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.

About the Author

Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin, Assoc. AIA, is an Architectural Designer at SAR+. He is a member of the AIA Colorado Editorial Committee and Government Affairs Committee.

© AIA Colorado 2021