Advocacy on the Boards | August 2021

“Advocacy On the Boards” is a monthly update from the AIA Pennsylvania Government Affairs Team to inform members of the great work “on the boards” ensuring architects are at the policymaker’s table to affect positive and equitable social, environmental, and economic outcomes for the profession and the commonwealth. This work includes lobbying state lawmakers, their staff, and other government officials and agencies to provide architects’ guidance on policies that impact the built environment and, in turn, the health, safety, and welfare of all Pennsylvanians. AIA Pennsylvania members’ technical expertise and experience are critical to the priority issues as charted by the Government Affairs team and informed by the membership’s feedback each two-year legislative session cycle.

Get the latest on the issues moving through the legislative process that AIA Pennsylvania worked on throughout August and continues to monitor and pursue.

On the Boards | Building Codes

New Code Implementation in Pennsylvania on Track for January 2022
This past April, the UCC Review & Advisory Council (RAC) completed its review of the 2018 International Code Council (ICC) Codes, in line with a 4.5-year cycle that includes an opt-in voting process. This means the RAC votes on each code section and requires a 2/3 majority to adopt each section.

The final report, including a list of the codes and modifications to the published 2018 ICC Codes has been submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. The department has nine months to promulgate the regulations (new codes). With that, the anticipated new codes are tentatively on track to be implemented around January 2022. 

On the Boards | Legal Reform

Statute of Repose Bill Introduced
Senator Laughlin’s memo advocating for a reduction in the Statute of Repose for architects and engineers has been introduced as SB 833 and is currently waiting for consideration in the ​​Senate Judiciary Committee.

Architects, engineers, and contractors practicing in the commonwealth face a substantial degree of liability exposure for property damages and other construction claims. Without legislation to protect design professionals from unlimited liability, it might be possible for an architect to be sued for an injury suffered in or around a building that was designed many years prior, even when the injury is a result of improper maintenance, accomplished renovations since the building was put into commission, or other causes beyond the architect’s control.

The Statute of Repose in Pennsylvania is currently 12 years for construction projects. Pennsylvania is one of only 6 states to exceed a 10-year term for a statute of repose. All buildings have a life cycle, and maintenance is a critical part of that cycle. Oftentimes, after 6 years; issues that arise from completed projects are due more to the owner’s and tenant’s failure to maintain the property rather than faulty design.

Pennsylvania legislators need to hear from architects about why the Statute of Repose in Pennsylvania is too long. The opportunity to reduce the Statute of Repose in Pennsylvania is one of our top priorities for August and September’s District Days. To get a full debrief on the issue including access to the webinar and blueprint guide, please register to participate. Keep a lookout for a forthcoming action alert being sent to AIA PA members who are constituents of legislators that sit on the ​​Senate Judiciary Committee. We need your support to urge members of the committee to bring up the legislation in committee for consideration and ultimately a vote.

On the Boards | School Construction

Report Highlights Dire Need for Equitable Investment in PA School Infrastructure
According to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star’s reporting, “Aging infrastructure has left Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts ‘uniquely vulnerable’ to such environmental health hazards as radon and mold, putting the safety of roughly 1.7 million public school students at risk”, as concluded by a recent report by Healthy Schools PA, a program of the advocacy group ‘Women for a Healthy Environment.

The Capital-Star elaborates, “The report also calls on state officials to create ‘an equitable formula,’ for school infrastructure investment, and to lift the existing moratorium on a reimbursement program for school construction.” The moratorium on PlanCon was extended with the passage of the 2021-22 budget. However, all school districts that submitted applications between July 1, 2017, and November 6, 2017, and fit certain criteria detailed in July’s Advocacy on the Boards, may be awarded a one-time capital grant for the approved project in lieu of approved reimbursement payments or receive payments in the form of reimbursements.

AIA Pennsylvania, including dedicated members of the School Construction Subcommittee, continue to advocate for school infrastructure investment including revisions to the PlanCon program that equitably protect the health, safety, and welfare of students and educators.

On the Boards | Federal Update

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Passes in Senate
Earlier this August, the U.S. Senate passed the $1.2 trillion “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” AIA sees this bipartisan Senate bill (H.R. 3684) as an important first step to invest in America’s buildings, with more work to be done in subsequent legislation. 

If passed by the U.S. House and signed by the President, it will be the largest investment in American infrastructure in decades. The House is scheduled to reconvene in the fall and it’s likely a vote on the bill will not be scheduled until the Senate passes the companion $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, an opportunity to further expand on the investments in America’s building infrastructure.

AIA has advocated for several of the provisions included in H.R. 3684, which will improve safety, resilience and sustainability in the built environment. Key provisions that would improve the built environment, include:

  • Providing $3.5 billion in funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program, which increases energy efficiency and reduces costs for low-income households.
  • Authorizing $500 million in competitive grants to support energy-efficiency and renewable energy in schools.
  • Allocating $1 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
  • Allocating $500 million for grants established from the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act (STORM Act), which mitigates hazards to reduce risks from disasters.
  • Providing $250 million in funding to establish the Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund Capitalization Grant Program, which states could use to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings.
  • Establishing a $225 million competitive grant program within the DOE’s Building Technologies Office to support cost-effective building code implementation.
  • Establishing a $40 million grant program to train individuals to conduct energy audits and surveys of commercial and residential buildings.
  • Developing building, training, and assessment centers through institutions of higher education and Tribal colleges to train architects, engineers, and other professionals about energy-efficient design and technologies, along with fostering additional research.
  • Allowing the Metropolitan Transportation Planning authorities to use federal funding to promote more walkable and multi-modal communities.  

A full rundown of notable policy changes that are most relevant to AIA’s policy positions is covered in this memo

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Member of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge them to support investments in the building sector in BOTH infrastructure bills Congress will consider this fall. 

Infrastructure Investment Forecasted for Pennsylvania
For decades, infrastructure in Pennsylvania has suffered from a systemic lack of investment. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives Pennsylvania a C- grade on its infrastructure report card.

The White House has revealed projected funding allocations anticipated for Pennsylvania under the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” The current estimates are based, in part, on funding formulas used by the federal government in allocating dollars to states. The state will have the opportunity to apply for competitive grants. Specific allocations include:

  • $11.3 billion for highway funding 
  • $2.8 billion for public transit 
  • $1.6 billion for bridge replacement 
  • $1.4 billion for water infrastructure 
  • $355 million for airport infrastructure 
  • $171 million for an electric vehicle charging network 
  • At least $100 million for broadband coverage

The state is also expected to receive funding allocated to build resilience into our infrastructure with $49 million allocated to protect against wildfires and $26 million to protect against cyberattacks. Pennsylvanians will also benefit from the bill’s historic $3.5 billion national investment in weatherization which will reduce energy costs for families.For a breakdown of what the investment could mean for the Pittsburgh region including a focus on green infrastructure, read the Pittsburgh City Paper’s coverage. For how Philadelphia could put the funding to use, read Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson’s op-ed published by WHYY. The Philadelphia Inquirer also covered what the infrastructure bill could mean for Pennsylvania.