December 21, 2007
  President Bush Signs Landmark Energy Bill
AIA-backed provisions to improve building efficiency become law

by Tom Bergan
Manager, AIA Federal Affairs

Summary: President Bush on December 18 signed into law historic energy legislation that will shape U.S. energy policy for decades to come. The law seeks to dramatically reduce U.S. energy consumption over the next 25 years by applying the AIA’s 2030 carbon-reducing targets to federal buildings, increasing fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, and establishing new energy efficiency standards for appliances.

The new law includes numerous provisions advocated by the AIA to promote sustainable design in the built environment. Christine W. McEntee, the AIA’s executive vice president and chief executive officer, praised the efforts of policymakers as she attended today’s bill-signing ceremony at the Department of Energy’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. “In crafting this law, Congress and the president have recognized what architects have long known: that improving the energy efficiency of our buildings will do more to promote energy independence and reduce our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels,” McEntee said.

Bill Includes 2030 targets for federal buildings
Nearly two years after the AIA Board of Directors approved a policy position setting incremental energy reduction targets for all buildings, Congress included these goals for federal buildings in the bill the president signed. Under the new law, all new and significantly renovated federal buildings are required to be carbon-neutral by 2030, dramatically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the built environment.

“Applying the 2030 challenge to federal buildings was the AIA’s number one federal legislative priority in 2007, from the Grassroots conference in February through the summer and fall,” noted Paul Mendelsohn, vice president for Government and Community Relations. “The passage of the energy bill means that the year-long advocacy effort by AIA members, leadership, and staff reaped huge dividends for the profession, the environment, and our nation’s long-term energy future.”

AIA leaders testified on four separate occasions before congressional committees this year in support of provisions to improve building energy efficiency. In addition, the AIA led an effort by several organizations to support the 2030 targets for federal buildings. “This was truly a team effort,” said Mendelsohn.

Many other AIA-backed provisions
In addition to requiring major reductions in the amount of fossil fuel-generated energy that government-owned buildings consume, the energy law includes many other provisions the AIA championed throughout the year. The law:

  • Authorizes the Department of Energy to construct a photovoltaic wall, called the “Sun Wall,” on its Washington, D.C., headquarters
  • Provides grants for schools to improve the environmental quality of their facilities
  • Creates new opportunities for small businesses seeking to pursue or expand sustainable design services.

For a complete description of the AIA’s provisions in the energy law, see the fact sheet on AIA Priorities in the Energy Law.

AIA members champion sustainable design
Throughout the hard-fought negotiations on the bill, AIA members made a record number of contacts with their senators and representatives to guarantee that the legislation addressed the built environment. This month, AIA members sent nearly 9,000 e-mails and letters to their members of Congress asking them to support the energy bill and the provisions relating to the building sector.

As the Senate wrangled over the energy bill last week, members of the AIA Board of Directors and Executive Committee took Capitol Hill by storm, meeting with more than one third of the U.S. Senate to make the case for sustainable design. On December 13, as the Board met at AIA headquarters, the Senate approved the energy bill by a vote of 86-8. On December 18, the House passed the Senate measure 314-100, setting up the historic bill-signing by the president.

Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, senior director for Federal Affairs, stressed that the implications of the energy law cannot be understated. “This energy law ensures that over the next 25 years, America’s architects will have a central role to play in designing a more sustainable built environment. AIA members spoke, and Congress and the president listened.”

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