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AIA backs embassy design legislation

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is supporting US. Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) proposed Embassy Design and Security Act, which would first time recognize the vital role building design can play in transforming America’s embassies into high-performance structures throughout the world.

“America's diplomatic missions abroad are the physical manifestations of our nation's values to the rest of the world,” said AIA President George H. Miller, FAIA. “They facilitate the vital work of diplomacy, serve as places of refuge and support for citizens of host nations and Americans abroad, and provide a platform to advance the leadership that America provides to the world.”

The Embassy Design and Security Act, which Sen. Kerry introduced Friday in the US Senate, establishes a design excellence program at the US Department of State and ensures that experts from the design, construction and security fields can advise the department on its work. The legislation will help the State Department take a leadership role in high-performance buildings by encouraging innovation in design, creating a framework for testing new technologies, and providing training in high performance building attributes. It would require the State Department to do a study that would consider alternative approaches to enable architects and engineers to design embassies that reflect the unique needs of a site at a foreign post and to incorporate appropriate standard design and construction components common to the building type.

“Our embassies and consulates are important reflections of the American values of openness, ingenuity, and innovation,” said Sen. Kerry. “They should reflect the best of U.S. design, architecture, sustainability, and technology while maintaining security as the top priority.”

Sen. Kerry’s legislation comes in response to a report released last year by the AIA that recommends ways the State Department should go about designing and building 21st century embassies.

The report recommended evaluating the current embassy design program, which was implemented after the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa, to improve security and expedite the construction of new facilities with a standard design that could be replicated anywhere in the world. The report called also for an analysis to review the effectiveness of the standard embassy design program in meeting current and future goals for building performance and cost-effectiveness.

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