Friday, April 24, 2009

Legislative Day 2009!

The Leadership by Design exhibit at the State Capitol Building

"Oregon should find ways to translate its reputation for sustainability into a key competitive advantage. A policy and regulatory framework that is both pro-business and pro-sustainability would be epic."

Dr. Michale Porter –from the Oregon Business Plan

Twelve AIA-SWO members joined dozens of other Oregon architects at the Leadership by Design event that took place at the State Capitol on April 23, 2009. The purpose of this legislative advocacy effort was to lobby our state senators and representatives in support of Senate Bill 448. AIA Oregon helped to craft this proposed high performance building legislation, which would require major state-owned facilities to be built and certified to green building standards adopted by the Department of Energy. The proposed bill has the unanimous support of the Senate Environment Committee and has been sent to the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction.

When looking at energy conservation and a sustainable future for the state of Oregon, energy use and alternative energy sources have been the focus. The environmental impact of the processes by which buildings are designed and constructed is often overlooked. The goal of SB 448 is to further the state’s efforts to be a national leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship on a broad front rather than focusing upon energy usage alone. The state recognizes its responsibility to implement and promote building practices that protect air, water, and other natural resources; reduce negative impacts upon native fish, wildlife, and natural resources; and minimize energy use. However, a current executive order to build to green standards based on LEED Silver guidelines is diluted and impermanent. The order does not require certification; it merely sets forth a benchmark agencies are asked to reach. SB 448 would rectify this shortcoming by moving toward the adoption of a nationally recognized green building standard.

Before visiting with our state senators and representatives, we gathered at the Mission Mill Museum in Salem to hear from a panel of three speakers:

David Van’t Hoff, sustainability advisor to Governor Ted Kulongoski, recounted the process by which SB 448 evolved from 2007 Senate Bill SB 576. This earlier bill failed to be passed into law because of concerns raised by the timber industry and related industry groups. David reported that SB 448 was fully vetted with these groups and thus is widely supported. Some of the visionary legislative concepts proposed by SB 576 were “watered down” but not to the point of ineffectiveness.

Sallie Schullinger-Krause of the Oregon Environmental Council encouraged us to stress to our lawmakers the importance of Oregon retaining its current position of leadership with sustainable design. Other states are passing similar legislation that places them in the forefront of green building efforts (for example, Maryland recently adopted into law very stringent greenhouse gas limitation mandates). Arguments against SB 448 are shortsighted and would ultimately cost our state in the future.

Dennis Wilde of Gerding Edlen Development shared his vision of a positive future. Dennis asserted that the future health of Oregon’s economy is dependent upon a healthy environment. The State’s leadership is essential to ensuring that a sustainable economy is within our grasp. The passage of SB 448 would be one step toward realizing this vision.

David Van't Hoff, Sallie Schullinger-Krause, and Dennis Wilde.

I joined with others from our group to visit with Ree Armitage, senior legislative aide for Representative Paul Holvey (Democrat-District 8), and Senator Bill Morrisette (Democrat-District 6). Generally, the response from all the state senators and representatives that members of our group visited suggests that we were “preaching to the choir.” However, there are other legislators who do harbor concerns about SB 448. The primary worry is that there would both be immediate expenditures and indeterminate, perhaps large, increases in future capital construction costs. AIA Oregon argues that these concerns should not be allowed to outweigh the potential long-term savings attributable to building green, the net employment benefits of a vibrant green materials industry, and the economic stimulus generated by the Business Energy Tax Credit.

Big thanks to AIA Oregon’s Government Relations Committee, AIA Oregon lobbyist Cindy Robert, and AIA Oregon Assistant Director Stuart Weir for organizing Leadership by Design. Kudos too, to the Sustainability Subcommittee (including AIA-SWO’s own Curt Wilson, Kelley Howell, and Scott Stolarczyk) for helping to draft the proposed legislation.

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