In recent, years, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has stepped up its advocacy efforts in Washington on behalf of the design profession. With Barack Obama taking office in January, the association is anticipating more legislative victories in the next four years, from an administration that appears to have architects’ best interests at heart, says Andrew Goldberg, the AIA’s chief lobbyist.
Though details are lacking, the general themes that Obama has expressed are promising, Goldberg says. “This really could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help the built environment,” he says.
In regards to infrastructure, highways need to be upgraded, to avoid disasters like the 2007 collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis. But the AIA also hopes that federal money will support the creation of alternative transportation networks, to “get some cars off the roads,” Goldberg says. To this end, new bus stations, for example, could present opportunities for architects.
Commissions might also emerge from the school-construction aspect of Obama’s plan. Architects will be needed to not only repair antiquated buildings, Goldberg says, but also to create new classrooms to relieve overcrowding.
As for making federal offices more energy-efficient, the AIA might urge President Obama to go beyond the carbon-emission guidelines spelled out in the recent energy bill, passed by Congress in 2007, to encompass existing buildings and not just new ones, Goldberg says. Moreover, the AIA feels the new administration should include a high-level advisor on green buildings.
Also a priority: Making sure the president follows through on his campaign pledge to form an Office of Urban Policy. Its planners could tackle design-based problems that plague some low-income city neighborhoods, such as flooding from storm-water runoff. Goldberg is optimistic that the office will be created, given Obama’s background. “There’s a growing recognition that cities are increasingly the drivers of our economy and culture,” he says, “and a former community organizer should know that.”
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