This Week's Codes and Standards, April 15

Millions of homes may be lost to flooding from climate change by 2100, L.A. County's first sustainability plan, ICC's legal battle, investment capital flooding coastal home developments at risk for flooding, and Tesla's solar sales

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | April 15, 2019
Millions of homes may be lost to flooding from climate change by 2100, L.A. County's first sustainability plan, ICC's legal battle, investment capital flooding coastal home developments at risk for flooding, and Tesla's solar sales
Photo: Xavi Cabrera/Unsplash

Flooding From Climate Change Could Swallow Millions of Homes in 80 Years


Nearly 300 U.S. cities will lose half of their homes in the next 80 years due to rising sea levels if global warming continues unchecked, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA says that 36 cities would sink completely under rising oceans over that time.

Based on data from Zillow’s assessment of the results of rising sea levels on U.S. homes, Florida would lose 934,411 homes, more than the total of the remaining top ten states. The next seven most vulnerable states are on the Atlantic seaboard or Gulf Coast: New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.

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L.A. County’s First Sustainability Plan Tackles Carbon, Air Quality, Transportation, Resilience


Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S., recently released a draft of a comprehensive sustainability plan.

The plan addresses carbon emission reduction, air quality, transportation, equitable and sustainable land use, and resilience. The land use section addresses gentrification and the ability of residents to afford to remain in their neighborhoods. “With policy tools such as anti-displacement measures, existing community members can remain in and strengthen their neighborhoods and networks while accepting new residents through more compact, mixed-use development,” the plan says.

On resiliency, the plan addresses the impacts of “climate shocks.” One goal is to “integrate climate resilience and adaptation into planning, buildings, infrastructure, and community development decisions.”

Building standards and codes will be beefed up to reduce carbon emissions. The ambitious goals set in this section are:

  • 2025 — All new buildings and 50% of major building renovations to be net-zero carbon
  • 2035—75% of major building renovations to be net-zero carbon
  • 2045—100% of major building renovations to be net-zero carbon

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Intl. Code Council and UpCodes Involved in Legal Fight over Code Copyrights


UpCodes, a Silicon Valley start-up, aims to streamline code compliance with digital tools that make it easier for the AEC industry to access codes and check work for compliance. The firm uses data from codes developed by the International Code Council, the nonprofit organization that develops the code used or adopted in building regulations by all 50 states. The ICC responded to this development with a lawsuit alleging that UpCodes is using its copyrighted work without permission.

According to a TechCrunch article, the case raises large legal issues including: “Is it possible to copyright the law or text that carries the weight of law? Because laws and codes are often written by private individuals or groups instead of legislators, what rights do they continue to have over their work?”

UpCodes contends that its use of building codes is covered by fair use. The ICC claims that products like UpCodes’ database harm its ability to make revenue and continue developing codes. The ICC wants UpCodes to take down the building code on which it claims copyright, and has sued for damages.

The issue, which has been litigated in other cases, may be headed for the Supreme Court, TechCrunch says.

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Investment Capital Continues to Flow to Flood-Prone Coastal Home Development


Despite the increasing risk of building homes along coastal areas, investment firms continue to fund projects at a healthy clip. Homebuyers are concerned about the growing threat of climate-related damage, but continue to purchase coastal properties. It may be that there are too few financial repercussions for coastal homeowners to discourage construction in highly vulnerable zones.
Investment capital going into insurers and reinsurers has increased competition in the industry and held premiums down. That, in turn, has artificially suppressed the cost of coastal homeownership, according to some industry insiders.

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Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles Slow to Gain Traction


It’s been two years since Tesla’s Elon Musk announced that the company would begin taking orders for a breakthrough new product—roof tiles that generate electricity from the sun. Since then, though, sales of the product have been disappointing.
Tesla’s vision was that customers would buy the products at retail stores, but that notion hasn’t panned out. Some observers say that the reason for the lagging sales is that the product is not an impulse buy, rather a premium-priced product that demands customer research and careful consideration.

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