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AIA Ohio News
Architects Good Samaritan Bill (HB 379) Amended
HB 379, AIA Ohio's proposal that would provide civil immunity for architects, engineers, and surveyors who provide services during a declared emergency was amended during a hearing of the House Commerce, Labor and Technology Committee to include the volunteer services provided by a contractor or tradesperson. The bill's Sponsor, Rep. Louis Blessing III said the “wanton and willful misconduct” clause remains in the bill.
Andrea Ashley, vice president of government relations for Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Ohio, offered proponent testimony for the bill and the amendment that was accepted. Ashley said when construction is needed in emergency situations, “there should not be anything to make the construction industry hesitate to respond to help and possibly save lives.”
“Construction companies do the right thing when facing disasters and emergencies by bringing equipment, knowledge and people to the affected area,” Ashley said. “They volunteer their knowledge and resources to help people and want to be able to contribute in the same way in the future. The fear of lawsuits should not make construction contractors hesitate, or decide not to assist in times of need.”
Angela Van Fossen, director of legislative affairs for the Ohio Contractors Association (OCA), offered proponent testimony for the bill and the accepted amendment.
“It is no surprise that our contractors and their employees are often asked to provide their professional services during emergencies,” Van Fossen said. “The addition of this amendment would ensure their ability to confidently answer yes, without undue liability concerns, when requested to assist a community during an emergency.”
Chairman Young asked about the Norwalk flooding and OCA’s involvement in that cleanup process. Van Fossen said OCA’s members participated in the cleanup on a “purely voluntary” basis, so if there was an accident they would not have been covered.
Rep. R. Hagan asked a question about permanent structure, like a bridge, built during emergencies. He asked if years later, contractors could be held liable for faulty structures built under those circumstances. Van Fossen said contractors normally help with cleanup, and are not building permanent structures.
Blessing III said it would be difficult to prove that it occurred, while Young said he “could not imagine” a situation in which something permanent like a bridge would be built during an emergency without a contract.
Hagan asked for an amendment dealing with the issue, and Blessing III said he would not be opposed to including language concerning that possible situation.
John Van Doorn, an attorney with the Ohio Association for Justice (OAJ), said his office would need a day or two to come up with language addressing it. He said a clever attorney could claim a structure was “conceived” during an emergency. “It is a stretch, but it’s possible,” Van Doorn said.
Young said the vote would be put off until the next hearing to give time for the drafting of this amendment.
Melinda Gilpen, executive director of Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio, offered proponent testimony.
“Our position supports the efforts to protect volunteers from potential claims against them when acting in good faith and without compensation,” Gilpen said.
Senate Approves Ban on LEED v4 (SCR25)
The Senate voted 22-10 to approve SCR25 (Uecker), which urges use of green building standards compliant with the American National Standards Institute (ASNI) process, in response to concern about recent changes in the latest USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards from v3 to v4.
Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), the sponsor, said new LEED rules that urge avoidance of certain chemicals could affect such common construction materials as foam insulation and vinyl.
Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) said the resolution might send the wrong message that Ohio is "going backward" on green building projects, and noted that Ohio leads the nation in the number of LEED-certified school projects.
Sen. Chris Widener, FAIA (R-Springfield) said the resolution does not outright block the new LEED standards, but simply says they need to comply with ASNI standards first or be subject to public comment and review through the normal rule-making process.
Architect's Good Samaritan Liability Bill Heard (HB379)
The Ohio House of Representatives Commerce, Labor and Technology Committee took testimony January 29 regarding the AIA Ohio-endorsed "Good Samaritan" bill, HB 379, which would provide civil immunity for architects, engineers, and surveyors who provide services during a declared emergency.
Rep. Blessing and Rep. Landis said in sponsor testimony the measure was brought to them by AIA Ohio. Currently, there are no protections against civil suits for those working in an official capacity during an emergency, such as a tornado, Rep. Landis said, but often, "qualified engineers, surveyors and architects are the only people that can effectively assess the situation for search and rescue teams."
The sponsors explained that registered engineers and surveyors as well as certified architects are eligible for the immunity as long as a state or federal emergency is declared and their services are requested by an official body such as the governor or local law enforcement.
A provision was added at the request of the Ohio Association for Justice to ensure that no immunity is give in the case of wanton, willful or intentional misconduct, Rep. Blessing said.
In response to a question from Rep. Barborak, Rep. Blessing said the immunity only applies for the time of the declared emergency and issues with permanent structures after that date are open to civil litigation.
Rep. Barborak questioned the legislation's intent, asking if such measures that create immunity are simply saying that a standard of care is only necessary to live up to when a professional is being paid for his or her work.
Rep. Landis said the bill was proposed to encourage volunteerism from those workers who are already skilled and take great care and pride in their business or profession.
Green Building Resolution (SCR25) Faces More Opponents
A resolution that would discourage state agency use of the newest version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards drew considerable opposition testimony in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Feb. 11. SCR25 (Uecker) would urge state agencies and other government entities to only use green building rating systems, codes or standards that are consistent with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) policies.
LEED version four is not ANSI-certified for being a “consensus-based” standard, although LEED supporters say version four was subject to substantial industry and public scrutiny before being approved by 86 percent of United States Green Building Council (USGBC) members. LEED is a USGBC initiative, and over 100 Ohio school buildings have been LEED-certified since the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) required LEED use in 2007 for OSFC-funded buildings.
Tyler Steele, vice chair of the board of directors at USGBC Central Ohio, said LEED certification of schools results in “taxpayer savings through energy and water efficiency, reduced water waste, and most importantly, healthier students and teachers.” “Where we learn matters. Students perform better in schools with optimal indoor environments – clean air, access to daylight, innovative technologies, the best building materials, and more,” Steele said. “LEED has proven to be an effective program that helps to deliver these benefits to buildings, to the people inside of them and to the surrounding community.”Steele told the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), that while it is possible to build an energy-efficient building other ways, LEED is the “best available way” to work toward the goal of consistently building more efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. Sens. Uecker and Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) told witnesses Tuesday and in the previous hearing that the resolution does not discourage use of LEED overall, just the new version four.
Karen Joslin, owner of Joslin Consulting, said project teams currently seeking LEED certification have the option to register and use either LEED 2009 or version four rating systems. “However, after June of next year, just 15 months away, there will no longer be an option to choose the current 2009 systems,” Joslin said. “So please be clear that by attempting to prohibit LEED version four by state agencies and government institutions, there will no longer be any way for Ohio schools or universities to continue their LEED successes.” Uecker said project managers could continue to use the 2009 standards, saying he is “more impressed with results than a [LEED certification plaque.”
Joslin said people should think of the LEED certification plaque like a college diploma. “Someone has looked over what you did, and validated it. It’s the single biggest aspect of LEED,” Joslin said. “Designers have been saying for years they build ‘green.’ But they are not sustainable.”
Sens. Kris Jordan, (R-Powell), Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), Uecker and Schaffer questioned witnesses regarding certain materials being discouraged by LEED version four, which they said could negatively affect Ohio jobs. Nadja Turek, director of sustainable design services at Woolpert, Inc., said LEED version four incentivizes, but does not require, transparency of product ingredients.“Disclosure, transparency, and choice are hallmarks of the 21st century marketplace, and that’s what the LEED version four materials credits incentivize,” Turek said. “But those credits are options on the ‘menu,’ and if I am working with a building owner that wishes to use a particular material, furnishing or finish they may certainly do so and still achieve LEED certification…. As engineers, we can use any and all materials that lead to a life-cycle cost-effective building, period.”
Justin Koscher, vice president of public policy at the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, was the only proponent at the hearing. He said LEED should be commended for their success, but that the process in developing version four “eschewed the input of building experts and favored special interests over consensus.” He said his group and others who sent critical comments to USGBC regarding the product disclosure credits were not seriously considered in the decision making process. He said their lengthy comments were responded with a “generalized and ambiguous reply” thanking them for their comments. “The lack of a true consensus-based process surrounding the development of LEED version four has not only violated the trust between USGBC and many stakeholders in the green building community, but it also has produced a rating system that will have severe consequences for Ohio businesses and jeopardizes the public’s ability to evaluate the energy and environmental performance of buildings constructed under current Ohio policy,” Koscher said. Other testifying in opposition were Michael Berning, senior principal at Heapy Engineering; Tyrone Hissong, a farmer in Troy; Allison McKenzie, architect from Cincinnati; Jim Volkert, sale director for Go West 765; and Daniel Roberts, former superintendent of Miami Trace Local School District.
Bill to Ban LEED v4 in Ohio Heard by Senate Committee
HCR25, which would ban the use of LEED v4 in Ohio was heard January 28 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Sen. Uecker gave sponsor testimony and told the committee that the resolution "urges state agencies to use only green building rating systems, codes and standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) when implementing state energy efficiency and environmental performance objectives."
He also explained that the resolution is in response to the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) fourth version of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, LEED v4, which "eliminates the use of a number of safe and effective building materials, impacting numerous industries in Ohio."
There were no questions for the sponsor as he said there were several proponents who could speak to the specifics and details of the resolution better than he.
Josh Young of the American Chemical Council was the first of the proponents to testify. He said his organization and its members are supporters of energy efficiency, and that until LEED v4 came out, their products have been the building materials for all LEED-certified buildings.
He called the new LEED standards "ironic," and said LEED v4 stepped into "chemical regulation" and created credits for "chemicals of avoidance" that target products made in Ohio, and therefore threatens jobs in the very industry LEED was created to support.
Regarding the process USGBC uses to produce LEED standards, Young said it is not an open one and allows "six or eight folks in Washington, D.C." to tell Ohio how to build its public schools and to "cherry-picking" what materials make or don't make their list.
He told Sen. Kearney that once the standards are put into place, schools in Ohio must conform to become LEED- certified, and the standards encourage builders to "de-select" proven, safe products.
Young also made the point that Ohio should have more than just one "eco-labling" system, and others like Green Globe and Energy Star are other "tools" used to measure efficiency standards.
"We have a one-pony situation here in Ohio," he said.
Rich Walker of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), who said his organization's certification labels ensure consumers of rigorous performance and safety standards of windows, doors, lights, skylights, etc., agreed with Young's point about having manufacturing stakeholders at the USGBC table when it decides on LEED-approved materials.
Walker agreed with Sen. Ecklund's point that if the state of Ohio dictates the standard to which a public building must be built, as it has for LEED-certified school buildings, then the state should retain the responsibility to watch that standard.
Also testifying was Allen Blakely of The Vinyl Institute, who buttressed the testimony of the others and said, "Unfortunately, we have seen discriminatory and disparaging treatment of vinyl in LEED credits, even after the (USGBC) conducted its own study showing vinyl's health and environmental impacts were in line with the impacts of competing materials, and could be lower than alternatives."
There were no questions for Blakely, and Chairman Balderson noted written proponent testimony also was submitted by the Ohio Chemistry Technology Council and the Ohio Coal Association.
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AIA Ohio’s Legislative affairs program provides information and leadership through advocacy and monitoring of legislation and regulations at the state level. By collaborating with allied professionals, industry representatives, code officials, and state and local representatives, AIA Ohio strives to build strategic alliances to address issues of public health, safety and welfate, design excellence and in advancing the quality of life through the built environment.
As advocates of innovative approaches to legislation, AIA Ohio advances state regulations that benefit the practice of architecture and promotes good design that positively affects the quality of life of for all citizens of Ohio. Through our efforts, AIA Ohio works to educate the public and legislators on a wide facet of issues relating to architecture including:
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Working through our highly qualified staff and experienced membership, AIA Ohio proposes regulations, positions architects as leaders, and tracks and responds to legislation that benefits both architects and users of the built environment alike. Additionally, through our Political Action Committee, we strive to support legislation, and allies in the legislature, that advances the needs of our members.
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