This Week's Codes and Standards, October 1

Lumber trade dispute continues, multifamily development strategy due to climate change impact, Puerto Rico's turn to solar, and reaching carbon neutral goals

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | October 2, 2018
Overhead light
Photo: Unsplash/Pierre Chatel

Political Will, Tougher Standards Needed to Reach Carbon Neutral Goal


After 19 cities signed a declaration to make all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030, the question is: How will they get there? Part of the answer will come down to political will to withstand expected opposition from developers. To reach net-zero carbon, energy usage of buildings will have to be cut anywhere from 50% to 85%.
Stretch codes, an extra layer of local, more stringent regulations on top of the base building codes, could be used. More stringent credentials for designers, contractors, and inspectors, may also be needed.
The 2030 goal is feasible, according to an official with the Alliance to Save Energy. One example is Melbourne, Australia’s Pixel Building, the country’s first carbon-neutral building. It features colorful panels that control the amount of light coming into the building, and smart windows that allow heat to escape.

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Climate Change Impacts Could Prompt Realignment of Assets for Multifamily Developers


The threat of rising sea levels could prompt multifamily property developers and owners to reduce their assets in vulnerable areas, according to at least one prominent investment manager. Owners of rental properties and other commercial real estate assets in coastal areas that face increased flood risk would be wise to adjust their portfolios over time, Marc Singer, co-founder of investment advisory firm Singer Xenos told GlobeSt. Taking this into account would mean selling properties in areas such as South Florida and directing new investments to areas less likely to suffer damage from the impacts of climate change.
Climate change should be taken seriously, as scientific evidence mounts indicating that significant coastal flooding will impact the real estate industry this century, Singer noted.
That doesn’t mean an immediate large-scale sell-off. Rather, a more gradual reduction of vulnerable properties over the coming decades would be prudent.
Recent studies have shown that a quarter of Boston could be underwater by 2045, and catastrophic flooding in New York City may become more common over the next few decades, he said. One impact within a decade might be a change in the way FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program is administered to more realistically assess flood risk, resulting in higher premiums.

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With Grid Unreliable, Puerto Ricans Turn to Solar Power


After Hurricane Maria in 2017, residents and businesses in Puerto Rico have increasingly turned to solar power to avoid power outages from the island’s unreliable electric grid. In fact, Puerto Rico residents had been experiencing disruptions even before the storm because the company's power plants are nearly 30 years older than the U.S. average and prone to outages 12 times higher than the U.S. average.
Homeowners and businesses are installing solar systems to supply backup power. Since Maria, demand for batteries has increased significantly. Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co., an economic development agency, has put out a request for proposals to equip some large facilities with microgrids—local power systems that can disconnect from the main grid and function autonomously.

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Thirty-Plus-Year U.S.-Canadian Softwood Trade Dispute Drags On


Since 1982, the U.S. and Canada have been feuding over softwood lumber trade, and it may take a decision by the World Trade Organization to resolve the issue. The U.S. claims that the Canadian lumber industry is unfairly subsidized, with most timber in Canada owned by provincial authorities while U.S. timber lots are privately owned.
Most Canadian softwood lumber is subject to a 20% tariff when sold in the U.S. A Canadian timber industry representative says U.S. consumers are paying the tab, with Canadian producers to date able to recoup cost of the tariffs while maintaining market share.

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High Utility Bills in Alabama Could be Alleviated with Better Statewide Energy Code Compliance


Alabama has the second highest electricity prices in the nation, with about one in five households reporting in a recent survey that they reduced or went without basic necessities like food and medicine to pay an energy bill.
Improving compliance with the statewide energy code would help reduce home energy costs. It could also create a level playing field for all builders, according to a post by the Institute for Market Transformation. More in-depth training for local plans examiners, inspectors, and builders to dig deeper into major code changes and focus on areas that need specific attention could make a difference.

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