8. The International Code Council shall adopt stringent performance-based building codes.

Read Article | Comments

Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Buildings emit vast amounts of greenhouse gas and, worldwide, they account for nearly 40 percent of all energy consumption. In the U.S. in 2006, buildings used more energy than the entire country’s transportation sector.(1) Clearly, the world needs more stringent rules about selecting building materials, and perhaps the best way of accomplishing that is by tightening up the building codes that all governments adopt.

Building codes were invented to protect consumers from fire and structural failures, but gradually began to cover other public health and safety issues as well. For example, in the 1920s there were many deaths from typhoid epidemics because water was being contaminated, so strict plumbing standards were added to the codes. Then in the 1970s, energy conservation was added to the list of requirements after the oil scarcity crisis.(2)

The International Code council is a U.S.-based organization that sets building and energy standards for home and commercial buildings. It is also the code that some other provincial governments or local jurisdictions elsewhere adopt, rather than developing their own standards. However, there are many other such codes in use around the world, such as in Canada the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECD). This discussion will apply to them all.

Read more

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Why the Most Environmental Building is the Building We’ve Already Built

About one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. That’s why we should be retro-fitting our houses and workplaces. But watch out for the demolition that precedes rebuilding. Half of the residue winds up in landfills. But retrofitting is almost always more energy efficient–especially if we reduce the amount of waste.

By Emily Badger
Reusing an old building pretty much always has less of an impact on the environment than tearing it down, trashing the debris, clearing the site, crafting new materials and putting up a replacement from scratch. This makes some basic sense, even without looking at the numbers.

But what if the new building is super energy-efficient? How do the two alternatives compare over a lifetime, across generations of use?

“We often come up against this argument that, ‘Oh well, the existing building could never compete with the new building in terms of energy efficiency,’” says Patrice Frey, the director of sustainability for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We wanted to model that.”

Read more

Earthships: Heat Your House with Car Tyres and Earth

Earthships use earth and tires for insulation. Gorgeous ones have been built in several countries, including the UK and the US, but to build yours, you may have to change the local building codes first.

By Kris de Decker
A dirt cheap and 100 percent ecological house that has all the comforts of an ordinary home, without being connected to the electricity grid, waterworks, sewer system or the natural gas network. It does exist, but in most countries, building one is not allowed.

An Earthship is a completely self-sufficient house that has a natural temperature regulation, without the use of a heating system. The building also generates its own electricity, collects and filters its own drinking water and cleans its own effluent water. The house is partly buried into the earth and is constructed mainly with waste materials; car tyres, aluminium cans and glass bottles. This low-tech building approach is ecologically as well as economically advantageous.

This autumn, the British coastal city of Brighton approved the construction of 16 Earthships. It’s the first time that a European city council has given builders the green light to mass construct this radical ecological housing form. In the United States nearly one thousand Earthships have been built, most of them in the desert of New Mexico.

Read more

Builders Shouldn’t Count on Liquified Natural Gas

Revealed in a Common Ground magazine article (“BC’s LNG industry – flogging a dead horse,” posted Dec. 8, 2018) is that Coastal GasLink’s liquefied fractured gas project is a bad deal for both British Columbians and the environment, with the following disturbing facts (extracted and listed below as published in point-form word for word) I’ve yet to hear reported in the mainstream news-media:
“ …. Faced with such competition for a resource product widely available worldwide, BC’s fledgling gas industry turned to Governments for concessions to help “make them competitive”.

Read more

Is Cannabis Better Than Concrete?

comment image
Yes, these are hemp bricks

I’ve seen videos lately about hemp bricks instead of concrete. How realistic is that option?

3D printers are now being used to reconstruct homes in areas decimated by natural disasters. Research is additionally being conducted on the notion of using biomimicry (nature-inspired designs) to create crack and earthquake resistant structural design. Fascinating fields!

Resisting Earthquakes with 3D Printers

By Will Webster

We talk to the research team from Purdue University who’ve combined 3D printing and inspiration from the natural world to give cement some very new behaviours.

Earthquakes are one of the most destructive forms of natural disaster, but the biggest hazard during an quake isn’t the shaking itself – it’s the collapse of human-built structures caused by it.

For centuries people have aimed to make buildings, bridges, and roads stronger and more rigid, with the hope that they would progressively become better at their jobs. That’s largely been the case, apart from when an earthquake strikes, where rigidity immediately becomes a big issue.
Read more

Asbestos in the Cement?

Asbestos is being used in India to create a low-cost cement – one of the main industries for a product otherwise on its way out due to overarching toxicity.

“The problem was not the use of asbestos in Canada, which has practically been outlawed. Indeed, Harper’s government is paying millions of dollars to remove asbestos from the Parliament Buildings. Rather, the problem is what Canadian asbestos is doing in other countries.”
Read more

Heat Pumps Save Energy!

One important way of reducing carbon emissions from heating and cooling buildings is to install heat pumps. Electric heat pumps reduce primary energy consumption in Europe between 15 and 50%, compared with oil- and gas-heating systems. This then reduces CO2-emissions by between 20 and 60% and up to 85% of other pollutants.

Who’s Printing Your New House?

3d house printing is going mainstream https://betabram.com/?fbclid=IwAR3sq30qq1qcRdXv1ig_RkV6_XPZXjmXdIXajgBDeI_MZOngYzbekjg1SWU

Here’s how the Kiwis are doing it

I want to comment on a couple of areas from the viewpoint of a Building Inspector for a local authority in New Zealand who initially started out with his Masters in Architecture.

Firstly when you say the best way to reduce the consumption of energy is not to change the building codes but simply to tax heavily the carbon in fuel, I would agree. Tax the carbon in fuel heavily but also incentivise the use of products, services and practices employed by companies. Combine incentives with a combination of preferred local authority contractors at a local authority level, possibly even combined with less red tape at the building consent stage and finally seek at a national / state / province level to add tax breaks to qualifying companies.
Read more

Builders, We’re Out of Time!

We are out of time. I have been working on offgrid passive buildings since 1992. The good news is that we have had the technology to do net positive buildings for decades.<'em> With cheap polluting fossil fuels propagating false economies, it didn’t make financial sense to do it. Now, every building that is not built net zero or positive bakes in even more costly climate impact. Pay now or pay later.

I’d like to see the 2030 Challenge (with its Energy Use Intensity target in eKwh/ m2/ year) adopted worldwide but even that has shortcomings. B.C.’s Step Code is on the right path with a Carbon Use Intensity target, but we do need life cycle targets that consider the embodied energy built in to incentivize getting away from the concrete and steel.
Read more

For many decades toxic materials were used in construction – such as asbestos and heavy metal based paints. When buildings are demolished or renovated – where do these materials end up? I am hoping that in most cases they are safely disposed of – but what if these end up as infill or in a garbage dump? Who’s monitoring this kind of thing?

We must Cut Carbon out of Construction – NOW!

By Paul Dowsett, OAA, FRAIC, LEED AP
Principal Architect — Sustainable. Architecture for a Healthy Planet. August, 2019

Five months. That’s all we have to transform as an industry. Seventeen months if we’re being generous. And transform we must! There is no option – or planet – B.

Being an architect, I look at my own industry, to determine the state we’re in, and more importantly, to propose how we can, and must, change.

The act of city building would not be possible without the literal city builders, i.e. the entire construction industry – building owners and managers, architects and engineers, general contractors and tradespeople, and material manufacturers and suppliers.

Read more

What is Mass Timber?

Paul, I learned a lot from my interview with you and Michael Yorke — especially about the merits of “mass timber,” which I had never heard about before. I was concerned that using wood for construction might make for firetraps, so it was very instructive to learn that when you use thick pieces of wood they just char on the outside and retain their structure inside quite well. That is certainly reassuring, and I think more other people need to hear that news too.

Is 3-d printed construction really green?

I would think that 3d printing of buildings using special formulations of concrete would have a low carbon footprint if the machinery doing so would be mainly electric and solar recharged perhaps. That carries with it a unique set of problems. Like how do you tap into electricity that was formerly generated through diesel engines?

More powerful battery systems need to be developed. But another way to reduce the carbon emissions is maybe have more pre-fab housing built then transported onsite. This would make the 3d printing process easy to set up. However it might add to the glut of transport trailers on our highways. But then again even Tesla is building electric trucks.comment image

Many more cities have floods now, due to climate change. But Berlin is requiring all new developments implement on-site storm-water management. This has led to a building boom of green roofs. I wonder how long green roofs last vs. “traditional” roofing materials. Some areas of Scandinavia have been using green roofs for centuries – such as the Faroe Islands.

“Traditional” roofing material has its drawbacks as well — when Notre Dame burned, the lead roof vaporized, releasing tons of lead into Paris’ atmosphere – leading to health concerns for children in surrounding areas.

In Ontario, several articles recently estimated that 15-30% of landfill waste was from demolished buildings. Is it more environmentally friendly to demolish buildings rather than retrofit them? Do building codes plan for the eventual demolition and disposal of building components? Is there a better solution than simply dumping them in landfills?

China’s green architecture goes global

By Charlotte Middlehurst

The future of urban design in China is open source, international and sustainable, the Chinese winner of a 2016 Ashden Award tells Charlotte Middlehurst

Wei Zhang begins his presentation with a slide of striking images. On one half of the slide there’s a photo of a smoggy day in Beijing, where buildings are barely visible because of thick smog. On the other is the same skyline but with blue skies. They read: “damage” and “prosperity”, respectively.

Read more

The International Code Council is not universal. Many states have their own building codes, so presumably China has its own. Probably it is promoting its standards abroad too, as it gains influence around the world. That is fine, so long as the buildings are well-constructed. Remember how some schools collapsed in China a few years ago? That’s not the building code we’d favor!

comment image

The next time you build an office building, make it sustainable! Here’s a nice example.
comment image