AIA Comments on the Passing of the Energy Policy Modernization Act

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The legislation repeals targets for reducing fossil fuel consumption in federal buildings contained in Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush.

AIA President Russell Davidson, FAIA, says: “Cutting fossil fuel consumption in new and renovated federal buildings by 2030 is clearly something we can achieve as a nation. My fellow architects are already designing buildings that are “net zero” consumers of energy. According to government statistics, better designed buildings have already saved our country approximately $560 billion in energy costs since 2005.

“Therefore it makes no public policy sense for Congress to cave in to the oil and gas lobby and kill requirements to reduce fossil-fuel consumption in federal buildings. As we have noted before, residential and commercial buildings account for almost 40 percent of both total U.S. energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Last December, nearly 200 nations, including the U.S., committed in Paris to reducing the planet’s carbon footprint.

“Uncle Sam must continue to be a leader worldwide in energy conservation and reduced dependence on the use of fossil fuels. Yet we are effectively abrogating this role with this short-sighted vote, which will continue to hold federal taxpayers hostage to the whims of global energy markets.

“We were gratified by the White House’s announcement in December that the President would veto the House energy legislation, specifically citing the repeal of Section 433 as one of several major objections. We hope that lawmakers come to their senses and strip this provision from any final bill.”

The Innovative Wood Products Collaborative Launches Website

The Innovative Wood Products Collaborative announces the launch of its website. The new site is the product of a collaboration between Washington and Oregon sustainable forestry managers, wood products manufacturers, conservationists, academics and architects to highlight the latest information about using innovative wood products from sustainably managed forests.

Wood—the only building material that is grown by the power of the sun—is a renewable resource that has a low carbon and energy footprint. Using wood from sustainably managed forests will significantly reduce carbon emissions from the building sector.

According to a Yale University study, substituting wood for more energy-intensive building materials would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 14 to 31 percent because wood consumes much less energy than concrete or steel construction.

“Wood construction is incredibly fast and effective, with the added benefit of producing a building that stores carbon rather than emitting it,” says Canadian architect Michael Green. “The only way to achieve a net-zero building is to build with wood.”

As timber grows, it soaks up carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and that carbon is stored in wood products. This creates a carbon sink that helps mitigate climate change. About half of the dry weight of wood is stored carbon. In contrast, 16 percent of global fossil-fuel consumption goes into manufacturing steel, concrete and bricks.

“This collaboration between Oregon and Washington sustainable forest growers and manufacturers is capturing the recent wave of recognition among architects, builders and conservation groups that wood products have real carbon benefits, and can be used in tall buildings,” says Mark Doumit, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

“Wood products are carbon-negative because they sequester and store carbon,” says Joseph Mayo, a designer at Mahlum Architects in Seattle. “There is no other natural building material like wood. Increasing the use of wood also supports local jobs and industry.”

“The forest landowners and lumber manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest are the largest supplier of wood building materials in the nation,” says Paul Barnum, executive director of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. “Using those wood products in new and better ways will benefit the environment and the economies of Oregon and Washington.”

Wood’s strength-to-weight ratio is comparable to concrete and steel. Engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), glue-laminated timber (glulam) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) make it possible to build taller wood structures. These mass timber construction materials are highly fire-resistant and cost-effective. Prefabricated CLT panels can also be installed quickly, speeding up construction time.

“As global demand for wood continues to increase with population, we need to be sourcing our timber from sustainably managed forests,” says Thomas Maness, dean of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “The most environmentally sustainable place to grow wood is right here in the Pacific Northwest.”