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Policy Pulse: AIA Urges Policymakers to Keep Carbon Neutral Goals

In advance of Earth Day on 04.22.17, the AIA issued eight principles governing how architects can mitigate climate change and urged the federal government to protect policies designed to conserve energy and reduce carbon in the built environment.

The principles assert the vital role architects play in combating climate change, describing how architecture and design can mitigate climate impact while reducing operating costs for building owners. AIA called on Congress and the Trump administration to keep and expand incentives that are already producing major advances in energy-efficient design and cutting the carbon footprint of buildings.

Nationally, almost 40% of all energy is consumed by buildings, which produce carbon through heating, cooling and lighting, and through their construction. In New York City, buildings are the biggest source of emissions and consumption, accounting for 73% of energy consumed. Because buildings are the major producers of carbon, climate change poses both major obstacles and opportunities for the profession.

The eight principles reinforce AIA’s strong national position on how energy-conscious planning and appropriate building design can help meet global climate challenges. The principles also focus on the business case for meeting these challenges and the growing market for sustainable buildings, citing studies that show sustainable and energy-efficient buildings and homes enhance the value of real estate assets, leading to more property tax revenue for local governments.

From 2011-2014, the green construction market generated more than $167 billion in GDP, supported over 2.1 million jobs and provided $148 billion in wages. Employers from roughly 165,000 US companies doing energy efficiency work expect employment to grow 13% over the coming year, adding 245,000 more jobs.

The principles also emphasize the role of cities in addressing climate change. Three-quarters of global carbon emissions come from the 2% of the Earth’s land surface occupied by urban communities. While architects can drive greater efficiency and performance from urban areas, the AIA urged local governments and urban design financiers to work as true partners in the climate change battle. To read the principles and learn more, continue here.

New York State Budget

  • On 04.07.17, state legislators and Governor Cuomo reached an agreement on a FY 18 State budget. The $153-billion deal came seven days after the 04.01.17 expiration of the current budget—and four days after a hasty budget extension—marking the first time since 2010 that lawmakers have missed the deadline. Contentious policy reforms held up the process.
  • The final State budget agreement rejected the governor’s proposal to expand design-build authority to all State agencies, public authorities, and counties outside of New York City as part of the renewal of the Infrastructure Investment Act. Current design-build authority granted to the New York State Thruway Authority, Department of Transportation, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Department of Environmental Conservation and the Bridge Authority was extended for a period of four years.
  • The budget restores the 421-a tax incentive for development. The program’s update includes the creation of “enhanced affordability areas” in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, whereby a full property tax abatement of 35 years will be granted for new residential projects with 300 units or more. The portion of affordable units must remain affordable for a period of forty years.
  • The State budget agreement also includes the creation of the new “Excelsior Scholarship Program,” aimed at covering the full cost of tuition for SUNY and CUNY two-and four-year colleges. The new program will be phased in over the course of three years, beginning in the fall of 2017. Eligibility for the program is based on household income, status as a full-time student, GPA, and a post-graduation residency requirement.
  • Funding allotments in the final State budget agreement include $2.5 billion in funding to create or preserve 100,000 affordable and 6,000 supportive housing units; $3 billion in educational building aid; $150 million to support the transformation of high-needs schools into community hubs; $890 million for SUNY capital projects; $401 million for CUNY capital projects; $37 million for private college capital projects; $500 million for capital projects involving essential health care facilities; $2.5 billion for water infrastructure projects over the next five years; $1.4 billion to foster strategic investments in resiliency and affordable housing in central Brooklyn; and $300 million to fully support the Environmental Protection Fund.

Pulse Points

  • On 05.05.17, AIANY hosts NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner Chandler at the Center for Architecture from 9-10am.The commissioner will speak to the state of the agency as the third anniversary of his appointment approaches. In addition, the commissioner will address what changes have taken place as a result of DOB’s many meetings with AIANY architects. There will be opportunities to ask questions. Interested members may register here.
  • As part of the Driverless Future Challenge, Blankspace announced their “Pitch the City” event for 08.11.17 at the NYU Skirball Center, where four finalist teams will pitch their proposals to a panel of prominent New York City officials from the Mayor’s Office, the NYC Department of Transportation, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, and a live audience. To learn more and register, continue here.