Community solar in California, solar panel tariff pushback, a new tool for codes and standards from the National Fire Protection Association, and a construction fraud sting
Modular Construction May be Key to Relieving Housing Crunch
The housing shortage in some parts of the country has gotten so acute that a new approach such as modular construction may be the only way to alleviate the problem. The recession of the late 2000s caused many builders to close shop, and the industry still hasn’t fully recovered. Today, new apartment and housing construction sits at a little over half the pace of the 2006 peak.
The number of residential construction workers is down 23% from 2006. Skilled trades like plumbers, carpenters, and electricians are down close to 17%. As a result, labor costs have risen about 5% a year for the past three years.
Prefabrication, which is a more efficient way to build, may be the best hope to quickly build affordable housing, some industry insiders believe. Newer companies constructing housing using prefab techniques are focusing on condominiums and apartments today.
Fifteen Florida Men Arrested in Construction Fraud Sting
Fifteen contractors were arrested in Brandon, Fla., in a police sting. The men were caught in an undercover operation in which officers from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office posed as homeowners in a Tampa-area home.
Those arrested did not have licenses for their trades. Two detectives contacted 91 suspected unlicensed contractors through social media sites. Most of the suspects told the detectives they could do the work cheaply by not pulling permits. Officials warned homeowners that unlicensed contractors sometimes take payment but fail to complete the work.
National Fire Protection Association Offers Tool to Identify Codes and Standards
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently released CodeFinder, a new interactive online tool that identifies the NFPA codes and standards that are in effect in U.S. municipalities and counties. It also includes code data on regions of Canada, South America, Latin America, and the Middle East.
CodeFinder helps users identify the NFPA codes and standards in effect, including those referenced in other codes. The tool provides color-coded mapping, a hovering feature, and filtering by jurisdiction. Users can also search by topic or by the most frequently used NFPA codes and standards.
Legislative Fight to Overturn Solar Panel Tariffs Gains Momentum
Contending that higher tariffs on foreign-made solar panels are stifling investment in the solar market, two senators joined in the effort to turn back those levies. Republican Dean Heller of Nevada and Democrat Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced a measure for duties and tariffs on PVs to revert to previous rates and to allow for companies affected by the tariff increases to seek reimbursements.
The Trump administration imposed higher taxes on imported panels earlier this year, arguing that U.S. manufacturers were being unfairly muscled out of the market by cheap solar cells and modules from China. In 2005, China produced 7% of the world’s solar cells in 2005, and captured 70% of the market last year.
New Federal Legislation Promotes Implementation of Codes for Disaster Mitigation
The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently passed S.3041, disaster recovery reform legislation. Similar to the House-passed Disaster Recovery Reform Act, the legislation makes new resources available, both pre- and post-disaster, to support adoption and implementation of current model codes.
Studies have shown that adoption and implementation of current model building codes is one of the best defenses against hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, and other natural disasters. An Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety study following Hurricane Charley found that post-Hurricane Andrew code improvements and code enforcement in Florida reduced the frequency of property damage by 60% and the severity of damage by 42%.
Community Solar Can Help Meet California’s New Building Energy Code
Community solar can make homes in California compliant with the state’s new building energy code and ensure that most new homes in the state will produce as much electricity as they consume. Community solar allows individual households to purchase shares of a larger solar project, sited in their community, instead of getting an individual rooftop system.
A study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) found that community solar could be a more cost-effective and powerful carbon-cutting strategy than individual rooftop installations.