The American Institute of Architects recently announced its “punch list” for Congress that, if completed, will ignite the construction economy by spurring much-needed improvements in energy efficiency, infrastructure and resiliency and create jobs for small businesses.
“America needs to create more jobs, strengthen communities and find help for millions of young people to succeed in the new economy,” said Robert Ivy, CEO of the AIA. “So we’ve created a punch list—a term that enumerates unfinished items in a construction contract.
“The AIA’s Congressional punch list will help Congress satisfy its implicit contract with the American people to spur growth and create jobs,” Ivy said. “Our legislative agenda reflects the interests of our members, which not so coincidentally reflects the priorities of the American people.”
The AIA’s punch list for Congress includes:
1. Re-enact Expired Energy-Efficiency Tax Incentives
Congress left town in December without extending several important tax incentives that expired on New Year’s Day. Of most significance to the design and construction industry is the expiration of a tax break enacted in 2005 for energy-efficient commercial buildings. The 179D deduction allowed building owners to claim a tax deduction of $1.80 per sq ft of building area to install systems that reduce the total energy and power costs by 50% or more compared with a reference building. As Congress continues to debate long-term tax reform, it can boost the economy and create jobs today by reinstating this deduction.
2. Help Businesses by Reforming Government Procurement Rules
More than 97% of architecture firms employ 50 or fewer people; every project they design leads to job opportunities for millions of construction workers. But too many laws and regulations block innovative solutions that maximize the government’s return on its investment. Congress must reform procurement rules so that architects and designers can deliver projects that are safe, productive and sustainable.
In 2014 the AIA is aggressively pushing for passage of the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013 (H.R. 2750), introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in July. It would reform the design-build contracting process so that more design and architectural firms can bid on federal contracts without fear of losing money in the process.
3. Invest in the Next Generation of Design Leaders
Millions of young people aspire to help their communities build a better future, but a lack of opportunity and the crushing cost of education hold them back. As a result, the design and construction industry faces a severe shortage of talent, at exactly the moment it needs to start rebuilding for the future. The AIA urges Congress to pass the proposed National Design Services Act (NDSA), which will give architecture students the relief from crushing student loan debt as that granted young lawyers, doctors and others—in return for pro bono community service.
4. Invest in Infrastructure
Just as the Capitol dome, the symbol of American democracy, is undergoing a multi-year renovation, so too must our nation’s infrastructure. Congress should pass a multi-year transportation reauthorization, which would allow for long-term planning that not only repairs roads and bridges but helps communities prosper; and enact a National Infrastructure Bank to finance the design, construction and repair of buildings and other vital infrastructure. Such moves would help free up capital for private-sector building projects, and new ways to invest in public sector buildings, providing jobs in the short term and a more competitive economy in the long run.
5. Pass a Common-Sense Energy Efficiency Bill
Last session, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved a bipartisan bill, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 that would encourage families, businesses and the government to save energy. The Senate should take up the legislation, sponsored by Ohio Republican Rob Portman and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, in 2014, and oppose efforts by the fossil fuel industry to repeal existing policies that save energy.
6. Help Communities Weather Natural Disasters
Each year, natural disasters kill tens of thousands of people worldwide and inflict billions of dollars in damage. Many parts of the United States are still recovering from tornadoes and hurricanes like Superstorm Sandy. Congress can help communities fortify themselves from such disasters by passing the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, introduced by New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Florida Republican Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart, which encourages states to voluntarily adopt and enforce nationally recognized model building codes.