Given the weakened state of the U.S. economy, it’s no surprise that the construction industry continues the struggle to keep its head above water. In fact, the semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C., projects an 11% downturn in design and construction activity in 2009.
To combat this issue, the AIA developed the "Rebuild and Renew Plan," which details its recommendations for the allocation of funds in President Obama’s economic recovery plan. The AIA is asking the new administration and Congress to create policies that ensure these monies are spent on the planning, design, and construction of energy-efficient, sustainable buildings and healthy communities that are beneficial to not only the environment, but also the economy.
AIA’s proposals call for longer planning and design periods for projects to help ensure they are accomplished in the most effective, cost-efficient manner and that funds are not unwisely spent because projects are being hastily planned and executed.
According to Christine McEntee, executive vice president and CEO of AIA, "The Rebuild and Renew Plan has garnered significant interest from the transition team and key Congressional leaders, and outlines initiatives to build better, safer, and healthier communities while creating jobs and stimulating economic growth nationwide that can lead to long-term economic vitality."
The plan includes five key policy areas for immediate attention:
21st century schools. Invest $25 billion in districts across the country to repair, modernize, and "green" school buildings. Additionally, the plan proposes $700 million for pilot programs that would provide grants for the development of model school campuses that support 21st century teaching and learning in each region of the country.
Green buildings. Provide $30 billion for energy efficiency, upgrades, and modernization for federal, state, and local public buildings; residential, commercial, industrial, and healthcare facilities; and green affordable housing. Furthermore, the AIA is requesting an increase in the size of the energy-efficient commercial buildings tax deduction from $1.80 per square foot to $3.00 per square foot. This recommendation was recently endorsed by the Environment American Research & Policy Center.
Transit and livable communities. Invest at least $12 billion for transit facilities and operations, because they greatly enhance the economic development, sustainability, safety, and livability of communities.
Historic preservation project. Appropriate a minimum of $30 million to the underfunded "Save America’s Treasures" program for brick-and-mortar preservation projects. The plan also calls for another $100 million in grants to be provided through the state Historic Preservation Officers and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for nonfederal public and nonprofit historic sites.
Tax relief for businesses. Eliminate a requirement that businesses performing government work have 3% of their payments withheld.