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.

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.

Meet the Awards Committee Chair

Awards Committee Chair

Marisol Foreman

As we embark on the 2021 Design + Honor Awards virtual celebration (September 14), we wanted to know more about what goes into the annual program, what it’s like to serve on the committee, and what we can expect in future years from the program. To learn more, we caught up with Chair Marisol Foreman, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C.

Foreman is a Project Architect at Rowland+Broughton and shares with us here everything about the AIA Colorado Design + Honor Awards. Read on for more and to meet Marisol.

How did you come to chair the Awards Committee?

This is my third year on the committee. My first year, I introduced the idea of introducing sustainability aspects onto the awards, and my second year, we rolled it out based on ideas from chapters nationwide. The committee selected the Design Excellence Common App, which is being implemented in local chapters around the country. Renee Azerbegi [President of Ambient Energy] and I worked with the creators to adapt it to Colorado. My perseverance led me to be invited to serve as the Vice Chair my second year, which led to my becoming the Chair.

What drew you to this group initially?

I moved to Denver from Seattle, and back when I was in graduate school at the University of Washington, the Chair of my thesis, Christopher Meek, was an influence in deploying the Seattle chapter’s efforts to collect energy efficiency information for each project. When I moved to Colorado, I wanted to get involved with the local AIA Chapter, and I thought the Awards Committee would be a great chance to bring what I had experienced to Denver.

How has this committee grown or changed since you initially got involved?

Each year, we’ve reviewed comments from firms and individuals who have applied for design awards, and tried to incorporate that feedback into the categories and submission requirements. We introduced a sustainability component to the awards submittals and are looking both to collect data on all projects and set standards for awards consideration. We’re trying to streamline it more each year while staying current with trends across the country.

What are some of the accomplishments this year you are most proud of?

This year, we focused on how to make the awards as clear as possible. Previously, the awards were given by region, which is a holdover from before AIA Colorado merged with local chapters. The qualifying sequence wasn’t very clear—you had to qualify for regional before receiving a statewide award, which made it appear that a few firms were receiving multiple awards. This year we removed the middle step and are awarding three levels of awards for statewide recognition.

What do you think is the biggest contribution that this committee brings to the Colorado architecture community?

The AIA Design + Honor Awards are our chance to celebrate what we do. We put so much effort into creating beautiful, equitable, sustainable designs, and this is a great chance to highlight all the great work that Colorado does.

One of AIA Colorado’s imperatives is justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.). How have you woven this into your committee?

J.E.D.I. has been a significant focus for us. This year, we involved members of the J.E.D.I. committee in our meetings and asked for feedback on our submittal instructions. We also asked for ideas on project and individual awards to celebrate architects and projects who have had a positive impact in our community. With our work with the J.E.D.I. Committee, we also began collecting demographic information on the firms submitting awards to see if there’s an area we can improve on our outreach, as well as making the barriers for submitting awards less of a hurdle.

Another imperative of AIA Colorado is environmental stewardship. How has your committee changed course to focus on these priorities?

We’ve included one of the top sustainability consultants into our committee, Renee Azerbegi, President of Ambient Energy. Having a non-architect on our committee gave us some technical insight into the sustainability questions we were asking, how to make the questions more specific to Colorado, and a resource for applicants as they were filling out the submittal information. We required each project to choose three of the 10 Framework for Design Excellence measures.

As AIA Colorado strives to create a culture of belonging, what steps have you taken to reach beyond Denver?

Over the last two years, as everyone has become more agile and able to meet virtually, we’ve been able to include more committee members across Colorado. And the restructuring of the regional awards allowed projects to be recognized across Colorado, not just in the region where the firm was based. Last year, because of the pandemic, we adapted our typical in-person awards to a socially distanced event and produced an awards film that was available online after the event. This allowed us to reach members from across Colorado and its success bolstered us to create an online video of the awards again this year.

What are some immediate and long-term plans we can hope to see from the committee?

Both the committee and staff had to pivot suddenly with the ongoing pandemic to shift to a virtual program this year, when we had hoped and planned to return to in-person events. This has worked out to our advantage this year and last, by allowing AIA members across Colorado to participate and view the awards regardless of location. We’re working on 5-year plans for awards for both sustainability and inclusivity, and we will continue working with the committee to discover what those look like.

What one thing do you wish the membership and profession at large knew about this topic or what your committee is doing?

Short-term, register for the event! We are excited to celebrate our award winners and invite you to join us as we announce them virtually on September 14. Long term, every year we start the year by reviewing the feedback that all the members have provided. We appreciate the feedback and encourage people to reach out and let us know about their experience with the awards and the submittal process, hurdles, and successes.

Design + Honor Awards: A Peek at the Process

And the Winners Are…

2020 Award of Excellence Recipients Panel Presentation

Architect and Young Architect of the Year Panel Discussion

2020 AIA Design and Honor Awards

Virtual Connect: AIA Colorado 2020 Award Information Session

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