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.

USDA announces partnership to promote the use of wood

usdaUnited States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service program to provide training for architects, engineers and builders in the use of advanced wood materials. The Wood Products Council’s WoodWorks initiative will be a partner in this program.

The program is part of the president’s goal of preserving the role of forests in mitigating climate change and meets an objective of the recently-signed 2014 Farm Bill to create rural jobs. In particular, it will create a new Made-in-Rural America export investment initiative, whose goal is helping rural businesses and leaders gain new customers and develop new markets, both at home and abroad.

Using wood from sustainably managed forests helps keep carbon out of the atmosphere because wood products require less fossil fuels to manufacture than other major building materials, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions, and because wood continues to store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere while the tree was growing. In the case of buildings, this carbon remains stored for the lifetime of the structure—or longer if the wood is reclaimed and re-used or manufactured into other products.

To encourage further advancement, the announcement also includes plans for a prize competition to design and build wood high-rise demonstration projects.

PNNL and PPG to develop dynamically responsive IR window coating

pnnlThe Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and PPG have been awarded up to $750,000 to design a coating that can “switch” from a solar IR-reflecting state to a solar IR-transmitting state while maintaining high levels of daylight transmittance in either condition. PPG will provide an additional $78,000 in cost-sharing.

The development of such a coating would represent a major advance compared to current thermochromic window technology, which involves coatings that darken and block visible light when exposed to high volumes of IR energy, and existing electrochromic window technology, which relies on external power sources such as electricity to balance tinting and light transmittance.

The new PPG/PNNL coating technology also has the potential to be inexpensive, which will help ensure that dynamically responsive IR windows are an economical option for use in residential and commercial retrofit applications.

The two-year project is designed to develop dynamically responsive IR window coatings on a laboratory scale. If development is successful, the product could be scaled up and potentially commercialized within several years. PPG also collaborated recently with PNNL to develop and study waste-heat recovery technologies to save energy in the glass manufacturing process.

Institute, DOE to develop Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines

Natl Inst of Building ScienceToday, the National Institute of Building Sciences (Institute) announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to coordinate an industry-driven process to develop voluntary national guidelines for commercial building workforce credentials, known as the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines.

Improving the operational performance of commercial buildings requires highly skilled and qualified workers, particularly as building technologies become more advanced. Yet the lack of national guidelines for energy-related professional credentials represents a major barrier to the quality, consistency and scalability of this workforce. The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines will initially address commercial building workforce training and certification programs for five key energy-related jobs: energy auditor, commissioning professional, building/stationary engineer, facility manager and energy manager.

The purpose of the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines is to reduce the confusion and uncertainty around workforce credentialing; lower costs; and support better credentials, better workers and better buildings. The guidelines will set an industry-validated Job Task Analysis (JTA) for each job title, as well as certification schemes (blueprints) and learning objectives for training programs.

The Institute established the Commercial Workforce Credentialing Council (CWCC), which will consist of private and public sector industry stakeholders, to lead development of the Guidelines. By spring of 2015, the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines are scheduled to be available to the U.S. commercial building industry, including professional certification bodies, labor union training funds or apprenticeship program sponsors; private training providers; and career and technical higher education programs.

Get Involved in the CWCC
The Institute invites industry stakeholders, including building owners, industry trade associations, credentialing bodies, energy efficiency advocates, utility program administrators, labor unions, the real estate community, and state, local and federal officials to join the CWCC. If you’re already a member of the Institute, you may join the CWCC by emailing us at nibs@nibs.org with “Join CWCC” in the subject line. Non-members may join the  Institute and the Council using the discount code “CWCCJ13″ for a free one-year membership. Sign up now to become a CWCC member.Register for the Informational Webinar

DOE will host a live webinar on October 17, 2013, from 2:00 – 3:30 pm EDT, for industry professionals to learn more about the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines and the CWCC. A live question and answer period will occur at approximately 3:00 pm, following the presentation. Space is limited. Register now. For those unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and made available on the CWCC website.

Learn about the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines
For more information on the Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines, visit the DOE website.

Architect Testifies: Contracting Laws Hurting Small Architectural Firms

AIACurrent federal contracting laws are harming the livelihood of small architecture firms and costing the government money by increasing the number of firms competing, while discouraging small firms from entering the market, according to recent AIA testimony.

Testifying before the House of Representatives Small Business Committee, AIA First Vice President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, called for reform of the design-build contracting process so that design and architectural firms can bid on federal contracts without fear of bankrupting themselves in the process. The federal market has been a key for architecture firms’ survival in the recession, and increased competition has forced many small players to stop participating in federal contracts.

“When teams are shortlisted in two-step design-build, an architecture firm spends a median of $260,000 to compete for a design-build project, by making plans, models and other materials,” Dreiling testified. When approximately 76% of firms make less than $1 million annually, this creates a “Hobson’s Choice” on spending limited capital for the chance to win a federal contract.

“In almost 87 percent of federal design-build competitions, there are no stipends provided to the architectural firm,” she said. “The firm must hope that they win to make up the costs they expend in competing for the job.”

Dreiling said there is a great need for Congress to reform federal contracting laws so that small businesses can both survive the bidding process and bring quality work to the federal government. “We ask the Committee to look at tightening the statute so that all firms can accurately determine the risks and rewards of participating in this market,” Dreiling said.

Consultative Council releases recommendations to advance building industry

Natl Inst of Building ScienceThe High Performance Buildings Caucus, recognizing the unique nature of the publication, recently announced the National Institute of Building Sciences Consultative Council 2012 Report, “Moving Forward: Findings and Recommendations from the Consultative Council.”

The Consultative Council, a representative council of the nation’s building community, prepares the report annually, as required by the Institute’s enabling legislation. This year’s report is a pathway toward high-performance buildings. It offers specific recommendations, implementable in the near term, which can serve as the basis for a national buildings policy.

Representatives David McKinley (W.Va.) and Peter Welch (Vt.), co-chairs of the High Performance Buildings Caucus, hosted the briefing on Capitol Hill May 13, 2013, as the kickoff event for High Performance Building Week.

Ron King, immediate past chair and National Insulation Association representative for the Consultative Council, moderated the event, which included presentations by Pete DeMarco, chair of the Council’s Energy and Water Efficiency Topical Committee and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ Council representative; Richard Wright, chair of the Council’s Sustainability Topical Committee and a representative of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Sara Yerkes, Consultative Council vice chair and the International Code Council’s representative; and Ryan Colker, director of the Consultative Council.

Findings & Recommendations
Key findings and recommendations from the report are as follows:

  • The building industry and policymakers should identify baseline metrics to measure the achievement of high performance and coordinate existing efforts in this area.
  • The building community must engage with climate and weather scientists to help identify the information required to adapt buildings to climate change, and to develop the practices, standards, codes and guidelines needed to implement that adaptation into the built environment.
  • All stakeholders should work to identify areas for streamlining the regulatory process and finding and applying solutions that eliminate overlap, duplication, inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the application of regulations, processes and procedures applied to the built environment.
  • The building industry and regulatory community should identify ways to improve the current process of code compliance, as well as look for alternative processes—particularly as state and local governments are faced with shrinking budgets.
  • Building owners must recognize the value of retro-commissioning and the importance of well-qualified retro-commissioning authorities.
  • Policymakers should support the building industry in quantifying the impact of retroactive application of requirements on the existing building stock.
  • Policymakers, foundations and research institutions should provide financial, political and technical support for multi-disciplinary research that supports achievement of high-performance buildings.
  • Utilities, policymakers, code developers and the industry at large should focus on developing an approach to time-dependent valuation of energy, conducting research to support guidance on proper pipe sizing to save resources and protect human health, and determining how thermal insulation on potable and other hot water delivery systems impacts both energy and water use.

The Institute’s 2012 Annual Report, which is submitted to the President of the United States, contains a summary of the Consultative Council Report.

View the briefing agenda.

Download the Consultative Council Report.

Learn more about the Consultative Council.

Terracotta and cement roofs vulnerable in wildfires, NIST study finds

From the May 14, 2013 NIST Tech Beat.

Although made of fire-resistant materials, terracotta and cement roof tiles are vulnerable to penetration by windblown embers generated in wildfires, according to new research findings* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In scoping experiments conducted in the Fire Research Wind Tunnel Facility at Japan’s Building Research Institute, NIST fire scientist Samuel Manzello found that the embers—or firebrands—infiltrated gaps between certain types of roofing tiles and, once trapped, proceeded to melt the underlayment below.

Of the four roof styles studied, the flat tile terracotta roofing assembly performed best probably due to its interlocking design. For these tiles, the firebrands were observed to become trapped within the interlocking sections of the tiles and, as a result, the firebrands did not penetrate past the tiles towards the underlayment.

Manzello cautions, however, against a false sense of security with this type of roofing assembly.

“Over time, gaps can develop in roofing assemblies due to settling of the structure, aging of the materials, earthquakes or other causes,” he says. In an earlier study,** Manzello and colleagues simulated this effect and observed greatly reduced performance of ceramic roofing assemblies as compared to well-aligned Spanish tile roofing assemblies.

This infiltration of embers through gaps, he explains, ultimately could lead to ignition of materials in an attic space immediately below.

The research findings suggest that one potential approach to reducing wildfire risks would be to install continuous, fire-resistant underlayments. This hypothesis, Manzello says, requires further investigation.

In the new research, Manzello studied roof assemblies made of flat and profiled (wave-like) cement and terracotta tiles. The assemblies were exposed to firebrand showers generated by the NIST-developed firebrand generator. Devised by Manzello, the generator, or NIST Dragon, shown in the video below, is a two-meter tall, goose-neck-shaped apparatus that breathes in wood chips and exhales firebrands at a controlled rate.*** The novel device supports NIST’s program to improve the fire-resistance or hardening of structures in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), with the ultimate aim of reducing property damage and the threat to life safety associated with WUI fires.

* S.L. Manzello, The Performance of Concrete Tile and Terracotta Tile Roofing Assemblies Exposed to Wind-Driven Firebrand Showers, (NIST Technical Note 1794) March 2013. Available at:http://dx.doi.org/10.6028/NIST.TN.1794.

** S.L, Manzello, Y. Hayashi, Y. Yoneki and Y.Yamamoto, Quantifying the vulnerabilities of ceramic tile roofing assemblies to ignition during a firebrand attack. Fire Safety Journal 45 (2010), pp. 35-43.

*** See the Sept. 27, 2011 Tech Beat item, “In Unique Fire Tests, Outdoor Decks Will Be Under Firebrand Attack” at  www.nist.gov/public_affairs/tech-beat/tb20110927.cfm#fire.

Guide establishes framework for implementing COBie into building projects

Natl Inst of Building ScienceThe National Institute of Building Sciences buildingSMART alliance™ (bSa) is calling for public comment on a draft guide that establishes the framework for implementing the Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie) standard.

As with any contract deliverable, information deliverables require specifications to set the expectations of quality that need to be met. All bSa information exchange standards are specifically designed to be contractible standards for use with building information models (BIMs). One of the first bSa information exchange standards to be included in the National BIM Standard-United States™ (NBIMS-US™), COBie identifies the minimum requirements for what digital data should be collected during design and construction so that the information is available later to manage assets throughout the life of the building.

Providing owners with a minimum national standard for capturing, updating and exchanging asset information digitally is the first step to ensuring such information is delivered by the project team. The COBie Guide sets the framework for project owners and teams to develop a practical COBie implementation strategy. Once a given owner customizes the document to meet the needs of the project, that owner’s version of the Guide becomes the reference point for the project team’s design and construction specifications. For those owners who have not previously required COBie, the basic COBie standard can be used without customization.

The basic COBie standard requires all scheduled or tagged equipment to be identified by type and location. It requires the project team to capture the make, model and serial numbers, tag, installation date, warranty and scheduled maintenance requirements (which reflects current practice in most construction contracts).

The COBie Guide results from years of developing and pilot testing the standard. Beginning July 2, the Guide will be available for a three-month review by interested buildingSMART alliance members and then updated based on consensus feedback. Once finalized, The COBie Guidewill be submitted as a “best practice” ballot to NBIMS Version 3.

The comment period closes Tuesday, October 2. Download the COBie Guide and provide comments.

About the National Institute of Building Sciences
The National Institute of Building Sciences, authorized by public law 93-383 in 1974, is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that brings together representatives of government, the professions, industry, labor and consumer interests to identify and resolve building process and facility performance problems. The Institute serves as an authoritative source of advice for both the private and public sectors with respect to the use of building science and technology.

Stratford, ON to investigate upgrade to LEDs

Stratford ON

Stratford, ON, is famous for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Perhaps they'll also become famous for their LED lighting.

The City of Stratford, Ontario, has started a pilot project that will evaluate replacing existing streetlights (potentially as many as 4,000 units) with energy-efficient LED fixtures. This project has helped earn Stratford become one of the “Top Seven Intelligent Communities for 2012″ by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) a New York-based think tank dedicated to studying the use of information and communications technology to create the community of the 21st Century.

Stratford shares the kudos with communities having populations and economies many times its size: Austin, Texas; Oulu, Finland; Quebec City, Quebec; Riverside, California; Saint John, New Brunswick and Taichung City, Taiwan. All seven communities were feted last week at ICF’s annual “Building The Broadband Economy” summit conference in New York City. The goal of the awards program is to increase awareness of the role that broadband communications and information access technologies play in shaping the economic and social development of communities worldwide.

The pilot project will include Toshiba’s LED roadway and area lighting fixtures. These fixtures are a direct replacement for conventional high intensity discharge (HID) lighting, such as high-pressure sodium or metal halide lamps. With the new LED lighting fixtures, Stratford could save up to 30% in energy costs.

Stratford, Ontario is a city of 32,000 in southwestern Ontario, famous for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The city was twice designated one of the world’s Top Seven Intelligent Communities, in 2011 and 2012, by the New York-based broadband think tank, the Intelligent Community Forum.

More Companies Join Better Buildings Challenge

Department of EnergyThe Obama Administration announced recently that six new major U.S. companies are joining President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, which encourages private sector leaders across the country to commit to reducing the energy use in their facilities by at least 20 percent by 2020.  Starbucks Coffee Company, Staples, and The J.R. Simplot Company will upgrade more than 50 million square feet of combined commercial building space, including 15 manufacturing facilities. Financial allies Samas Capital and Greenwood Energy will also make $200 million in financing available for energy efficiency upgrades through this national leadership initiative. Utility partner Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has also committed to offering expanded energy efficiency programs for its commercial customers, who are responsible for 30 million square feet of commercial building space.

The Better Buildings Challenge is part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive strategy to improve the competitiveness of American industry and business, by helping companies to save money by reducing energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings.  Under the Challenge, private sector CEOs, university presidents and state and local leaders commit to taking aggressive steps to reduce the energy used in their facilities and sharing data and best practices with others around the country.  With the addition of today’s partners and allies, nearly 70 organizations have now joined the Better Buildings Challenge.  Together, these organizations account for more than 1.7 billion square feet of building space, including more than 300 manufacturing plants, and have committed almost $2 billion to support energy efficiency improvements nationwide. For more information, please visit the Better Buildings Challenge website.

The energy to operate the buildings where we work, shop, and study costs the U.S. approximately $200 billion annually. Last year, commercial and industrial buildings consumed more than 40 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy.  The goal of the Better Buildings Challenge is to support building upgrades to make America’s buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade, while also reducing energy costs for American businesses and local governments by more than $40 billion and creating jobs for U.S. workers.