Damage in Rockport, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey
Verónica G. Cárdenas/Chabad Lubavich Damage in Rockport, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey

With hurricanes Harvey and Irma behind us—and the long roads to recovery and rebuilding ahead of us—the AIA issued a statement today asking state and federal legislators to reject any initiative that seeks to weaken building-code requirements, and to include public buildings in efforts to update and upgrade the country’s infrastructure.

In the press release, AIA president Thomas Vonier, FAIA, urges lawmakers to “reject attempts to roll back protections that make good design and careful planning the hallmarks of U.S. construction.” The press release cites President Donald Trump’s Aug. 15 Executive Order 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects,” as an example of effort to ease design and planning regulations. That executive order sets a “goal of completing all Federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within 2 years.” A 2015 report by the National Association of Environmental Professionals surveying 194 final Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) published in the Federal Register found that the average time to prepare an EIS was five years, while only 16 percent of the EIS on file were completed in two years or less.

Trump’s Aug. 15 executive order also revokes President Obama’s Executive Order 13690, “Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input,” which restricted the development of federally funded projects in flood plain areas and established the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard as a method for identifying the floodplain based on scientific data and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance rate maps.

The Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma
Senior Airman Kayla K. Edwards/U.S. Air National Guard The Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma

In today’s statement, Vonier argues that “well-designed buildings connect people, promote their well-being, stimulate commerce and, most importantly, save lives.” Arguing that buildings should be included in any infrastructure renewal plan, the AIA also issued seven infrastructure principles. These principles include the call for any new public infrastructure project to be resilient to climate change; the rejection of attempts “to weaken building codes in the quest for short-term profits”; and the assertion that “good design yields big returns on infrastructure investment.”

A 2005 report by the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multihazard Mitigation Council found that for every $1 of taxpayer money spent on mitigation, society saves $4 in return.