Editor’s Desk: Build America, Buy America

Promoting American Goods & Strengthening the Supply Chain

At the end 2021, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  Originally intended as an infrastructure package for highway, rail, and transit programs, congressional negotiations amended it to include broadband access, clean water, and electric grid renewal.  Rewind more than ten years earlier, when President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.  The goal of this act was to save existing jobs and create new ones.  The ARRA included a Buy American provision, which imposed that public buildings and works projects funded by the 2009 stimulus package must use only manufactured goods produced in the United States.

         Back then, it was a response to the Great Recession, and today’s investment in America’s future appears to be heading that way, too.  President Biden has signed into law the Build America, Buy America Act, which, in conjunction with the IIJA, requires all iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in federally funded infrastructure projects are produced in the United States.  The goal is to bolster American manufacturing, but it can also place the onus on the architect specifying the products used in a federally funded project.

         For manufacturers, this has led to increased material costs.  When a company is unable to source a certain material from outside of the country, it increases internal operating costs.  Those increased costs are then trickled down to the consumer, your client.  It can be a tough discussion when you’re trying to explain to your client why their project is coming in over budget.  Similarly, many projects were in process when Build America, Buy America came about, that suddenly were no longer in compliance.  It’s been a period of transformation for everyone involved, sometimes mired in frustration. 

         An ancillary effect Build America, Buy America has had on the architecture industry is the value it places on enhanced communication between designers and manufacturers.  Architecture and engineering firms must do their due diligence to obtain and maintain documentation from manufacturers that certifies that their products being used are made domestically. 

         Newer guidance makes waivers available for projects whose overall cost would be increased by more than 25% if forced to source American-made materials.  However, it is the administration’s hope that the IIJA and Build America, Buy America Act will strengthen the American economy and its construction materials manufacturers. 

         If Build America, Buy America was put in place to promote domestic manufacturing, as well as strengthen and repair the broken supply chain, then I believe we should stand behind it.  After everything the architecture, engineering, and construction industries have been through these past few years, I’m hopeful this new legislation will position American companies and its workers as global leaders once again.

Marcus Dodson

editor & publisher

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