Paper connects green infrastructure, health and resiliency

Green Roofs for Healthy CitiiesGreen Roofs for Healthy Cities has published a research paper, “Exploring Connections Between Green Infrastructure & Healthy & Resilient Communities” that discusses the connections between green infrastructure, health and community resiliency. The paper reviews a growing body of literature which illustrates that how we design buildings and communities has profound consequences for our health and happiness.

The paper is part of Grey to Green, A Conference on the Economics of Green Infrastructure – Designing for Health on August 25th-26th, 2014 in Toronto. The Conference will discuss design and policy practices, and will include more than 75 leading thinkers and doers at the intersection of health and living green infrastructure. The multi-disciplinary program will cover project case studies, useful design and analytical tools, and cutting edge research.

Code change will reduce hot water waste, save Americans time and money

iapmoPlumbing inspectors, manufacturers, engineers, contractors, labor representatives and other industry technical experts voted overwhelmingly recently to make a change to plumbing codes that will ensure hot water pipes in new homes and commercial buildings are insulated. Overall, insulation of hot water pipes will shorten the amount of time spent waiting for hot water at showers and faucets, and cut hot water waste by 15 to 30 percent.

The vote took place during the review of proposed changes to the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) Uniform Plumbing Code. The proposal was championed by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The change stipulates that hot water pipes be insulated for all homes and commercial buildings built after 2015. Since more than a quarter of all hot water draws occur within an hour of each other, insulation can help water sitting in pipes retain its heat long enough for the next use.

A recent modeling study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that more than 10 percent of all the hot water drawn for showering in a typical single-family home is not hot enough to use. Americans take more than 200 million showers a day. Using EPA estimates of the amount of water drawn while showering, about 280 million gallons of hot water is being discarded without use every day nationwide – an amount equal to all the water sold on an average day last year by the Las Vegas Valley Water District. This is water that has been heated by a water heater, drawn into a hot water pipe, and then left cooling down in the pipe to a point where it is not hot enough to use the next time hot water is needed. Too often, these hot water pipes are uninsulated, making the cool-down more rapid and more complete.

By incorporating this proposal into the next edition of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ model plumbing code, officials bring this change to communities in Nevada, California, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota and jurisdictions around the country that use IAPMO’s Uniform Plumbing Code as the model for their own local codes.

Firestone Names 2014 Partner in Quality Award Winners

East Richland Elementary School, Olney, IL  Contractor:  Industrial Contracting  System:  CladGard SA, UC-14Firestone Building Products recently recognized 189 firms across the United States, Canada and Mexico with its 2014 Partner in Quality Award. The annual award honors an elite group of Firestone Building Products Red Shield(tm) Licensed Roofing Contractors for a high level of craftsmanship and the skillset required for superior roofing installations.

Firestone Building Products Red Shield Licensed Roofing Contractors are required to complete extensive product installation training. As a testament to their expertise, projects are backed by the Firestone Building Products Red Shield(tm) Warranty. Depending on the commercial roofing system, terms of the warranty can range from five years to 30 years.

To qualify, winners had to:

  • Install four warranted Firestone Building Products roofs in each of the past five years.
  • Maintain at least 1 million square feet of Firestone Building Products roofs under warranty.
  • Achieve an annual Quality Incidence Rating (QIR) of 1.5 or less (QIR measures each contractor’s performance based on warranty repair incidences per million square feet under warranty).

As part of the program, winners can participate in the Firestone Building Products Community Service Program which makes them eligible for a $1,000 annual credit to donate labor and materials for community roofing projects.

Visit the Firestone Building Products website for a complete listing of Partner in Quality Award Winners.

Green roof industry grows by 10% in 2013

Green Roofs for Healthy CitiiesGreen Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), the green roof and wall industry association announces a 10 percent growth rate for green roofs in 2013 in its Annual Green Roof Industry Survey.

The Washington DC Metropolitan Region saw the installation of 2,164,926 square feet of green roofs in 2013. Washington has adopted public policies and programs that support green roof investment, including rebates of $7-$15 per square foot per green roof installed and credits that reduce stormwater fees. Public investment in green roofs yields multiple public cost saving benefits.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) mission is to develop the green roof and wall industry across North America. Visit their website for more information about the 2013 Annual Green Roof Industry Survey.

Webcast forecasts growth in nonresidential construction

reed-webinar

Construction spending is predicted to grow in both 2014 and 2015.

A recent webcast featuring economists from Reed Construction Data, American Institute of Architects and the Association of General Contractors of America outlined the economic state of the construction industry in the U.S. They addressed key business opportunities, target growth markets, and the impact of market conditions on the performance of different construction sectors.

During the webcast, one of the economists forecasted economic growth in the nonresidential construction sector with overall spending reaching $320 billion this year and $348 billion in 2015. Rebounding gradually from the recession, he predicted increased construction spending in the hotel, office, commercial, healthcare and particularly manufacturing sector.

According to Reed Construction Data’s latest technology Reed Insight, which shows upcoming projects throughout the country, California, Texas, Florida, and states around the Great Lakes region have the largest share of upcoming manufacturing projects.

Heavy engineering construction spending is also forecasted to grow in 2014 to $280 billion and reach prerecession levels in 2015 at $304 billion.

The archived version of the webcast is available here (after registering).

IP video raises awareness of wildlife conservation through education, entertainment and endowment

Photo courtesy of American Eagle Foundation.

An IP webcam helps people engage with American Bald Eagles. Photo courtesy of American Eagle Foundation.

“Critter cams,” using Axis Communications IP cameras let viewers share in the daily lives of animals usually hidden in forests, groves or high atop trees. The high-quality streams, often running 24/7 in HDTV-quality, are an important educational tool to protect, preserve and promote awareness of wild animals and the threats they face in a changing environment.

Video plays a significant role in building an emotional bond between people and the animals they view, which can encourage continued donations to support the cause. The video also contributes to scientific discovery and aids in the rehabilitation of injured wildlife – all without disrupting animal habitats.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: From the treetops to the desktop
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a part of Cornell University, has been actively expanding their Web streaming offerings since 2012. “The ability of birds to captivate and engage people is nearly unlimited,” said Bird Cam Project Leader Charles Eldermire. “However, not everyone has access to their world. Our cams offer an intimate perspective into the everyday lives of birds, providing something at once both ordinary and extraordinary.”

The Cornell Lab has installed Axis network cameras at sites around the country, including  a great blue heron nest in Ithaca, New York and an albatross nest in Kauai, Hawaii. In Ithaca, the great blue heron camera captured previously undocumented courtship and breeding behavior, adding scientific benefits to educational and awareness milestones already achieved.

(Watch the Cornell Lab of Ornithology install Axis cameras at the great blue heron nest here.)

Other critters that you can see online include:

Precast concrete rings create artificial reef structures

image002Wayfarer Environmental Technologies’ OysterBreak artificial reef structures use strategically placed submerged precast concrete rings which employ the oyster’s inherent nature of clustering to fill in the gaps, creating an artificial reef. The system uses stacks of specially designed concrete rings similar in size, shape, and weight to spacer rings used on manhole risers, but featuring anchor lugs and wave openings. Each ring is wet cast using an OysterKrete mix design. OysterKrete, invented by Tyler Ortego is a harsh mixture that results in a hardened concrete that resembles pervious concrete.

These living barriers become structures for shoreline erosion protection. Placed in rows two to three deep, the OysterKrete structure allows tidal water to easily move within the structure, while resisting wave action that causes shoreline erosion. In addition, the oysters ‘breathe’ the sediment and nutrients from the water, enhancing the water quality.

OysterBreak is a proprietary precast concrete system that provides shoreline erosion control using artificial oyster reefs. ORA Technologies, is the inventor of a method of shoreline control which creates semi-artificial reefs using oysters. Ortego has licensed his two inventions to Wayfarer Environmental Technologies, of Hunt Valley, Md. In turn, Wayfarer is using Oldcastle Precast as its exclusive manufacturer.

Contractors add 19,000 jobs in March, jobless rate lowest in seven years

Associated General Contractors of AmericaConstruction employers added 19,000 workers to payrolls in March, bringing industry employment to the highest level since June 2009, while the industry’s unemployment rate dropped to the lowest March level in seven years, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials warned that the pool of available workers is declining rapidly, raising the prospects for significant labor shortages if demand continues to expand.

Construction employment totaled 5,964,000 in March, a gain of 151,000 or 2.6 percent from a year earlier, compared with a rise in total nonfarm employment of 1.7 percent over that period, Simonson noted. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined total of 9,100 workers in March and 103,000 (4.8 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential construction—building, specialty trades and heavy and civil engineering contractors—grew by 9,900 employees last month and 48,800 (1.3 percent) since March 2013.

The unemployment rate for workers actively looking for jobs and last employed in construction declined from 14.7 percent a year earlier to 11.3 percent last month. Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, noted that the unemployment rate for construction workers had fallen by more than half since March 2010, when it reached 24.9 percent. During that time, the number of unemployed workers who last worked in construction declined by 1.3 million, but industry employment increased by only 445,000.

Association officials said that one reason the industry is likely to face labor shortages is because of the declining number of secondary-level construction training programs. They urged federal, state and local officials to take steps designed to make it easier for schools, construction firms and local trade associations to establish new training programs for future construction workers.

Walk-in baths earn Arthritis Foundation award

853.1665.l-Liberation_WalkIn_3260.214_LoResAmerican Standard’s line of walk-in baths ― designed for accessible and safe bathing for users with limited mobility ― has received the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation. This award recognizes products that make life easier for people with arthritis and other physical limitations. Products undergo a multi-step testing process conducted by an independent lab of experts in the field of universal product design and evaluation.

The Arthritis Foundation created the Ease-of-Use Commendation Program to encourage manufacturers to design user-friendly products and packaging that could be recommended to the more than 52 million Americans who are affected by some form of arthritis.

Features of American Standards walk-in baths include a low threshold door, sturdy grab bar, ergonomic seat and textured floor that come standard with each model, aimed at reducing the risk of trips, slips and falls in the bathroom. Users can choose from soaking tubs to those equipped with hydro jets to maximize comfort and massaging power, soothing arthritis-related aches and pains, while also improving circulation.

Webinar to address building safety

nibsKeith A. Porter, PE, PhD, a research professor with the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Principal with SPA Risk LLC, will deliver the first in a series of webinars to be held by the National Institute of Building Sciences Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC). Entitled, “Safe Enough? How the Building Code Protects Our Lives but Not Our Cities,” the webinar will be held Wednesday, April 23, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm EDT.

Conventional wisdom holds that greater seismic resilience of the building stock is impractical; that the public would be unwilling to pay for it; that the public has no proper role in setting seismic performance objectives; and that current seismic provisions encode the proper measures and goals of seismic performance.

However, recent projects cast doubt on these conventionalities. In light of performance expectations for new buildings expressed in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) P-695: Quantification of Building Seismic Performance Factors and embedded in the International Building Code, current design objectives leave open the serious risk that future, large, but not-very-rare, earthquakes would damage enough buildings to displace millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses from a major metropolitan area. Such a catastrophe would have a more severe impact than Hurricane Katrina because it could affect larger, and more economically critical, metropolitan areas.

Projects such as the San Francisco Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) Soft Story Project; the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE)-California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Woodframe Project; and the construction of buildings that exceed code-minimum seismic performance at marginal additional cost all suggest that better seismic resilience is practical, affordable and actually desired by the public. The way the public interpreted the 2008 ShakeOut scenario, an earthquake drill hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), suggests that Americans think about seismic performance differently than do structural engineers, and they expect better performance than building codes provide.

Dr. Porter will discuss how it is necessary to reconsider how to measure earthquake risk, how to properly balance risk and construction cost, and how to reflect that balance in code objectives.

A licensed professional engineer, Dr. Porter received degrees in civil and structural engineering from University of California, Davis; University of California, Berkeley; and Stanford University. He specializes in second-generation, performance-based earthquake engineering, seismic vulnerability and societal risk from natural disasters. Porter helped lead the MMC’s Mitigation Saves study, which estimated that FEMA’s natural hazard mitigation efforts save $4 per $1 spent. He served as the engineering coordinator for the USGS Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) scenarios, ShakeOut earthquake scenario, ARkStorm severe winter storm scenario, SAFRR tsunami scenario and the in-progress Haywired earthquake scenario. He also performed risk analysis for the CAPSS Soft Story Project and the CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project.

To access the webinar, “Safe Enough? How the Building Code Protects Our Lives but Not Our Cities,” sign in on April 23 at 11:45 EDT and select the “Enter as a guest” option to join in. For audio, call 800-689-7800 and enter code 430588. Don’t be late. Only the first 125 participants will be admitted.