This Week's Codes and Standards, September 17

A law restricting reference of the latest research in climate science could make North Carolina more vulnerable to Hurricane Florence, more than 130 organizations have petitioned OSHA to establish a heat protection standard for workers, and Miami homes located along a ridge parallel to the shore are rising faster in value than those in lower lying areas

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | September 17, 2018
Sunset over water with tree
Photo: Unsplash/Markus Tinner

North Carolina Law Banning Use of Recent Climate Science Could Worsen Hurricane Florence Impact

 

A 2012 law that restricts taking into account the latest research in climate science could make North Carolina more vulnerable to Hurricane Florence. The law banned policy makers from using recent climate science data to plan for sea level rise including things like elevation requirements on new buildings in flood-prone areas. The law was reportedly a response to a 2010 Coastal Resources Commission report that predicted sea levels on the Carolina coast would rise 39 inches by 2100.
 
The bill required the commission to write a new sea-level-rise report that limited its scope to the next 30 years. It was also required to take into account scientific studies refuting sea level rise, and to weigh the economic cost of limiting coastal development.
 
Scientists say the law is misguided, and will ultimately hurt the region’s ability to withstand damage from major storms. According to a recent article by a retired Duke University coastal geologist, the state should increase setback lines for coastal development, raise the height of buildings, move threatened buildings, prohibit rebuilding of storm-destroyed buildings, and begin a planned retreat from the rising water line.

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More Than 130 Organizations Petition OSHA to Create Heat Protection Standard for Workers

 

More than 130 organizations, led by consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, have petitioned OSHA to establish a heat protection standard for workers. The petition says that a heat stress standard is necessary because global warming has caused more days of extreme heat, and each summer is producing record-breaking temperatures. The petitioners include two former assistant secretaries of labor for OSHA, medical professionals, individuals, and worker welfare groups.
 
The petitioners ask that employers be required to provide mandatory 15-minute to 45-minute rest breaks at certain heat thresholds, access to shade, and personal protective equipment like cooling vests and light-colored, breathable fabric. Other requested measures include:
 
·         Access to water and electrolytes
·         A heat acclimatization plan
·         Heat-exposure monitoring
·         Medical monitoring for those exposed to heat above certain levels
·         Signage warning of the dangers of heat stress
·         A written heat alert program
·         Instructor-led worker training
·         Record-keeping of heat-related injuries and deaths
·         Whistleblower protection for those reporting violations of the heat standard
 
OSHA currently has no heat-specific standards, but it does offer guidelines on preventing workers from suffering heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses. It also provides information on how to recognize heat-related illnesses in coworkers and how to administer first aid. 

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Value of Miami Homes on Higher Ground Rising Faster Than Lower-Lying Properties

 

In Miami, homes that are located along a ridge that parallels the shore are rising faster in value than those in lower lying areas. The reason: Properties on higher ground are better protected against sea level rise.
 
In recent years, rising seas have made flooding during so-called “king tides,” high tides when the moon and Earth are closest, more severe. During those events, even absent any rain, parts of the city are flooded. Thus, there has been increased demand for homes perched on ground above the level of king tide floods. Some of those areas are undergoing gentrification as a result.

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Lessons from Energy Star Home Program Can Boost Zero Energy Ready Home Adoption

 

The success of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star certified home program bodes well for acceptance of the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH) program. An official who spearheaded the Energy Star program points out that the voluntary labeling program has certified 1.8 million homes since its launch in 1996, providing a solid foundation and template for ZERH.
 
The more stringent ZERH program requires builders to go to the next-generation code, while Energy Star is pegged to the current code. ZERH also requires that ducts be located inside conditioned space, and that dehumidification solutions be employed in hot, humid climates. The ZERH label has more than 10,000 homes in the pipeline committed to certification.

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New Guide for Healthier Multifamily Retrofits

 

A new guide released by several groups focused on building sustainability is available for developers, designers, and builders to renovate multifamily properties for healthier environments. Making Affordable Multifamily Housing More Energy Efficient: A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials offers advice in the use of readily available, healthier insulation and sealing materials.
 
It also offers policy frameworks to accelerate these materials’ adoption and improve air quality, both inside homes and outside. The report focuses on affordable multifamily rental stock. Performance level, not product type, is cited as the basis of insulation and air sealing work specifications.

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