To most, a room full of architects carrying on about climate policy on a cold Monday in January hardly feels like a great evening. It’s hard enough to get a few architects together after work for happy hour, let alone to talk state politics. But the crowd turned out to hear Senator Chris Hansen (District 31) lay out recent policy wins in the fight against the climate crisis and espouse on his vision for how to progress those wins into the future.
Those that are familiar with AIA Colorado’s involvement with the state legislature will be familiar with Senator Hansen. He has met with the Government Affairs Committee and numerous AIA members on a variety of occasions, notably on issues pertaining to embodied carbon in building materials and other bills related to the built environment and changing climate. Senator Hansen has worked hand in hand with AIA Colorado on legislation and consistently seeks input and support from members. In short, the relationship that the architecture community has with Senator Hansen is one that we typically strive for because he gives us a welcoming and informed voice in the state capital.
As Senator Hansen moved through his presentation, he covered some recent policy wins in Colorado, most notably SB21-072 (modernizing the state electric grid) and SB23-016 (statewide greenhouse gas reduction). These were significant steps forward in combatting the climate crisis and were led by Senator Hansen with support from AIA Colorado, among others. As he continued, Senator Hansen covered a broad range of topics, from how Colorado and other western states can work together to create a resilient electric grid based on renewable energy, to strategies that ensure just transitions for communities built around coal plants that are being phased out. He also touched on the need to revise building codes to remove parking minimum mandates in dense areas in which it makes sense and how that can be supported through a more robust and reliable transit network. The room notably perked up at this, as nearly all architects can relate to the struggle to get just a few more parking spots accommodated on a tight deadline.
As the evening came to a close, those in the room were reminded that Senator Hansen is also among the seventeen candidates currently vying to become the next mayor of Denver. And while his past accomplishments, education (from Kansas State to MIT to Oxford), and current work in the state legislature have more than adequately prepared him for the job, it remains an uphill battle with so many candidates involved. Regardless of what happens with the mayoral race and where your personal vote gets cast, it’s hard to not root for someone like Senator Hansen with his firm grasp on complex subjects, ease within a room, and unchecked optimism for the future. However this election turns out, the architecture community will continue to have a robust political ally, whether that ally works from the east or west side of Civic Center Park.
— Drew Allen, AIA, is project architect at AECOM. He serves on the AIA Colorado Editorial Committee, Government Affairs Committee, and is a Denver Local Advisor.