Short-Term Goals; Long-Term Vision

Last week, more than 800 members of the American Institute of Architects from around the country met with their local congressional leaders with suggested strategies to rebuild the economy through construction-related provisions in the stimulus bill currently being debated.Our main point of emphasis is that any stimulus plan must include a long-term vision. The AIA recommends providing funding for construction projects across 24 months, which will ensure a steady stream of funds for job creation over the likely life of the recession. The longer planning and design periods for projects also helps ensure that they are carried out in the most effective, cost-efficient manner and that funds are not poorly spent due to the projects being hastily planned and executed.The specific areas of focus in our plan comprise five key policy areas in need of immediate attention: 21st century schools; green commercial, residential and institutional buildings; historic preservation projects; transit, mixed-use development and complete streets projects; and tax relief for businesses. If implemented correctly, the nearly $100 billion plan would create 1.6 million jobs throughout the design and construction industry.Over the past two years, an estimated one million jobs have been lost in the design and construction industry, and all economic indicators point to a continuing decline for the sector.Federal infrastructure investments in our nation’s buildings will put Americans back to work almost immediately. The General Services Administration has identified more than 500 federal building projects that, if funded, could begin within 90 to 180 days. Pursuing these projects would immediately create tens of thousands of jobs for architects, engineers, contractors, electricians and the many other building professionals who are needed to design, construct and renovate a property. Investments in other building types–such as schools, commercial buildings, health-care facilities, state and municipal buildings and affordable housing–also have the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide. But investing in building construction and renovation will not simply create jobs in the short term but will also establish the foundation for sustained economic growth. Significant investments in the building sector thus would also move our nation closer to energy independence and improve the quality of life for citizens in all 50 states.The American people agree that this is going to require a comprehensive long-term plan, not a Band-Aid approach. In fact, a just completed AIA survey conducted by the Clarus Research Group showed that 87 percent of voters believe the money in the stimulus bill should be equally divided between short-term and long-term construction projects that will have a lasting benefit.The AIA will continue to call on members of both parties to ensure that we do not miss an opening to invest significantly and wisely in green buildings, a stronger and safer infrastructure and a 21st century transportation system. In this tremendous opportunity to upgrade our national infrastructure and built environment, these projects must be undertaken with the utmost attention to smart design and planning, rather than just rushing to get bulldozers moving.