What we're reading, following & covering


Lucy Jones advocates in Sacramento for better building codes to handle a massive earthquake

April 11 | ABC 7

Dr. Lucy Jones, the world famous and now retired Caltech seismologist, took her wide-ranging knowledge of earthquakes to California's capital in a push for change. "I can tell you with absolute certainty that there will be a big earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. We are not stopping plate tectonics. I can't tell you when, but we can do a quite good job with telling you what will happen when that inevitable earthquake comes along," Jones said. She said that California's current code is that people can crawl out of a building alive. Read more.


Proposal would require Austin homeowners to install insect screens

April 11 | KXAN

The city of Austin's Code Department is asking for your input on a proposed ordinance that would require Austin homeowners to install insect screens. They're looking to recommend the implementation of the screens to the City Council in June, but before they do they want to hear from you. Those interested in chiming in have until April 30. It's not a new thing, many people across the Austin area already have them. "I think they do serve a lot of different purposes particularly now in the springtime and also as we get into the summer months to prevent mosquitoes from coming into your house and spreading diseases like Zika or West Nile," said Hyde Park homeowner David Gill. Read more.


First permitted cob structure in Berkeley could pave way for more green building

April 11 | Berkeleyside

Berkeley native Jessica Tong was not used to the scorching heat she encountered in Hopland, California. While interning at the Solar Living Institute there, the environmental builder could only find refuge in the structure where she slept, which was built out of earthen materials. The place kept her cool in the heat, and insulated her from the cold at night. The experience inspired Tong, who studied environmental design, to spend more time working with natural materials, like cob, a mixture of clay, sand and straw that is a lot like adobe, but is not formed into bricks. Read more.


Energy code Math for commercial walls: How polyiso continuous insulation can help

April 10 | The Construction Specifier

It is an easy mistake to make. For example, when one comes across the R 13 + 7.5 ci wall insulation requirement in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) commercial provisions, it can be tempting to just add the two R-values and install R-20.5 rated insulation in the cavity with the assumption being that the same performance can be achieved with fewer steps. However, by employing just R-20.5 cavity insulation, one would be accepting a 16 percent decrease in thermal performance in a wood-framed wall, or a 40 percent decrease in a steel stud wall, when compared to the energy code requirement. Read more.


Albany's South End eyed for preservation

April 10 | The Telegraph

That's the hope of state Assemblyman John McDonald, D-Cohoes, and advocates who want to revitalize the South End neighborhood of Albany, which on Tuesday was added to a list of seven endangered properties that the state Preservation League wants to revitalize. Part of that effort involves curtailing the use of red 2-foot-square placards marked with an X to warn first responders that a structure is unsafe. Critics say the signs are scarlet letters in the literal and figurative sense: promoting a sense of neighborhood blight by highlighting neglect and disinvestment, and serving as invitations for people to use the properties for illicit activities. Read more.


Philadelphia mayor's executive order to substantially update plumbing code

April 9 | PHCPS Pros

Last August, Philadelphia Mayor James F. Kenney signed an executive order for the re-establishment of the Plumbing Advisory Board to propose substantial updates to the city's plumbing code, which has not undergone significant change since 1995. Through the executive order Mayor Kenney seeks to incorporate the formatting and modernity of the International Plumbing Code into the Philadelphia Plumbing Code "as a blend to allow for the use of new materials, products or methods of construction as applicable." Read more.


More than one way to skin a building

April 9 | The Construction Specifier

Prior to the mid-20th century, building walls relied on their thickness and density to resist water penetration. Moisture would mainly deflect from the wall face or be absorbed and later evaporate from the mass wall. Air leakage was only managed to prevent uncomfortable drafts at doors and windows. Walls relied on thermal mass rather than discrete insulation and were not, therefore, vulnerable to steep temperature gradients resulting in planes for condensation. Development of lightweight "contemporary curtain walls" in the mid-20th century, and subsequent energy conservation concerns, resulted in the need to provide discrete insulation (i.e. thermal barrier) which cannot be left exposed and requires protection (or at least architectural cover in the case of mineral wool). Read more.


Oregon aims to reach the sky with wood

April 9 | U.S. News & World Report

Oregon is betting that the skyscrapers of the future will be wooden, not the steel-boned towers seen today. Foresters, architects, engineers and state officials have invested heavily in "mass timber" technologies that allow wooden structures to stand taller and do so safely. New buildings in Portland have pushed the national record for an all-wood structure to eight stories, and a 12 story building is coming soon. Architects tout mass timber as reducing the carbon footprint of large buildings while speeding up construction and offering unique design possibilities. Read more.


Disasters leave a toxic tail

April 9 | Risk & Insurance

The year 2017 was a bad year for named storms. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused widespread property damage and loss of life. While refineries and chemical plants were secured, pollution and contamination from agricultural and pool chemicals as well as fuels and lubricants could be seen far and wide. "Since the Murphy Oil release during Hurricane Katrina, heavy industrial facilities at risk have developed stronger preparedness and storm contingency plans," said Marcel Ricciardelli, senior vice president of environmental, design, professional and surety, Allied World. Read more.


Sunrooms provide a unique living experience

April 9 | North Jersey

There are a lot of ways homeowners can create additional living space in their homes. But adding a sunroom provides the flexibility that a traditional addition or attic, or basement conversion does not offer. When compared with standard construction, sunrooms tend to go up quicker, which means less disruption to the household routine. And it is space that is different from any other room in the house. "A sunroom is a bright, positive environment," said Peter Burley, owner of NJ Sunroom Additions in Mountainside, a company that builds custom sunrooms, as well as traditional additions. Read more.


Building energy codes can REV up NYS energy efficiency

April 9 | NRDC

Updating the building energy codes in New York and including a plan for zero-energy buildings in the broader energy efficiency framework will help the state exceed its goals under its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy and set the state on the path toward an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off the year with the 2018 State of the State, in which he promised the establishment of an energy efficiency savings target by Earth Day. Building energy codes will be a critical tool in achieving this target. Read more.


List of 7 endangered sites in NY includes historic opera houses

April 9 | OrleansHub

The Preservation League of New York State has announced its annual list of "Seven to Save" and this year's group includes historic opera houses around the state. Orleans County is home to opera houses and both sites have been spared the wrecking ball. But other communities aren't so fortunate. In Albion, Michael Bonafede and his wife Judith Koehler worked to save the Pratt Opera House at 118 North Main St. They have put on a new roof and made a series of other interior and exterior improvements to the building, which has several tenants on the first and second floors. Read more.


Still going green

April 9 | Recreation Management

We are more aware than ever before about the importance of the environment, and that the things we do on a daily basis can make a difference, good or bad. Recycling, using less plastic, composting and even using energy-efficient light bulbs are just some of the ways to make the environment a greener place. To be more eco-friendly, parks, recreation, sports and fitness facilities have attempted to make a difference, too, and have continued to adapt and create facilities that have a smaller impact on the environment. Read more.


Trump Tower fire is second 2018 blaze in sprinkler-free residential tower

April 8 | CBS News

The fire on the 50th floor New York City's Trump Tower that left 67-year-old Todd Brassner dead and six firefighters injured was the second fire in the building in 2018. President Trump's centerpiece Manhattan skyscraper opened in 1984, but does not have sprinklers on its residential floors, a measure required in new buildings since 1999. President Trump, then a private citizen and property developer, lobbied to try and prevent the mandate at the time. Read more.


New storm shelter rule to cost up to $2.2M for two Clark County schools

April 8 | Springfield News-Sun

A new state rule likely will require Greenon and Clark-Shawnee local schools to build storm shelters that will cost a combined $2.2 million that the districts didn't originally include in their new school construction projects. As of Nov. 1, new Ohio schools must include a storm shelter, Greenon Superintendent Brad Silvus said. "We fall into this category," Silvus said. "It is unfortunate that we were not aware of this prior to passing our bond issue but we have to be in compliance with this requirement." Read more.


Local laws stop the setting sun on solar installations

April 8 | Environment Guru

Two bills pending in the Montgomery County Council aim to increase the use of renewable energy in the suburban Maryland County. At a time when the number of households installing solar panels on their roofs declined last year, the first annual decline since 2000, and a decline by more than 15% when compared with the year before, following 5 years of growth that averaged nearly 50% a year, many believe that the growth of onsite renewable energy is not sustainable in the current environment. Read more.


Mill Valley beefs up wildfire defenses

April 8 | Marinij

Six months after the North Bay fires, Mill Valley officials are taking strides to reduce the chances of wildfire from spreading into the city's neighborhoods. Part of that includes updating building codes for homes in the wildland-urban interface, a move that was unanimously endorsed by the City Council last week. The proposal is one of six initiatives introduced by Mill Valley fire Chief Tom Welch in February designed to boost the city's fire prevention and preparedness efforts. Read more.


Could Philly's skyline have timber in its future

April 7 | Philadelphia Magazine

When you were a child, did you always want a treehouse to play in? Now that you're a grown-up, you might actually be able to live in one. Architects and engineers have been constructing tall buildings out of steel and concrete ever since the skeleton frame was invented in the 1880s. But a recent technological advance now makes it possible to build them out of an unlikely material: wood. Is Philly's newly shimmering skyline ready for something a little more natural? Read more.


Denver businesses have until April 30 to swap out single occupancy restroom signs

April 6 | Denver ABC 7

Denver business owners have until the end of the month to make sure they're complying with changes to the city's building code in regard to gendered language on restroom signs. The Denver City Council voted in December 2016 to amend the code to state that any single-occupant restroom, a restroom with a single stall or toilet or a stall and urinal that's intended for use by one person at a time, must have a sign stating that it's open for use by anyone regardless of gender. Read more.