Advocacy Update: Architecture is Infrastructure

By Michael R. Davis FAIA posted 02-19-2021 09:58 AM


The AIA’s public statement “Where we stand: Buildings are infrastructure” was published in September 2017. Support for a national infrastructure re-investment plan that would include “vertical infrastructure” has been on AIA COTE Advocacy’s radar as well. Now, in 2021, with the Biden/Harris Administration being very public about wanting a “Build Back Better” infrastructure package this summer, infrastructure is at the very top of the AIA’s 2021 government advocacy list.


This prioritization is justified, too. Judging by the text of last year’s failed Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), many Members of Congress do not yet think of buildings as infrastructure. This Act, reported out by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, passed by the full House of Representatives but not taken up by the Senate, was deep on proposals to fund electric vehicles and public transportation, but it was primarily about surface transportation: horizontal infrastructure. The AIA intends to change that thinking.


To do so – and to get “ahead” of any formal infrastructure proposal – the AIA is planning a national awareness-raising campaign. Starting with a virtual Grassroots Capitol Hill Day on February 16, the AIA is preparing talking points for all AIA members to bring to their elected federal legislators. The “ask” is for $300 billion to be invested over five years, prioritizing public building renovations that meet the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code’s Zero Code Renewable Energy Appendix (“ZCREA”) and any infrastructure construction that optimizes embodied carbon in accordance with the “Carbon Smart Materials Palette.”    


Since several different Committees and federal agencies could be involved in infrastructure legislation, getting this message to all Members of Congress is important. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will surely take the lead, but the House Energy and Commerce, Senate Environment and Public Works, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources committees could also have jurisdiction over aspects of a legislative package. AIA members are specifically encouraged to contact their elected representatives who serve on any of those committees. The Administration’s Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments may have a role in it as well, especially as federally funded affordable housing certainly merits inclusion.


Framing the topic this way will help Members of Congress to understand how buildings – and architects – can help address the urgent crisis of climate change and position the AIA to participate in the formation of progressive climate action policy going forward.