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Building Safety Week 5: Solving Challenges Together


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For the last 43 years, the International Code Council has hosted Building Safety Month, an international campaign celebrated each May to raise awareness about building safety. This event focuses on the need for safe and sustainable structures where we live, work, and play. This year’s theme is “It Starts With You,” and each week focuses on a different topic.

Week five (May 29-31) is Solving Challenges Together, which addresses some of the issues that we face as a global community, including extreme weather events and water scarcity.

Resilient Communities: Learning from Global Success Stories

Communities across the globe are witnessing a surge in calamitous events that exert a significant impact on their societies, economies, and cultures. However, amidst these challenges, several noteworthy examples of resilience offer valuable lessons for us all:

In Copenhagen, Denmark, a neighborhood battling flooding has found a solution through innovative tiles. By replacing conventional asphalt with these tiles, rainwater can permeate the ground and recharge groundwater aquifers.

Following devastating earthquakes in 2011 and 2016, New Zealand has implemented base isolation systems in its building structures. These systems enable a building’s foundation to move horizontally, dissipating seismic forces and reducing the risk of damage.

The Netherlands, a country vulnerable to flooding, has undertaken the “Room for the River” program. Through this initiative, diversions have been created, riverine landscapes restored, and silt removed to counteract the threat of river floods.

In Białystok, Poland, resilient green bus stops have been constructed. These bus stops are designed to withstand intense rainfall, strong winds, droughts, and heat waves. They feature vegetation on roofs and walls and can retain up to 250 liters of rains.

In Canada, the Zibi waterfront city is a prime example of a 34-acre master-planned community that embraces sustainability and resilience. This community relies on post-industrial waste energy for heating and utilizes the Ottawa River for cooling. Moreover, the city’s urban design effectively mitigates the risk of local flooding.

These success stories demonstrate the importance of innovative approaches and proactive measures in building resilient communities that can withstand and adapt to the challenges posed by natural disasters.

Intersecting Building Codes and Sustainability: Driving Energy Efficiency and Emissions Reduction

The global impact of buildings and the construction sector on energy consumption and CO2 emissions is substantial, accounting for over one-third of final energy consumption and nearly 40 percent of direct and indirect emissions. Recognizing the urgency to address this, building codes play a vital role in advancing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Here are several noteworthy ways in which building codes and sustainability converge:

European Commission’s Drive for Energy Efficiency: Over the past 15 years, the European Commission has taken aggressive steps to enhance the energy efficiency of new buildings within its member countries. Through a series of building directives, these efforts aim to achieve a highly energy-efficient and decarbonized building stock by 2050. The directives create a stable investment environment and empower consumers and businesses to make informed choices that save energy and money.

Australia’s Trajectory for Low Emission Buildings: Since 2005, Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC) has implemented incremental improvements in greenhouse gas emissions and energy savings across all building classes. Aligned with the Trajectory for Low Emission Buildings, these changes lead to the development of net-zero ready buildings, ensuring a more sustainable future.

Dubai Municipality’s Al-Sa’fat System: Dubai Municipality introduced the second edition of the Al-Sa’fat system in 2023, aiming to establish mandatory requirements for new buildings to obtain the Silver Sa’fa, an official green building rating. This updated system replaces the existing green building code and streamlines efforts to reduce energy, water, and material consumption while enhancing design, construction, and efficient building operations.

Increasing Focus on Embodied Carbon: Green building councils worldwide are placing greater emphasis on embodied carbon in buildings. Consequently, there is a growing demand for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all building products. EPDs provide comprehensive disclosure of a product’s environmental impacts based on ISO 14025 standard Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs).

Joint GHG Evaluation Standard: The International Code Council and ASHRAE are collaborating on the development of a joint greenhouse gas (GHG) evaluation standard, ASHRAE/ICC Standard 240P. This standard will establish a methodology to quantify and document GHG emissions associated with buildings, building systems, and equipment throughout their life cycle.

Through the intersection of building codes and sustainability, these initiatives drive energy efficiency, emissions reduction, and the creation of more environmentally conscious built environments.

Renewable energy sources. sustainability, energy efficiency, energy crisis concept

Additional resources and downloads for each topic can be found here. 2023 Building Safety Month sponsors include the American Gas Association, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, Gypsum Association, American Concrete Institute, Simpson Strong-Tie, National Multifamily Housing Council, and more.

Christie Waldrop

Posted In: Disaster Planning, Safety

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