The state of solar in the Southeast, Houston's new construction comes up against floodplain concerns, OSHA free resources on silica standard, and a new, global net-zero pledge by city mayors
Coalition of Mayors Around the Globe Pledge Net-Zero Buildings by 2030
A coalition of 19 mayors from the C40 group signed a pledge in August to make all new buildings net-zero carbon by 2030. The mayors also agreed that all buildings in their cities, old and new, will be net-zero by 2050. U.S. mayors in Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, and Washington D.C., signed the agreement. Homes, offices, and other buildings where people work are among the greatest contributors to climate change.
For many cities, transportation is an even bigger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, dense, walkable neighborhoods will be as crucial as net-zero construction to reduce atmospheric carbon.
The C40 cities will work with the World Green Building Council to achieve the goals.
NIST Releases Report Outlining Steps to Bolster Disaster Resiliency
The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently submitted a report to Congress outlining steps to improve building functionality after natural disasters. The report fills a request by Congress for “immediate occupancy (IO)” building codes and performance standards strategies to make more buildings more resilient to a wide variety of hazards. Existing standards and codes focus on reducing the likelihood of significant building damage or collapse, but do not typically address the need to preserve quality of life by keeping buildings habitable and functioning as normally as possible, a NIST official says.
Some of the obstacles to making buildings more functionally resilient after a natural disaster include:
- Convincing communities to invest in IO standards in advance of the event
- Clarifying the costs and benefits
- Influencing and incentivizing private owners to make the necessary investments in their buildings
- Determining special implementation procedures for public buildings since some do not have to comply with local codes
- Dealing with the old structures that tend to house the most at-risk populations
- Determining who is liable for building performance
- Encouraging collaboration in standards development
The report says that “increasing the performance goals for buildings would not be easily achieved, but the advantages may be substantial” and making them a reality “would entail a significant shift in practice for development, construction, and maintenance or retrofit of buildings.”
OSHA Releases Free Resources on Respirable Silicon Standard Compliance
OSHA has released instructional videos and other free educational materials to help contractors comply with its new Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction. The rule went into effect for the construction industry on Sept. 23, 2017, but OSHA delayed full enforcement by a month to Oct. 23, 2017.
The resources include:
- A customizable slideshow presentation to help employers train construction workers
- A short YouTube video about how to protect employees from silica dust
- A video series on dust control methods for common construction tasks
- A website with answers to frequently asked questions
They can be accessed at: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/
A Year After Hurricane Harvey, Concerns Rise Over Construction in Floodplain
About a year ago, floods from Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area causing an estimated $125 billion in damage. Now, construction in a floodplain is causing concern.
Nine hundred homes are being built on an old golf course lying in a floodplain. The grass and ponds from the course had soaked up Harvey's floodwaters. With the development paving over parts of the golf course, the site will not be able to absorb as much water in the future. Houston city officials are hoping that requiring newer homes to be higher off the ground will reduce residential flooding.
Regulations and Policies Stymie Growth of Residential Solar in Southeastern States
Although the price of solar panels has dropped considerably in recent years, low and middle-income homeowners in several Southeastern states who want to install PVs face higher costs due to regulations and state policies. For example, Tennessee and Alabama don’t require net metering, which allows solar customers to sell energy from rooftop panels back to the grid.
Alabama lacks clear policies on solar leasing, making it harder for customers to take advantage of the option to lease equipment. Some states, including Alabama and North Carolina, have strictly regulated markets that make it harder for anyone other than utilities with a monopoly position in the market to sell power. Critics charge that utilities have stacked the deck against the growth of residential solar. To make matter worse, the long, hot southern summers mean that residents in these states face some of the highest electric bills in the country.