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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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 waste markets:

Title: A Growing Green Gap in the Construction Waste Market
Author: Johnson, Gail
Publication(s): Globe and Mail
Date: 9 December 2011 (edited 3 April 2018)
Link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-growth/a-growing-green-gap-in-the-construction-waste-market/article4180610/

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 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.

The ecological damage produced by a traditional house is not only the consequence of the energy used during its lifetime, but also through the building materials required to construct it

Earthships are the brainchild of American architect Michael Reynolds, who first put the concept into practice in the seventies, during the first oil crisis. Sharp falling energy prices in the 80’s and 90’s restricted the idea for a long time to mostly anarchistic communities and individuals. Recently however, this revolutionary architecture is slowly gaining credibility in other sections of society. Oil prices continue to climb and uneasiness surrounding global warming grows. Moreover, thanks to 30 years of evolution, many of the initial glitches Earthships faced have been ironed out.

The autonomous nature of an Earthship is not as revolutionary as it was 30 years ago. The technology required to generate energy, filter water and recycle waste water apart from the existing infrastructure has significantly advanced. What makes an Earthship special and interesting these days is that it is mainly built out of waste materials and partly buried into the earth.

Thick Walls:

The house has very thick walls, with a diameter of around one metre. The walls are not made from concrete or bricks, but from piled up car tyres covered with clay. Every tyre is filled with earth and then tamped down with a sledge-hammer. Depending on the climate, two to three walls are surrounded by a heaped up wall, or built into a slope. Combined with a sun lounge on the south side of the building (the north side on the southern hemisphere) the construction provides a natural heating and cooling system.

The solar heat that enters the house through the large windows is absorbed by the thick walls. The walls have a large thermal mass thanks to the car tyres and the earth – insulation is extremely effective. During the night and on cloudy days, the heat is then slowly released. The same system cools the house in summer, as the surrounding earth and the car tyres are colder than the open air. Thanks to this natural air-conditioning, the inside temperature varies from 17 to 24 degrees all year round.

“No matter how sensible the idea is, building houses with car tyres and aluminium beer cans sounds ludicrous to most politicians”

Scrapped car tyres are the foundations of an Earthship. They are the key to the natural air-conditioning system and they take care of the solidity of the bearing walls. For non-bearing walls, aluminium cans or glass bottles are used. The roof and the veranda are made of wood. While the wood can be re-used, in many instances new wood is preferred. Because the tyres are completely packed in earth, the walls are also fireproof – it is impossible for oxygen to reach the rubber. During a forest fire in New Mexico, the interior of an Earthship was completely destroyed, but the walls were left intact.

Building houses out of car tyres and cans might sound unconventional, but the ecological benefit is so large that the concept deserves to be given some serious consideration. The fact that an Earthship does not use fossil fuels for heating or electricity (and therefore emits no CO2) is not even its most important advantage. By using waste material, the result is even better.

40 million car tyres = 40,000 Earthships

Firstly, great amounts of waste materials can be utilized. In the United Kingdom alone, 40 million car tyres are dumped annually. The project in Brighton uses a thousand tyres for one house, which theoretically means that with the yearly UK supply of dumped tyres, 40,000 Earthships could be built.

Furthermore, one is re-using, not recycling; a much greener option than grinding down tyres to produce speed bumps for example, since the waste is not undergoing an additional industrial, energy consuming process.

Secondly, and even more importantly, by using waste materials, thousands upon thousands of tonnes of building materials could be saved; concrete, mortar and bricks. The ecological damage produced by a traditional house is not only the consequence of the energy used during its lifetime, but also through the building materials required to construct it.

More traditional shapes may help with the general acceptance of this type of building method by the general public

Concrete production is one of the most energy-intensive industrial processes that exist. The sector is responsible for ten percent of global CO2-emissions, which makes it the third highest producer of greenhouse gases (following transport and energy production). Thus, building houses using waste materials (whether the buildings are self-sufficient or not) is an environmental advantage in more ways than one.

Old buildings are often demolished with the argument that replacement buildings have better insulation and therefore consume less energy. What is being overlooked is that both the pulling down of the old house as well as the building of the new house implicates a huge amount of building materials and energy (embodied energy), which completely negate the advantages of better insulation.

And the cost?

Using waste materials does not necessarily mean than an Earthship is cheaper than a traditional house – the homes on offer in Brighton will even be slightly more expensive due to the labour intensive nature of the Earthship (labour is taxed much more heavily than use of energy or materials). Although, once the house is built, the extra investment is quickly recovered as there are no gas, water or electricity bills.

Building an Earthship yourself with some friends could be very cheap, but is time consuming. The largest Earthships in the United States took almost ten years to build. If you build one on your own, the biggest cost would be the purchasing of solar panels and batteries, followed by the large windows, pumps and filters. Waste materials could be delivered for free, as people have to pay to get rid of them.

Unconventional and revolutionary ideas need to be adopted if we want to help prevent a worldwide fight for energy

At the moment, there are only a handful of Earthships in Europe, with half of them built illegally, but the concept following is strong, with various national organisations promoting the idea. The most pressing problem is obtaining a building permit. No matter how sensible the idea is, building houses with car tyres and aluminium beer cans sounds ludicrous to most politicians.

Most Earthships in the US take on an unconventional form. They have fairy-tale like features that remind one of the works of architects like Gaudí and Hundertwasser. But others, like the 16 Earthships being built in Brighton (picture above), hardly look any different from conventional houses. These more traditional forms may help with the general acceptance of this type of building method by the general public.

Built up environments

Until now, most Earthships were built in isolated places, where most people live in built-up urban environments. The problem with the feasibility of an Earthship is the size of the plot on which it is built. This plot is significantly larger than the size of a conventional house.

But the idea is flexible enough to adapt to different situations. When an Earthship is built, earth mounds are formed, which in turn may provide support for another Earthship, and so on. The result would be revolutionary and unconventional. However, in response to the recent warnings from the International Energy Agency, unconventional and revolutionary ideas need to be adopted if we want to help prevent a worldwide fight for energy.

Kris De Decker (edited by Shameez Joubert & Vincent Grosjean)

Earthships are promoted by various organisations:

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 Governments – past and present – have placed in the industry’s begging bowl, including:
–no Provincial Sales Tax on gas purchased;
subsidized (6 cents/ kilowatt-hour) electricity rates (residential customers pay 12 cents/KWh). The 6-cent industrial rate was originally conceived for labour-intensive industries, which LNG definitely is not;
–zero percent LNG royalty tax; 9 percent corporate tax rate on future profits declared in BC. Royalty taxes are payments to the resource owners – in this case the BC public. Much of the LNG industry is financially structured to offshore any profits to lower-tax jurisdictions, as Australia has already learned to its chagrin;
–$35/tonne carbon tax cap and $0/tonne on “fugitive” (vented and leaked) gases. The public will pay much higher carbon taxes, as this is ramped up in future years to limit global climate disruption. Fugitive emissions, when fully and accurately accounted for, make LNG a worse climate-warmer than coal;
–$120 Million a year for infrastructure costs (roads and pipelines to fracking holes). When this is factored into the skimpy returns to the public purse, the fracked gas industry remits less to BC’s coffers than do parking fees and fines in the City of Vancouver;
–reduced property assessments and property taxes. BC has legislated discounted property tax rates for all port facilities;
–relaxed Temporary Foreign Worker restrictions for imported workers. Unlike Australia, Canada has not negotiated local employment guarantees for the construction and operation of LNG facilities and pipelines;
–exemption from 25% import duty on machinery and equipment. The industry is also appealing a ruling by Canadian International Trade Tribunal imposing a hefty anti-dumping tariff on LNG modules constructed in Korea and floated here for final assembly. Constructing these units abroad denies jobs to Canadian steelworkers and revenue to Canada;
–accelerated capital cost write-downs. The Harper Government hiked the speed at which the LNG industry could write off its huge capital costs (to 30 percent per annum, previously 8 percent), effectively delaying income taxes and reducing borrowing costs for the industry.
All in all, this is extremely generous treatment for a foreign-owned industry which would employ, at most, a tiny fraction of BC’s 2.5 million-strong workforce – far fewer than each of BC’s high-tech, film and tourism industries. A 2014 study by the Centre for Policy Alternatives showed that, at a $12 LNG price in Asia, it would be 14 years before the capital costs of these projects were written off and LNG royalties begin to trickle into BC’s public coffers. The fracked gas industry has built up tax credits of a whopping $3 billion, meaning that, should it ever actually record a profit locally, the first $3 billion will be tax-free. As the LNG price has fallen to under $10/mmBTU, that 14-year break-even timing is likely to be further delayed. This mirrors the Australian LNG experience, which has shown break-even periods of 15 years or more for its LNG projects, and a tripling of local gas prices in the face of export competition for local supplies. Australians are paying more for their own gas than are foreign buyers.
Natural gas is composed primarily of methane, as a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Fracking for natural gas causes severe damage to local environments, permanently pollutes local groundwater, and has been identified as the cause of a series of earthquakes in north-eastern BC. …”

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!

An interesting article on the technology as well: https://www.redbull.com/ca-en/3d-printed-cement-to-earthquake-proof-buildings

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 banned in Canada. And a surprise, to observers, that Canada exports it to other countries, most notoriously India, where public-health regimes are less vigorous than in Canada.”

But that fact is no more mysterious than two forces that are as well known in India as they are in Canada. One is the power of supply and demand. The other is the vacuum of political indifference.”

Regarding the Indian context:

“Swami worked eight hours a day, six days a week. In return, the Shree Digvijay Cement Co. Ltd. each day dispensed 230 rupees ($5) and a 150-gram lump of dark, sticky cane sugar, called jaggery. His managers instructed him to suck on it through the day. “They told us if we ate it, all the dust that we breathed in would stick to it and move through our system and not hurt us,” he says.

That’s the sort of thing that passed for safety equipment at the factory, where Swami worked until recently. After 10 years of the sugar fix, the workers were given gloves, and cotton handkerchiefs to tie over their mouths. But for more than a decade, there has been nothing at all, Swami says.

India has a voracious market for asbestos, which is used to make a cement composite used in low-cost building products.”


“Today Manwar, jovial, white-haired and apparently tireless—so far unaffected by the breathing troubles that afflict many of his former colleagues—runs a one-man accountability effort from a battered desk on the veranda of his small home, fighting the companies for compensation. But as he sees it, he has another opponent as well: his own government, which, he says, knows full well that asbestos is causing a massive incipient epidemic in India, but is so in the sway of industry that it dismisses the legitimacy of a tower of medical evidence and obstructs all efforts, domestic and international, to put a ban on its use.”


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.

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, floating in it,” says C.R. Singh, who grew up in Kali Gaon and whose father still works in the factory. “I had no idea there was a risk—it’s just what people have done their whole life. Now I wonder what I drank for my first 25 years.””

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.

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, 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.
Secondly I would just like to add a comment on the lack of progress inspections for Green Builds. As an inspector, I see building products being substituted regularly during the course of a build. Sometimes product substitutions are easily picked up here in NZ and are either reversed or, must to go back to the licencing authority if it is a major deviation from the plan, especially those that affect high risk areas (also equally high risk in the litigious sense), such as weather-tightness, structure, durability or fire. My call is that certain declared, low embedded energy products are added to this list and are given the same level of importance. The list does not have to be big and could be directly tied to the LEED or even the Green Building Councils (here in NZ and in Australia) with the cost covered by those green building authorities (to begin with at least) and checked as part of the main build at each stage. Final sign off from the building authority will necessitate the additional product and practitioner documentation forwarded at the completion of the build before final sign-off as we do here with all other stages of the build.
We tend to treat minor variations in NZ with more latitude if they can be declared, re-designed with revised documentation from the Designer and Engineer and, then approved by the owner or their agent. Following completion of a `Minor Variation’ an inspection can then pass and the build can then proceed with less red tape, this includes certain product substitutions, the idea being that it will still perform to the same standard and will thus comply with building legislation (or indeed to sustainable outcomes) and importantly, is recorded.

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 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. We need low-rise to mid-rise fairly dense developments—transit-oriented development (TOD). This type of development easily makes low-cost wood structures (no fancy glue-laminated timber or heavy timbers required) and makes public transit cost-effective and viable. Mid-rise developments support small businesses, reduces transportation fuel and reduces embodied energy. We need mandatory occupant climate impact survey so that people are aware of the impact that their electricity and water usage has and where they sit compared to our targets (www.projectneutral.org). There is no need for high-rise concrete structures with window walls even if they have a thermally-broken balcony (Schöck Isokorb). These buildings are all currently dead buildings on life support and they are dangerous if the power goes out during a winter storm or summer heat wave. We need passive survivability and Total Energy Demand Intensity (TEDI) targets help measure that.

In addition, we have to address food production and waste, and childcare. Why? Our food production systems are going to collapse—they are predicated on fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and a stable climate. So the design of our buildings needs to embed alternative means for food production (greenhouses and shared gardens), preparation (shared cooking) and childcare (the madness to get to the 6 pm pickup must end!). Our human culture is based on eating together and raising the next generation. Let’s do this more effectively.

Everyone should have a carbon ration and they can choose how to spend it. Some will indulge in long showers and others will go on a flight once every two years. Ideally, we are living in low-carbon buildings in walkable neighbourhoods, using very little electricity and water, and helping each other raise the next generation.

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 entire construction industry – building owners and managers, architects and engineers, general contractors and tradespeople, and material manufacturers and suppliers.

And when it comes to the climate crisis, all of us as “city builders” have an important role to play.
And that role must change.

We must cut carbon out of construction – NOW !

“Pollution” from the construction industry looks like this: Massive amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere during the construction of a building (embodied carbon) and during the lifetime operation of a building (operational carbon).
The thing is, we as a group must do our part to mitigate the climate crisis.
These massive carbon emissions must stop, we as an industry must change, and here’s why and how.

Why we must change
According to a 2017 report by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the global construction industry, which is responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (roughly equivalent to those of China) must operate at “net zero carbon” by 2050 if global warming is to remain under two degrees Celsius — the limit enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

Not only that, but “Every building on the planet must be ‘net zero carbon’ by 2050 to keep global warming below 2°C” (emphasis mine).

When they say “every building on the planet”, this means every building … whether new and existing.
Further, it is likely that, in 2017, WorldGBC was only considering operational carbon, and not embodied carbon.

How can we transform both the operation of existing buildings, and the construction of new buildings, to emit no carbon?

How we will change — existing buildings and adaptive reuse
There is nothing that we can do to reduce the embodied carbon in existing buildings, as it has already been emitted during construction.

But, we can respect that that carbon has been emitted , and maintain the building’s existing structure by retaining it as-is or transforming it through adaptive reuse. The alternative is to demolish that structure and send its component parts to landfill, only to emit more carbon during the construction of a replacement building.

Further, we can retrofit an existing building so that it is optimally energy-efficient, thus reducing its operational carbon going forward.

To reduce operational carbon, in Ontario we could electrify everything — both new and existing buildings. We have one of the most carbon-clean electrical grids on the planet.

Embodied carbon is becoming significant
We’re catching on to the idea that embodied carbon is significant, especially as we develop more and more energy-efficient buildings.

Regarding the term “embodied carbon”, I appreciate Lloyd Alter’s blog post in Treehugger, where he outlines that he is not a fan of the term (because it hides the urgent need to deal with the carbon that is emitted as a result of the construction process). Instead, he suggests we all use “”upfront carbon emissions” (UCE) because that’s what they are.”

Anthony Pak states that, “The importance of embodied carbon becomes even more evident when you consider that, according to the IPCC, to limit global warming to 1.5°C, carbon emissions would need to peak next year in 2020 and then go to net zero globally by 2050. Given that embodied carbon will make up almost half of total new construction emissions between now and 2050, we cannot ignore embodied carbon if we want to have any chance of hitting our climate targets.” (emphasis mine)

2020 is 5 months from now — 5 months to peak our global carbon emissions !
(17 months if we’re being generous and giving ourselves to the end of next year.)

What we cannot ignore any longer is that the manufacturing processes for concrete, steel, and asphalt — the assumed inevitable foundations of our construction industry — are huge emitters of carbon.

Writing in The Guardian, Jonathan Watts calls concrete, “the most destructive material on earth”.

What to use instead ?
A forest — the “wood factory” if you will — is a carbon-sink, drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, and moving us in the right direction with our carbon emissions. According to Project Drawdown, which cites a 2014 study, “Building with wood could reduce annual global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 to 31 percent.”

The construction industry can, and must, change
But getting the designers and builders in the construction industry to convince the concrete, steel, and asphalt industries to give up their predominant position will be on par with getting the petroleum industry to give up theirs. They are all big, and powerful, and not terribly willing to change.

But there is hope !
A promo piece by Skanska, the world’s largest construction firm, encourages us to: “Think of a world where fantastic buildings …are created …giving [people] great places to live and work in, and where the CO2 impact during construction is …well, there isn’t one. That would be a future we could really look forward to.”

Attention: city REbuilders !
Choosing to bring the embodied and operational carbon of buildings to zero is hard, and it is also necessary for our survival.

We must embark on a program of city REbuilding, and we must do it now !

It is time for all of us to do something. And to do it now.

Medium writer Marta Brzosko says it best: “We are all on this sinking ship together — and we are afraid. That’s only natural. But this is precisely why it’s the time to find courage. The courage for acting and speaking about the climate crisis, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Because, as Greta Thunberg says, our house is on fire. And to ignore the fact that your own house is burning is just ridiculous.”

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.

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

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 — when Notre Dame burned, the lead roof vaporized, releasing tons of lead into Paris’ atmosphere – leading to health concerns for children in surrounding areas.

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 in new developments – such as shoreline remediation?

China’s green architecture goes global

Charlotte Middlehurst
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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 the pollution produced by this model of growth has exacted a heavy toll on the environment and health, which is reversing peoples’ way of thinking.

Shanghai-based Landsea is a design and engineering consultancy with a simple mission; to show people that housing (still a big driver of economic growth, and carbon emissions, in China) can be energy efficient, comfortable and affordable. Its objective is underpinned by a fundamental belief in sharing knowledge across borders. ….

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