This Week's Codes and Standards, December 17

Alabama condo project earns first-ever Hurricane Gold designation, monotonous apartment design, New York's "scaffold law" draws fire from critics, Oregon's adoption of alternative energy efficiency code and new online tool for builders, and the release of new guidance for water utilities' indoor recycled water use

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | December 17, 2018
Multifamily building exterior
Photo: Unsplash/Dmitri Popov

Guidance for Water Utilities on Indoor Recycled Water Use Released


Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) introduced parameters for the use of indoor recycled water. The guidance was developed for water utilities to ensure that plumbing products function as intended by manufacturers. The water quality limits provide recommended ranges on 13 different parameters of water quality.
“This guidance will help water utilities to produce recycled water that will not hamper the performance of residential and commercial plumbing products that can be used with non-potable water, such as toilets and urinals,” said Kerry Stackpole, PMI’s CEO/executive director, in a news release.
Water districts may use recycled water, also known as reclaimed water or treated wastewater, for uses that do not require potable water, such as irrigation, power plant cooling, or toilet or urinal flushing. There are no federal standards for the use of this water. PMI’s recycled water parameters are not intended as guidance for public health and safety nor for plumbing products used for bathing, cooking, drinking or hygiene purposes (e.g., faucets, showerheads, personal hygiene devices and bidets).

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New York’s ‘Scaffold Law’ Under Fire for Driving up Project Costs


New York State’s so-called “Scaffold Law,” which makes construction companies 100% liable for work-site injuries, is under heavy criticism for driving up the cost of construction projects. Critics say the law will inflate the cost of the Gateway project, a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River for Amtrak and NJ Transit, by up to $300 million, according to a report in the New York Daily News. The law costs taxpayers at least $785 million annually and private businesses that work on public projects $1.49 billion per year, according to a study by SUNY Rockefeller Institute.
By consuming more tax dollars, the law has diminished the city’s ability to create more affordable housing, a housing advocate says. Insurance policies have become much tougher for contractors to obtain, a situation so dire that a coalition of builders on Long Island wants the state to declare “an insurance state of emergency.”
The president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York says the law has been effective in preventing injuries and saving lives, and challenged critics to prove that the law has hurt companies’ finances.

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Zoning, Codes, Driving Rash of Monotonous Apartment Design, Critics Charge


Some critics charge that many new apartment developments across the U.S. have a boxy, monotonous design, with zoning and building codes part of the reason. The style typically consists of light-frame wood construction, with flat windows that are easy to install, rainscreen cladding and Hardie panels, a façade covering made from fiber cement. A recent Curbed article describe the look as “Minecraftsman,” “LoMo” (low modern), and “Spongebuild Squareparts.”
Whatever the label, the aesthetic stems from a lack of developable land in urban areas; rising land, material, and labor costs; and an urgent push to build more affordable housing. Zoning that restricts multifamily development to limited areas heightens these challenges in many cities. In Seattle, for instance, roughly three-quarters of residential land is zoned for single-family homes.
Some codes require a modulated façade, or varying exteriors for adjacent buildings to avoid repetition. In some cities, though, design review boards tend to rubber-stamp buildings that emulate buildings approved in the past, which encourages developers to make formulaic plans.

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Oregon Adopts Alternative Code for Energy Efficiency, Provides Online Tool for Builders


The state Building Codes Division adopted the Oregon Zero Code Efficiency Standard for use throughout Oregon. Based on nationally developed standards, the code provides an additional regulatory path to meet the state’s energy efficiency goals.
The standard includes an online tool, allowing builders to enter their construction choices for ventilation, windows, and other elements in order to confirm compliance with Oregon code. Designers can also use Architecture 2030’s Zero Code Energy Calculator to help identify potential renewable energy sources to improve efficiency. The information will be recorded as part of the permit file for the building.

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Alabama Condo Project Earns First-Ever Hurricane Gold Designation


The new Colonial Inn Condominiums in Fairhope, Ala., earned the first-ever Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s FORTIFIED Commercial–Hurricane Gold designation. To earn this highest level of resiliency certification, the project was constructed with a strong continuous load path that ties the entire structure together, enabling it to better stand firm against extreme winds.
It also includes onsite power backup for important utilities. The developer’s initial plans were to use wood frame construction for all of the buildings, but high insurance premiums and scarce and expensive building materials prompted a look at sturdier construction options.

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