Key issues for architects from Biden’s State of the Union address

Made in America

Key issues for architects from Biden’s State of the Union address

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding that will replace the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, Monday, January 30, 2023, at the Falls Road Amtrak maintenance building in Baltimore. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz/Flickr)

In his State of the Union address last night, President Joe Biden highlighted new construction and manufacturing standards that could affect architects and other building industry professionals.

The proposed standards would require federal infrastructure projects to use American-made construction materials, including plastic and polymer-based products, glass, drywall, and lumber. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is set to release the new standards today.

According to Reuters, the OMB is soliciting public input on whether engineered wood products (like CLT), bricks, paints, and other materials should be included in the new guidance. The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposal.

If and when the new standards are approved, the White House stated that it would apply to almost all federally-supported infrastructure, including water infrastructure, high-speed internet, roads, bridges, and buildings. According to the briefing, the standards would “[provide] consistency for companies and state and local governments to apply the standards and a strong federal government-wide demand signal.”

The OMB’s standards were created under the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion law that provides funding to build and repair infrastructure, expand high-speed internet, replace lead drinking water pipes, and more. The law also expanded standards that required federal infrastructure projects to use more metals, construction materials, and other products made in America.

However, under both the current and proposed standards, made in America does not mean 100 percent made in America. Before Biden changed the old rules in March 2022, 55 percent of a given construction material had to be made with products created in the States. Biden upped those percentages to 65 percent next year, and 75 percent in 2029.

While these rules were embraced by some, not everyone in the construction industry is entirely satisfied with the proposal.

In a statement reported by Construction Dive, the construction industry trade group National Utility Contractors Association shared its thoughts on the new guidance: “Our nation’s utility construction industry literally digs into fresh American soil to complete our projects, so we support sourcing materials from American manufacturers. But a one-size-fits-all solution never fits individual projects like ours.”

The statement added that keeping federal infrastructure expenditures down can necessitate the use of some cheaper, imported materials.