This Week's Codes and Standards, September 10

Community solar effectiveness for low-income neighborhoods, saltwater intrusion in Miami, and how YIMBYism can help the housing inventory crunch

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | September 10, 2018
Person dancing on water
Photo: Unsplash/Ashim Silva

Saltwater Incursion into Miami’s Aquifer may Make City Uninhabitable Later this Century


The Miami metro region faces crises due to rising sea levels that threaten to make the area uninhabitable. While the danger of flooding has been widely documented, the threat to the region’s drinking water supply has been less chronicled. In fact, salt water incursion into the region’s aquifer could be what threatens Miami’s viability for human habitation before the doomsday scenario of inundation of the land by the sea.
The Biscayne Aquifer, 4,000 square miles of shallow, porous limestone, has provided the region with an abundant source of fresh water that is inexpensive to access. The aquifer’s characteristics that make it easily accessible also make it vulnerable to fouling by saltwater and pollution.
How long southeast Florida can keep its water safe may be the key determinant for the long term. “If Miami-Dade can’t protect its water supply, whether it can handle the other manifestations of climate change won’t matter,” observes a recent Bloomberg article.
“Projecting the pace of saltwater intrusion is fantastically complicated,” the article says. One factor that might help slow saltwater aquifer incursion, a massive, still-unfunded pledge to restore the Everglades by the state and federal government, is yet to be implemented.

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IAPMO Seeks Comments on Proposals for 2021 Plumbing and Mechanical Codes


The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials is seeking public comments on the Report on Proposals for the 2021 editions of the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC). The deadline for comments is Jan. 3, 2019. All public comments will be distributed to Technical Committee members in March and reviewed at IAPMO’s meetings, April 29-May 2, 2019, in Denver.
All comments should indicate the exact wording to be recommended as new, revised, or to be deleted. They should also address the problem the recommendation is intended to resolve and the specific reason for the comment.
The public comment form, as well as instructions and background on IAPMO’s ANSI-accredited consensus-development process, can be found at:

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Yimbyism can Help Alleviate Housing Shortages


A Businessweek-Bloomberg article argues that the Yimby (yes in my backyard) approach can alleviate the housing shortage in major U.S. cities. The concept is to form a broad coalition for actions to spur more housing construction that benefits a broad swath of the public.
One recent success was in Mountain View, Calif., the home of Google, where the city council recently approved construction of almost 10,000 homes, up from zero in the original proposals. There was little opposition to locating housing near Google headquarters because the site was not adjacent to a residential area.
One possibility at the federal level is an idea by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to use “the lure of HUD dollars to get cities to ease zoning rules and permit more construction.” Another example: in New York City, approval of higher density market-rate development included provisions for dedicated affordable units.

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Homebuyers Face Hurdles to Find out About Past Floods


Finding out about a property’s vulnerability to floods is difficult for many home buyers. Many may only learn about that risk at closing when their lender tells them that they need to buy flood insurance.
In 21 states, there is no statutory or regulatory requirement for a seller to disclose a property’s flood risk to a buyer. Disclosure requirements in the other states are spotty, according to a study by the National Resources Defense Council. States should require that owners disclose a property’s flood history to a buyer, NRDC says. If a property has flooded once, it will likely flood again, and the likelihood for floods to occur is increasing in most regions of the country.

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Community Solar Effective in Getting Solar Power to Low-income Neighborhoods


In most cases, solar power is beyond the financial reach of people with modest means. Pilot community solar programs have been effective in enabling solar power in low-income neighborhoods, but the concept takes time and effort to market in these areas.
Community solar makes it possible for people to buy in to solar energy without putting up their own panels. In the New York metro area, eight community solar sites have been completed, and nearly 60 more sites are planned. Community solar is an unknown model to most residents in these communities. Among the strategies to raise awareness are getting local politicians on board and using farmers markets and subway stations for outreach.

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