Sunday, May 5, 2013

Don’t Let the Senate Turn its Back on Sustainability

Class photo of the 111th United States Senate (Senate Photo Studio)

I’m not someone who is easily caught up in the arcane arena of politics, which all too often rewards only the shrewd and moneyed. The machinations are too devious and the lack of transparency too irksome for my liking. They have bred a cynicism I cannot easily overcome. Consequently, I’m surprised whenever I do feel moved to take sides and do something. 

Last week, Christina Finkenhofer, Manager of Federal Relations for the American Institute of Architects, issued a plea to members whose senators serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. There is an immediate risk the committee will gut sustainability targets for the design of new and renovated federal buildings enacted in 2007 as the Energy Independence and Security Act. Christina needs our help to stop the committee from abandoning this legislation, laws which demonstrate Federal leadership on the sustainability and global warming fronts.

The following is an excerpt from Christina’s message: 

In 2007, with the strong support of the AIA, Congress passed legislation that ensures that new federal buildings and major renovations meet the 2030 targets for greenhouse gas reductions. Already this law is showing results, as architects are designing buildings that achieve the targets, saving energy and creating new markets for cutting-edge sustainable designs, products and technologies. 

But opponents of this law in the fossil fuel industry are hoping to sneak a repeal of this law into energy legislation that the Senate is taking up. We cannot let that happen! 

The Committee might vote on an amendment as early as next week that would repeal or severely weaken the 2007 law, and unless architects raise their voice, this amendment might just pass. Because one of your Senators serves on this committee, we need you to urge the Committee not to abandon policies that reduce energy use in federal buildings, save taxpayers money and protect the environment. 

Today, the AIA and a group of more than 350 organizations and companies have written to the Senate in support of the current law and opposing any efforts to roll it back. But Senators need to hear from you, their constituents, that now is the wrong time to retreat on sustainable design. 

To send a message to your Senator, please click here. To read more about the provision and why it needs to be protected, click here

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Christina Finkenhofer
Manager, Federal Relations

According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, the building sector accounts for 39 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, more than both the transportation and industry sectors. The same study found that buildings are responsible for 71 percent of U.S. electricity consumption and that buildings in the United States alone account for 9.8 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. 

As design professionals, we know significant energy reductions are both practical and cost-effective. Architects across the country have signed up for the 2030 Challenge to design buildings that use significantly less energy and emit less carbon. Without commitments such as these and the support of domestic and worldwide legislation, there is little hope we will alter the current trajectory we are following toward global overheating. 

I’m distressed to see groups whose self-interests trump those of everyone else wield so much influence in Washington D.C. The shortsightedness and lack of vision are astonishing. Let’s heed Christina’s call to action and oppose the amendments being proposed that would weaken or repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.   

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