Big Week for Solar Energy in South Carolina

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Solar panel installation at the Columbia Museum of Art in 2010.


 

Last week both the SC House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed S.1189, the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act, otherwise known as the Solar Energy bill. This bill, which includes solar leasing, net metering, and an optional distributed energy resource program, will make solar energy available to residential, business and non-profit customers in a new and affordable way, according to the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. 

Click here for Sammy Fretwell’s excellent article on this legislation in The State Newspaper: solar-shining-after-dark-ages 

 

Governor Haley Signs H.3592 Into Law

This week saw a major victory for the South Carolina sustainable design and construction industry when Governor Nikki Haley signed SC House Bill 3592 into law on Monday.

After many months and many maneuvers to turn H.3592 from a LEED elimination bill into a bill that maintains the use of green building rating systems as required in the original Energy Independence & Sustainable Construction Act of 2007, Senator Paul Campbell amended the bill to require the adoption of LEED and Green Globes by reference – which allows projects to be registered under the new version of either rating system if the older version sunsets – and to establish a new advisory committee under the Office of the State Engineer.  The Energy Independence and Sustainable Construction Advisory Committee will be comprised of design and construction professionals and manufacturers as well as representatives from the state’s higher education agencies.

This new committee will review upcoming versions of LEED and Green Globes and make recommendations to the State Budget & Control Board, soon to be the State Fiscal Accountability Authority.

The committee will also be charged with reviewing possible amendments to the 2007 law regarding “payback” requirements on all state projects that employ either green building rating system.

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Patterson Hall on USC’s Columbia Campus, which received a LEED Gold rating for the renovation and addition designed by the Garvin Design Group.

AIA South Carolina worked with USGBC-SC, CAGC Building Division, and the SC Council of Engineering and Surveying Societies to ensure design and construction professionals continue to have available the use of green building rating systems on projects that are required by law to achieve certain energy efficiency and sustainable design thresholds.

Our sincere thanks go to Senator Campbell, and to Rep. Bill Sandifer who sheparded the bill back through the SC House to the Governor’s desk for her signature.

AIASC Receives National Award

2014Grassroots4On Friday, March 21 during the Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference Awards Luncheon, AIASC was honored with a 2014 Component Excellence Award for Public Affairs and Communications Outstanding Overall Program for its Kids In Architecture workshops held during the month of October in children’s museums throughout South Carolina. Champions and volunteers from each of the six local AIASC Sections worked closely with Lynn Craig, FAIA, RIBA and Clemson School of Architecture faculty and students to create interactive workshops that expose children to the world of architecture and design. This prestigious award was conferred by the Public Affairs & Communications Awards Jury upon AIA South Carolina,

“For heightening public awareness that an appreciation of the power of design can begin with children. Working with architecture students in Genoa, Italy, and Children’s Museums in South Carolina, the chapter created collaborative interactive workshops that tapped into a child’s innate creativity. In so doing, AIA South Carolina innovated a unique learning approach that gave to the children of South Carolina and their parents access to the magic of design and the joy of giving shape to their dreams.”

2014Grassroots6 Lynn Craig, FAIA,RIBA holding the award

“AIA South Carolina worked closely with the Children’s Museums and Clemson University to develop a workshop series for children. The program engaged school children at a statewide level. The impact of this program will be seen for years to come. Kudos, AIA South Carolina! – 2014 Public Affairs & Communications Awards Jury

Higher Education Moratorium

As president of the American Institute of Architects South Carolina, I hear regularly from our members about the grim economic environment throughout the state.  The Governor’s idea to solve the state budget woes and the rising cost of college tuition with a moratorium on construction is short-sighted, especially since the universities have said that the lack of state funding, not building projects is the cause of rising tuitions.

Typically, the construction industry accounts for nine percent of the national gross domestic product and the state of South Carolina needs to do everything possible to put our large construction industry back to work. My husband and I are both architects and have had our firm for 21 years. In good years we pay five figures in South Carolina income tax, in 2009 we paid $44 and it looks about the same for 2010. If all the architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors and suppliers in South Carolina were fully employed, it would generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue and the state could appropriate more money for higher education to reduce tuition costs.

The fact is there is no better time for building projects: Interest rates are at an all-time low; construction companies are eager to work at very competitive prices; our state economy badly needs a stimulus; and fully employing our construction industry workers will boost state income tax receipts. Every $1 billion spent on building projects increases the state’s gross domestic product by almost $2.3 billion; creates 24,000 jobs with $720 million in personal income. We need jobs – not moratoriums!

Scott Powell, AIA Responds to Niki Haley’s Support of Stock School Plans

When the founding fathers created our government, they decided that the public should elect officials who are more educated than the typical citizen to make decisions beneficial to the public’s wellbeing.  Positions by current political candidates in our state have proven our elected officials are not more knowledgeable than the general public.  Facing a failing economy, Superintendent of Education candidate Mike Zais and Anderson House of Representative candidate Don Bowen have noted that they support stock school plans as a means of saving money.  This week gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley joined in, ironically after giving her support of charter schools because they offer a different approach to public education.

On the surface, it seems logical that developing standard prototypical building plans and specifications can reduce design and engineering cost.  However, the American Institute of Architects estimates that the average building design cost is three percent of the total project cost.  Prototypical plans do not eliminate the necessity for hiring architects and engineers.  Each prototype plan will have to be adapted to fit a different site with different traffic patterns, topography, sidewalks, soil conditions, etc.  Depending on the solar orientation of the site selected, the mechanical system may have to be redesigned.  Besides, architects will still be needed to bid the projects and perform construction administration services to ensure that the contractor is meeting the intent of the construction documents.

In 2004, the state of Arkansas published the findings of a task force developed by their state’s legislators to study the benefits of prototypical school designs.  The findings of that task force were that there is little or no savings for prototypical designs.  Their findings were similar to a study in the early 1990’s by the Facilities Services Section of the Georgia Department of Education.  Georgia mailed surveys to the fifty State Departments of Education and received forty-one responses.  Only three states (Maine, New York and Virginia) reported that they had used prototypical plans in the past and none of those states were currently using standard plans for the construction of new schools.  In the 1960’s, the New York State Legislature passed a bill to fund eighteen separate stock school plans.  The state spent approximately $650,000 to develop nine plans.  After the plans became available, only two schools were constructed.

Stock school plans are not feasible due to constantly changing building codes and regulations.  Our state adopts a new building code every three years and updates the Office of School Facilities Planning Guide every year.

One of the biggest obstacles for stock plans is the liability risk.  Architects and engineers design buildings to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.  The design team receives training to design structures to meet architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical codes.  The requirements of these codes vary depending on the part of the state the school is located.  The design team holds responsibility and has professional liability insurance to cover themselves.  An executive with Schinnerer & Company, a major insurer of architects and engineers, warns states of “confusing the lines of responsibility” and possibly violating the state’s own licensing laws by duplicating the same plan throughout the state.

The greatest reason to not build prototypical designs is that each community is as different as the children that it serves and the school should reflect the needs of the community.  Some schools have very active PTA’s that raise large sums of money to help fund their children’s education.  Some schools have PTA rooms for the vital organizations to meet and store their materials.  Other, less fortunate communities do not have PTA’s and could better utilize space to teach GED classes for parents or social services organizations that serve their children.

Many of the same politicians who support prototypical school plans also support more choices for our children to learn.  How can prototypical designs provide the spaces needed for the varying programs?  Magnet schools such as Stone Academy for the Arts in the Greenville immerse children in a curriculum focused around the arts.  It is doubtful that the state will provide a typical design for an elementary school with dance and music studios.  Some schools, such as the new A.J. Whittenberg Elementary and Engineering School that just opened in downtown Greenville, utilize the building as a teaching tool.  From their engineering lab, students can look out their window onto the roof below and view a green roof and photovoltaic panels from which they can calculate the energy gained from the sun.  Stock school plans will not enable school designs to meet the specific needs of a school’s curriculum.

If legislators want to save money, they should encourage school districts to share resources and facilities.  Traditionally, the really successful schools serve as the center of the community and the community is more likely to support funding of the schools if they see a benefit.  Fort Moultrie Middle School in Mt. Pleasant has a beautiful arbor-type structure in front of the school.  The City of Mt. Pleasant paid for the structure and uses it on Saturdays for a farmers market.  Anderson School District Four built a full-size gymnasium at Townville Elementary School.  The gymnasium serves to meet the recreation needs of rural, yet desirable area near Lake Hartwell.  And Greenville County Schools has partnered with the Salvation Army so that A.J. Whittenberg Elementary can share site, facilities and programs with the new Kroc Center.

To the average citizen who is rightly concerned about the state’s economy, having prototypical school plans seems like a logical way to save money.  History has not proven this to be true.  We are affected by our environment and each school should be designed to meet the needs of each community.  Politicians have been told of the pitfalls of prototypical school designs, yet they do not think that the voters of our state are intelligent enough to understand.  In November, prove that our citizens are smarter than politicians think. 

Scott E. Powell, AIA, LEED AP

Principal and K12 Studio Leader at Craig Gaulden Davis

Board member of South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects

Member of South Carolina Office of School Facilities Planning Board

Member of the Council for Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI)

Member of South Carolina School Board Association

ADVOCACY – If We Don’t Act, Who Will?

by Todd Reichard, AIA

During 2009, AIA embraced the opportunity to shape national policy and advance the role that Architects play in designing a better built environment.  AIA’s “Rebuild and Renew Plan for Green Communities and a Green Economy” successfully resulted in government investment in infrastructure that would be not just shovel-ready but shovel-worthy.  The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” included up to $130 billion in investments in buildings, which are estimated to create or save as many as 14,000 architect jobs.

During this year’s Grassroots Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., AIA South Carolina attendees from throughout our State, met with members of Congress and their staff to promote Phase Two of the AIA Rebuild and Renew initiative.  Recognizing that many architects and firms are still struggling, the focus was on five Recommendations that will create jobs.

  • Help Struggling Communities Rebuild
  • Unfreeze Credit to Get America Building Again
  • Encourage the Commercial Sector to Build Green
  • Provide Relief for Small Businesses
  • Invest in Our Children With 21st Century Schools

These recommendations are pro-active and bipartisan, and they come from ideas and concerns raised by fellow AIA members.  Most importantly, they are proposals that can be implemented quickly, to get the economy moving quickly.

Legislation has already passed in the House of Representatives concerning relief for small businesses and for upgrading schools throughout the country.  The Senate is yet to act.  Each South Carolina Congressman was working toward a solution to the Credit Crisis.  And we received a favorable response from most of our Congressmen concerning tax incentives for building green.  Details of each Recommendation can be found at www.aia.org/rebuildandrenew .  Take a few minutes to learn how AIA is working to improve the profession during these difficult economic conditions; then follow-up with your National Representative and encourage them to support legislation that creates jobs.

Lobbying is one of the most important roles of AIA.  Our National Staff develop timely recommendations and “clue” us on how and when to react.  But, the success of the plan is based on individual AIA members.  Legislators respond to constituents; we have to participate in the process.  Individually, we have to communicate with our elected leaders and develop relationships.  This is equally important at our State and Local levels of government.  AIA National has a proven track record of success.  AIA South Carolina continues to improve our Advocacy efforts within our State, but success is dependent on participation of individual members.  Be prepared and willing to participate; if we don’t act, who will?