This Week's Codes and Standards, June 18

The lessons of the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Program, the EPA's new formaldehyde ruling, Seattle repeals head tax, and a new app to automate home compliance

June 18, 2018
iPhone with apps on screen
Photo: Unsplash/Rahul Chakraborty

Structural Engineered Wood Products Exempt from New EPA Formaldehyde Ruling


Composite wood products must meet new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formaldehyde emissions regulations as of June 1, 2018. Among the products impacted: particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and hardwood (decorative) plywood. Structural engineered wood products manufactured for construction applications, such as structural plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), wood I-joists, laminated veneer lumber, and glued-laminated timber, are exempt from the regulation.
Structural engineered wood products marked with the APA Mark of Quality are exempt from the regulation. In cases where unmarked structural engineered wood products from APA member mills are sold into industrial applications that do not require a certification mark, the product invoice and an APA certificate of conformance can be used to identify the product as exempt.
Certification of compliance is required to be completed by a Third Party Certifier, who will verify that the regulated composite wood product’s manufacturer is capable of complying with the emission regulation. Quarterly inspections and testing, and reviews of routine quality testing conducted at each mill are also required.

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Home Values and Local Tax Revenues at Risk from High Tide Flooding, Scientists’ Group Says


A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) pinpoints portions of the U.S. at greatest risk of declining residential and commercial property values, and diminished city and county tax revenue due to flooding attributed to sea level rise. The areas impacted face worse high tide flooding due to the effects of climate change, UCS says. The findings are the result of peer-reviewed analysis that used ZIP-code-by-ZIP-code data from Zillow Property Data.
The states found to be most at risk of flooding from rising seas are: Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. As much as 70% of some municipalities’ property tax bases could be at risk.
The analysis also provides risk assessment according to:

  • Number of homes and commercial properties (by state and zip code).
  • Current values of properties.
  • The amount of money the properties contribute in annual property taxes, which fund schools, roads, and emergency services.
  • How many properties could be spared if warming is limited to below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Near- and long-term impact projections, including within the next 30 years.
  • Identification of areas where coastal property owners might experience recurring flooding so severe it limits their ability to live or work in these properties.

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New App Said to Automate Code Compliance


A San Francisco startup has developed a software plug-in that scans 3D models created with building information modeling (BIM) data and alerts architects about potential code issues. Called UpCodes AI, the program uses artificial intelligence, including natural language processing, to create “the spell check for buildings.” By highlighting code errors in real-time, the software acts as a code consultant, UpCodes co-founder and CEO Scott Reynolds told TechCrunch.
Reynolds founded UpCodes to streamline code compliance. UpCodes’ database draws from regulations put online by municipalities and is updated almost in real-time. Recent studies have cited the complexity of code compliance as a major reason for reduced productivity in the construction industry and rising home prices.
UpCodes currently covers building codes in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Reynolds told TechCrunch that during its private beta testing the program identified an average of about 27 violations per project.

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Seattle City Council Repeals Controversial New Per-Worker Tax on Large Employers


The Seattle City Council voted 7 to 2 to repeal the recently enacted per-worker tax on large employers aimed at raising money for homeless services and affordable housing. The tax, which the council passed unanimously, was crafted as an answer to the city’s housing affordability problem that many attribute to rapid growth in the technology industry by the likes of Inc. The council’s reversal comes after a spirited effort to gather signatures to put a repeal question on the November ballot.
The council’s original measure called for a $275 per employee tax. The region reportedly has a homeless population of more than 12,000 people.
Amazon, the city’s top private employer, halted its expansion plans in the city pending the outcome of the vote. Some homeowners were reportedly frustrated by the city’s response to homelessness, which included tents and RVs moving into residential neighborhoods.

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Lessons Learned from DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Program


The U.S. Department of Energy recently released a report that includes some lessons learned from its Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program.
Here are some of the findings:

  • Convincing builders of the benefit of construction ZERH homes is not easy
  • There is a challenge translating homeowner benefits and builder benefits
  • Ensuring complete understanding of underlying details required for ZERH certification is difficult
  • There can never be enough training (trades, builders, sales team)
  • It takes a lot of time to educate the team as well as subcontractors
  • A single line item in ENERGY STAR or IAP can obstruct certification (“poison pill”)
  • First cost is not as great as anticipated

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