April 16, 2010

To Improve Security And Enhance Environmental Sustainability, Chairman Kerry Introduces Legislation To Advance U.S. Embassy And Consulate Design

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation that will redefine U.S. embassy and consulate design and enhance their security.

The Embassy Design and Security Act of 2010 will mandate a new generation of secure and sustainable diplomatic and consular facilities in support of United States diplomacy. It will require the Secretary of State to establish an embassy design program, which will focus on sustainability and construction practices for all U.S. embassies and consulates. This legislation will also encourage eco-friendly building practices employing innovative research to apply new ideas, cost-effective solutions, and technologies for all new facilities.

“Our embassies and consulates are important reflections of the American values of openness, ingenuity, and innovation,” said Chairman Kerry. “They should reflect the best of U.S. design, architecture, sustainability, and technology while maintaining security as the top priority. Our embassies and consulates are the frontlines of U.S. diplomacy and often are the first contact people in foreign countries have with the United States. As the Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan strongly affirmed, they should reflect ‘the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American National Government’.”

The American Institute of Architects has indicated its strong support for this legislation. George Miller, the president of AIA, said, “We commend Senator Kerry for introducing this bill, and for introducing it during National Architecture Week, when Americans are celebrating the value that design brings to our communities. Good design is as important in the buildings we design and construct abroad as those at home. The Embassy Design and Security Act speaks to the ideal that design matters to the health, well-being, and security of our nation, not just at home but abroad as well.”

The U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization committed to making green buildings available to everyone within a generation, submitted a letter in support of this bill.

The Kerry-Dodd legislation will:

  • Establish a Design Excellence Program at the Department of State

§ The legislation recognizes that United States embassies are important reflections of American values of openness, ingenuity, and innovation and should reflect the best of U.S. design, architecture, sustainability, and technology while maintaining security as a top priority.

§ As the Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan stated: The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American National Government.

§ The legislation directs the Secretary of State and the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations to develop and establish a design excellence program, based on the program used by the General Services Administration, which will integrate sustainable design and construction best practices for all constructed facilities.

§ The legislation encourages innovation and green practices in building design and urges the Department to take advantage of cutting edge research to bring new ideas, cost-effective solutions, innovation and new technologies as they come on the market for new facilities.

  • Establish a Diplomatic Facilities Task Force

§ The Task Force is mandated to review existing security guidelines and regulations to ensure modern, safe and secure embassies.

§ Every country with diplomatic representation must have a modern, secure, safe, and functional facility, while also ensuring that security is appropriately integrated with the long-term foreign policy objectives of the Department of State.

  • Reestablish a Design Advisory Board for Embassies

§ The Board will advise the Department of State on design standards, recommend the most appropriate style of architecture for prospective projects, and advise on an appropriate balance between security priorities and American values of openness and innovation.

§ The Board is also tasked to comprehensively review the Standard Embassy Design template, including general strengths, weaknesses, drawbacks, and limitations, including whether this approach unduly limits design flexibility and responsiveness to local contexts and priorities.

Attached to this press release are documents which outline the legislation and letters of support.