On November 5th, 2021, the House passed a $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill, known as The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The Biden Administration sought to unite the party behind the bill, with plans of subsidizing several government agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the intent, to stimulate growth in sustainable energy and improve U.S. infrastructure. The bill allocated federal grants to organizations working towards mitigating the effects of climate change and improving the national infrastructure score.
The enactment of The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill was praised by organizations across the United States, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In November of this year, the organization expressed its appreciation for the bill, stating that it provides “meaningful advancements towards building a resilient and sustainable built environment.” With their focus on sustainability, the institute advocated for several provisions - chiefly those aimed at improving the safety and sustainability of the built environment.
What is Included in the Infrastructure Package?
The infrastructure package provides funding to organizations in the energy conservation and technologies sector. The administration has allocated $3.5 billion to the Department of Weatherization Assistance Program, intended to increase energy efficiency for low-income households. The bill also authorizes $500 million in competitive grants to support renewable energy in schools and allocates $1 billion for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure Communities (BRIC).
According to an assessment conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American infrastructure system received a c-score; poor road conditions, broken bridges, and inadequate ventilation in buildings have all contributed to this score. In an effort to improve this score, the bill will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in U.S. infrastructure over five years.
The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act was enacted to mitigate hazards that can lead to natural disasters and prioritizes intelligent, modern, and resilient lifeline critical infrastructure, including energy, health, and water. The new plan proposes $500 million allocated for grants established from this act.
The bill also established a $40 million grant program to train individuals to conduct energy audits and surveys of commercial and residential buildings to forward sustainable energy technologies. Developing building, training, and assessment centers through higher education institutions to train architects and engineers about energy-efficient design and technologies.
Increasing energy code stringency is critical to creating sustainable infrastructure, as it incentivizes developers to follow energy-efficiency best practices. The Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office will receive a $225 million competitive grant program to support the implementation of cost-effective building energy codes.
How Will the Bill Affect the Renewable Energy Industry?
The growth of the renewable energy sector has paved the way for innovation and will be incentivized by the passing of the new bill. Wind and solar energy prices have decreased drastically over the last decade, undercutting coal plants without subsidies. To boost the expansion of renewable energy sources, the bill will dramatically recondition subsidies for wind and solar projects and even include bonuses for projects built in former coal communities.
How Will the Bill Impact the AEC Industry?
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding and State Energy Program (SEP) funding will help states adopt and implement building energy codes. The investment provides an important opportunity for architects, engineers, and contractors to leverage the grants to encourage widespread sustainable design practices. The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE), among other organizations, are expected to update their codes in 2022. ASHRAE 90.1 will push the minimum requirements higher based on the affordability of new technologies and techniques and be further encouraged by the bill’s initiatives.
Energy modeling in the early design phase of a project is fundamental for architects and engineers to create sustainable buildings in compliance with the impending regulations. While standards vary between states, several counties have updated their code requirements throughout the years, creating a new sense of urgency and stimulating growth in the energy modeling software market.
How can Energy Modeling Software Improve Compliance?
With changes happening rapidly, architects and engineers must work consistently to stay updated with the current energy codes and regulations. cove.tool is an automated design platform that enables architects to make better decisions and achieve code compliance. The tools (i.e., analysis.tool, drawing.tool, and loadmodeling.tool) provide architects and engineers with an integrated workflow that helps organizations make decisions with their existing technology stack and includes plugins for Revit, Sketchup, Rhinoceros, and more.