This Week's Codes and Standards, August 13

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | August 13, 2018
Town on the sea
Photo: Unsplash/Laura Lefurgey Smith

Nearly a Quarter of Opioid Overdose Deaths Attributable to Construction Industry


Nearly a quarter of overdose deaths in a five-year period in Massachusetts occurred among construction workers, according to a report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The prevalence of workplace injuries in the industry is one factor causing addiction and overdoses. Also, pressure on employees to work in pain leads to workers taking addictive painkillers.
A lack of job security and sick pay were also linked to higher rates of overdose deaths. Other research has shown that injured workers are commonly prescribed opioid painkillers. Construction workers were six times more likely to die from opioid overdoses than other workers in Massachusetts, the study said.

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Virginia Coastal Town’s Fight Against Sea Level Rise Offers Lessons for Others


The city of Hampton, Va., a low-lying community along Chesapeake Bay, has been aggressively moving to counteract the impact of sea level rise. The city has changed its building codes, razed some houses and elevated others, and is finalizing a plan to address a frequently flooded creek that flows through its center.
Hampton now requires first floors of new buildings to be three feet higher than the Federal Emergency Management Agency requirement. City officials are considering pervious pavement for sidewalks and parking lots to reduce stormwater runoff. In addition, the community is working on creating breakwaters, dredging certain channels, and replenishing beaches to make them more resilient to waves.

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Oregon Accessory Dwelling Unit Law Now in Effect


On July 1, a new statute went into effect that allows accessory dwelling units in most areas of Oregon. The new law applies to cities with a population greater than 2,500 or a county with a population greater than 15,000.
The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development has issued an informal guidance paper for ADU regulations. While the law mandates that at least one ADU be allowed per property, it encourages building two when possible. “Because ADUs blend in well with single-family neighborhoods, allowing two units can help increase housing supply while not having a significant visual impact,” the document says.

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Congress Should do More with National Flood Insurance Program to Encourage Mitigation


Congress recently extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was due to expire on July 31, by four months. The program does encourage safer building and better land-use practices, but it could do more in that regard.
For example, the program could be reformed so that more communities are incentivized to join and participate fully in the community rating system (CRS), which scores communities for undertaking flood mitigation. It could also refuse to cover repetitive-loss properties, or require that they be rebuilt to higher standards. Less than 1% of homes insured under the program have been responsible for nearly 10% of paid claims.

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Towns Debate Whether mid-20th Century Homes Should be Preserved


Some Massachusetts towns are debating whether homes built from the late 1940s to the late 1960s should be considered for historic preservation. About 140 communities in Massachusetts have a mandatory time-out period for developers who want to knock down homes of a certain vintage.
Whether mid-century homes deserve that designation is being considered in a number of communities. Some, like the Boston suburb of Somerville, known more for its Victorian era homes, have decided not to include mid-century homes for preservation. The western Massachusetts town of Amherst, which has a larger stock of 1940s to 1960s homes, hasn’t decided yet whether to change the age cutoff for historic homes in a revised demolition ordinance expected to be enacted later this year. The town is being pressured by builders to allow for faster decisions on teardowns of mid-Century dwellings. 

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