture or your relationship with AIA Colorado reshaped your perspective on certain topics?

At Cornell, I looked into double-majoring in Architecture but it would have taken forever—I am a frustrated Architect! I am living vicariously through my daughter, who graduated with an M.Arch from Cornell. She is interested in sustainability beyond LEED; she has worked with Bill Browning (founding member of USGBC LEED) at the Terrapin Bright Green Center. She has done research for a program to make early design decisions that optimize energy and embodied carbon. Her thesis is on a negative carbon development in Indonesia. She is a strong influence.

Is there anything else you’d like AIA members to know?

Climate change is a health crisis, we need to slow it down, increase resilience, and fight for our children and grandchildren. Architects get it, but there is a lot of education to be done.

For more information on Representative Tracey Bernett’s perspectives, see her op-ed on why we should care about embodied carbon and the social impacts of carbon dioxide and methane. For more information on Representative Tracey Bernett’s experience and support of the “Buy Clean Act,” see her op-ed on HB21-1303. Representative Bernett will also be a panelist at New York Climate Week on September 21 and speaking at the Carbon Leadership Forum Policy Webinar on Oct 8.

2021 Legislative Session Summary

Another legislative session has come to a close. This was an exciting year for AIA Colorado’s advocacy efforts with the passage of HB21-1147: Simplify Architects Continuing Education Requirement. Read on for highlights from the 2021 session, then join members of our Government Affairs Committee at noon on June 30 for a deeper dive on these and other 2021 bills that affect the architecture profession.

Thanks to all the members of our Government Affairs Committee and especially those on the legislative subcommittee. Their expertise and commitment are key to effective advocacy efforts.

HB21-1147: Simplify Architects Continuing Education Requirement

AIA Colorado drafted an update to our practice act to remove the language stating we must demonstrate retention of the information presented in continuing education courses. This means that soon we will no longer have to keep DORA forms or quiz scores for our CE records.

Don’t stop filling out those DORA forms out yet though! This bill won’t go into effect until September and the state AES Board must update its rules this summer, as well. We’ll share more details as soon as the draft rules and schedule are released.

HB21-1303: Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials

The legislature recognizes that reducing embodied carbon of building materials is critical to climate action. We’re only just beginning to have this data available though. The goal of the bill is for more material suppliers to develop environmental produce declarations (EPDs) for their products and to encourage the selection of suppliers whose manufacturing and transportation embodied carbon levels are below national averages.

To achieve this goal, future state-owned building design/construction projects will set greenhouse gas limits for certain building materials (asphalt, concrete, glass, structural steel, wood structural elements). We expect to see these limits go into effect in 2024 after the Office of the State Architect develops policy details.

HB21-1286: Energy Performance for Buildings

With building sector operations being responsible for more than a quarter of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, the legislature wants existing buildings to improve energy efficiency. This bill tackles problem head-on with two requirements for most buildings over 50,000 square feet (though we expect this to expand in the future).

First, these buildings must submit annual energy benchmarking reports to the state using the Energy Star system. If this sounds familiar, it’s based on similar requirements already in effect in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins.

Second—and this is truly a paradigm shift for the building sector—every five years, the same buildings will have to submit performance reports. Standards will be developed later this year by a task force, which will include an architect member. Buildings below the performance threshold will have to make at least incremental energy improvements every five years until they are in full compliance with the standards. We’ll have more details on what this means for architects when the standards rule-making process begins.

Becoming a Citizen Architect: Through the Member's Lens of Testifying to the Colorado State Legislature 

Last month, six Colorado architects testified to the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. They spoke in support of House Bill 21-1147: Simplifying Architects Continuing Education Requirement to eliminate the unnecessary continuing education provision requiring proof of retention documentation. Colorado has been the only state with this provision in its architects’ practice act and is atypical among professions regulated by the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). This is a necessary step toward updating our DORA board’s rules to remove the requirement to maintain forms or quiz results from continuing education courses.

To learn more about their experiences of advocating and creating change in the profession, we caught up with AIA members T J Carvis, AIA; Erin Braunstein, AIA; and Amy Graves, AIA. Below, they share their experience as citizen architects testifying in support of the bill.

AIA Colorado: What were your personal and professional motivations for testifying in support of the bill?

Amy Graves: My motivation for testifying was mainly professional. I previously lived in Illinois, which did not have this extra requirement to document that I retained the material. Here in Colorado, it is onerous to have to complete this documentation and save it just in case I am audited. It is extra paperwork that isn’t necessary.

T J Carvis: My goal in testifying was to promote this bill that would bring clarity to the DORA requirements without lessening the importance of continuing education. I also thought it would be a great life experience!

Erin Braunstein: I appreciate the efforts AIA Colorado has taken to help craft and propose this bill. My representative from House District 34 serves on the committee that was reviewing the bill that day [Business Affairs and Labor].

AIA Colorado: Has the experience changed your view of how architects can advocate for their interests at the state level?

TC: I’ve been active with the AIA’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) for a few years, but I had not testified until this bill. I personally believe that architects should strive to have a bigger voice in the law-making process. We have an opportunity to shape the law in Colorado by providing valuable input to legislators. When aligned with the AIA’s mission, the input may allow architects to more effectively meet the challenges we face as a profession and as a society.

EB: It has underscored for me how important it is for legislators to hear from their constituency as they are reviewing legislation in committee. This was a simple statement of my point of view.

AG: Being somewhat aware of what the GAC does has provided me with the insight on how architects can be influential.

AIA Colorado: What was the “day-of” experience like for you? What happened during the proceedings and how did you feel?

EB: The virtual connection was straightforward, and we had a window of when the agenda would turn to our topic. After I closed my statement, Representative Mullica expressed kind words of thanks. I’m glad I took the small amount of time to participate while the bill was in committee and gaining momentum to be passed in the house.

AG: Nikolaus Remus [AIA Colorado Advocacy Engagement Director] provided the witnesses testifying with the wording of the bill itself and the history behind it. He also suggested making it personal. I wrote out what I wanted to say and how the bill relates to me personally.

TC: Aside from the typical concerns that can arise from the format of a remote meeting, it was enjoyable! I testified in the middle-to-end of the group. I was surprised that even though as a group we did not review our testimony together, everyone spoke of different reasons that they were in support of the legislation.

AIA Colorado: Would you consider testifying in the future?

AG: Yes, I would testify again, and I have been asked to testify in front of the Senate Business Committee for the same bill. I encourage my fellow architects to get involved in something outside of architecture whether it is testifying at the State Capitol or joining your neighborhood group—you never know what kind of influence you can have.

EB: Yes. It felt empowering to speak, be heard, and feel my testimony helped the bill move forward.

TC: Absolutely! Testifying for, or against, a bill is one of the privileges of living in a democracy. It was gratifying to participate.

Witness testimony is a powerful way to directly influence legislation and advance the interests of our profession. Your engagement and advocacy do matter—as proof, House Bill 21-1147 passed both chambers with no objections. The bill awaits the signature of Governor Jared Polis.

Civic Activism and the Greater Good

AIA Colorado’s Bill to Streamline Continuing Education Moves to House Vote

Newly proposed legislation aims to ease continuing education reporting requirements for Colorado architects.

Architects who have completed their Colorado continuing education requirements will be familiar with the state’s rules regarding documentation. Specific language in the Architects Section of the Practice Act directs the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to adopt rules establishing regulations for continuing education and requiring an architect to demonstrate retention of the material presented in a continuing education course. That particular point about demonstrating retention of the material has proven especially onerous for architects throughout the state. While it might sound quite reasonable at first blush, the requirement actually ends up serving no meaningful purpose for the public or the profession.

Architects either pass a test provided by the continuing education course presenter and retain a copy for their records, or they use a DORA Structured Report form to write up a few paragraphs about the course that they then retain for their records. Nothing is done with this paperwork unless an architect is audited, and it serves no other meaningful purpose. In other words, it’s unnecessary bureaucracy. Moreover, it has made regulatory compliance uniquely burdensome for architects. The requirement to demonstrate course material retention is not typical among other licensed professions in Colorado, nor is it common for architects in other states either.

In 2008, AIA Colorado worked with state legislators to introduce SB08-029: Continuing Education Architects, which established continuing education requirements for architects as licensed professionals charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This was part of an AIA push to promote nationwide continuing education standards, which now exist in 47 of the 54 jurisdictions that license architects. In the final version of SB08-029, however, DORA successfully lobbied to include language requiring architects to maintain “professional competency” and prove they retained the knowledge presented in continuing education courses. As there is no legal standard regarding “professional competency,” that language was removed two years later in HB10-1148 Architect License Renew Professional Competency.

In 2020, as the DORA Architects/Engineers/Land Surveyors (AES) Board updated its rules, AIA Colorado formally recommended that the material retention requirement be simplified. The AES Board determined the current arrangement was indeed the best solution they could develop to comply with the law as written. As a result, AIA Colorado has been working with lawmakers to introduce legislation removing the material retention requirement altogether, allowing the DORA AES Board to simplify their continuing education rules. Removing this language promotes consistency across professions and reduces unnecessary regulatory requirements.

On March 3, 2021, HB21-1147: Simplify Architects Continuing Education Requirement was introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives and referred to the Business Affairs and Labor Committee for consideration. The bill has received bipartisan support from legislators interested in reducing unnecessary bureaucracy. Primary sponsors of the bill include Rep. Donald Valdez, Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, Sen. Chris Hansen, and Sen. Cleave Simpson, as well as 16 additional co-sponsors.

On March 17, 2021, our bill passed 13-0 in the house business committee and will move on to a full house vote. Thanks to the following members for testifying in support of this bill: Erin Braunstein, AIA; T J Carvis, AIA; Amy Graves, AIA; Chris Green, AIA; President Rachael Johnson, AIA; and Nikolaus Remus, AIA, Advocacy Engagement Director.

For questions about this initiative, contact Remus at nikolaus@aiacolorado.org.

© AIA Colorado 2022