Proposed standards will help homes stay green even after disaster strikes

| by John Johnson
Proposed standards will help homes stay green even after disaster strikes

One focus throughout the recent marking of Hurricane Katrina’s five-year anniversary was on the number of homes lost. The epic storm demolished more than 300,000 family dwellings across Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and, most infamously, New Orleans.

Very few people, however, talked about where those homes actually went, or the impact the mountain of debris had on the environment. Once the foundations were scraped and the bulldozers were towed from the neighborhoods, more than 44 million cubic yards of building materials had been dumped into landfills—enough that were it all concrete to build 709 Empire State Buildings.

Just as significant to the environment is the huge amount of natural resources consumed in the on-going effort to rebuild New Orleans and surrounding areas.

While much of the new construction employs green homebuilding strategies, if the Institute for Business and Home Safety has its way, all new homes in disaster-prone areas would be green at least in the sense that when other calamities strike, the environmental impact will be less severe.

The group would like to see all homes in vulnerable regions built to its Fortified for Safer Living standards, which include taking steps to ensure that homes can withstand winds of 140 mph (most area building codes call for 120 mph), applying special roofing techniques and building concrete walls that are reinforced with rebar every two feet.

IBHS regulations also would require that roofs be attached with straps that run through the walls to the home’s foundation.

“We feel it’s very important that disaster resistance be part of any ongoing discussions about green construction,” said Wanda D. Edwards, PE, the director of building code development at IBHS. “Using these requirements will give forward-thinking communities not just more efficient buildings, but more sustainable communities that have the ability to resist and recover from disasters when they occur.”

To address the gap between current building codes and its proposed ones, the IBHS worked with the Portland Cement Association to develop a set of standards called the High Performance Building Requirements for Sustainability 2.0. The criteria are written in mandatory language that amends and appends the International Code Council’s International Building Code and would allow local governments to adopt green-building codes that address high-performance resiliency as well as conventional sustainable features.

There are no requirements for sole source certification or fees that increase a home’s initial project-design cost.

“A sustainable building with a higher degree of durability can decrease the amount of materials going to landfills and [the] use of community resources when disasters occur,” said Steve Szoke, PCA’s director of codes and standards. “The PCA/IBHS ordinance provides mandatory requirements for increased resistance to natural disasters with the goal of reducing the number of destroyed buildings, protecting property and saving human life.”


Topics: Building Green


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