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

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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.

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Adam Wynne

These articles bridge the topics of both Plank 8 and Plank 9. They are particularly interesting and relevant given the high rates of demolition occurring in a number of Canadian (and other global) cities and regions. These are additionally alarming – when one considers the massive amount of construction materials and waste – about half of which are recyclable – that are ending up in landfills. Title: Why the Most Environmental Building is the Building We’ve Already Built Author: Badger, Emily Publication(s): CityLab Date: 24 January 2012 Link: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2012/01/why-most-environmental-building-building-weve-already-built/1016/ Regarding the growing green-gap in the construction waste industry and construction… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article about Earthships – a type of innovative house which uses earth and tires to insulate the house. Earthships have been build in several countries – including the United Kingdom and United States. Is there an opportunity to use this technology elsewhere? Title: Heat Your House With Car Tyres And Earth: Energy Hungry America Teaches The World How To Build Ecological Houses. Author: de Decker, Kris Publication(s): Low Tech Magazine Date: 29 December 2007 Link: https://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2007/12/heat-your-house.html Notes: A single Earthship can re-use thousands of tires! Article Excerpt(s): A dirt cheap and 100 percent ecological house that has all… Read more »

Frank Sterle Jr.

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”. So we now have publicly-funded concessions that Federal and Provincial… Read more »

John Postman

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

Adam Wynne

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!

Here is a video on the technology from the World Economic Forum:

Adam Wynne
Adam Wynne

An interesting article about Canada’s complicated and intertwined history with the asbestos industry and it’s current relation with India’s markets. Interestingly, 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.” […] “No surprise, then, that [asbestos] is effectively… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Additionally – many Indians who have been exposed to asbestos – face difficulties getting compensation or support. The article outlines how one family receives the equivalent of 300 rupees or $6 of support via a pension each month – less than one third of the cost of their medical treatments for breathing issues.

Adam Wynne

Additionally – the area surrounding the asbestos manufacturing plants in India – which use Canadian asbestos – have environmental contamination. This additionally extends to the built environment of structures which use this product. “But many of the sheets are broken; breakage releases fibres. Heat causes the sheets to break down—and every family cooks on wood or charcoal inside their low-slung houses. Broken pieces are taken home from the factory by workers who use them to make jerry-rigged fences. Until recently, the factory also supplied water to workers from a well inside its walls. “You could see dust in the water,… Read more »

Angus Huber

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.

Michael P
Andrew Nash

I read this article with a great deal of interest and the depth of thought is as immense as the subject matter. I have at this stage just wanted to comment on a couple of areas taken from the viewpoint of a Building Inspector for a local authority in New Zealand who initially started out with his Masters in Architecture. I do not propose to have the answers, merely a viewpoint. 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,… Read more »

We are out of time. The good news is that I have been working on offgrid passive buildings since 1992. We have had the technology to do net positive buildings for decades. 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… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Have folks considered the role of building waste – specifically hazardous materials? 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 are the environmental impacts should these end up as infill or in a garbage dump?

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… Read more »

Carol Wells

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.

Richard Paul

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… Read more »

Richard Paul

The process of 3d printing houses is fascinating and it offers a new way to erect homes in an efficient manner.

Adam Wynne

Many cities are struggling with increasing levels of flooding due to climate change. Berlin has undertaken an interesting initiative by requiring all new developments implement on-site storm-water management. As such, there has been a building boom of green roofs in the urban regions in and around Berlin. It would be interesting to see Toronto undertake a similar program or strategy for storm-water management. 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 —… Read more »

Adam Wynne

What role does the demolition of buildings play in environmental contamination and subsequent impact? In Ontario, there were several articles recently that indicated an estimated 15-30% of landfill waste was from buildings which were demolished. Is it more environmentally friendly to demolish buildings rather than retrofit them? Where is this large amount of construction waste – a by-product of urban building booms – ending up? Is there a place in building codes for consideration of mandated protocols for the eventual demolition and disposal of building components? Is there a better solution than simply dumping them in landfills or as infill… Read more »

China’s green architecture goes global Charlotte Middlehurst 13.06.2016 Icon print 0comments 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. For three decades industrialisation has been synonymous with economic progress in China, but… Read more »

Carol Wells

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!

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Metta Spencer

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