Code Innovations Blog
I’m always amazed at the power of seeds, laying dormant through the winter, then when the conditions are right, pushing up through the soil to express the full potential of knowledge hidden within. 2016 was a groundbreaking year for the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. Our Code Innovations Database became fertile ground for green building innovators to transform the very ground of our built environment into a lush explosion of potential. We planted many new seeds with two dozen new case studies, about the same number of blog posts, and many hundreds of people inspired by presentations given by me and EcoBuilding leaders across the region.
No matter how you feel about the outcome of this week’s general election, the push to transform the built environment for long-term sustainability must – and will – continue to gain momentum. Energy efficiency, healthy indoor environments, water conservation and on-site stormwater management (to name a few issues), are not partisan or political concerns. The shape that our homes, buildings, schools, and infrastructure take arise from within our own communities, our local, state and non-governmental democratic processes.
Plumbing and sanitation codes have a long way to go to make resilient water systems the norm rather than the exception. For that, our homes and buildings would need to capture and treat rainwater for all domestic uses; end the use of clean drinking water for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses; treat and reuse all waste water and stormwater on-site. Policy Innovations and groundbreaking projects are stepping stones that offer a path forward.
All over the Northwest, cities large and small are struggling with how to concentrate growth in their urban centers without damaging the unique character of existing districts and neighborhoods. One strategy getting serious consideration is "gentle densification" through urban infill policies to encourage smaller clustered housing and other innovative ways of "doing more with less."
Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been around for decades. In many parts of Washington State, the concept is accepted and local governments have revised their regulations to accommodate such housing. Even so, the number of ADUs created in accordance with local standards has remained relatively low, due in part to the difficulty in meeting those regulations and the associated costs related to them. In response, a few local governments are relooking at their standards and discussing how to make them easier to meet. The potential easing of existing ADU regulations, however, is causing neighborhood homeowners to take notice. Originally published in MRSC Insight Blog, July 21, 2016 by Steve Butler, Policy Director
Tiny homes are all the rage these days! However, our zoning and building/construction regulations create significant barriers against them, especially if someone wants to live in a tiny home on a permanent basis. This blog covers some the things to consider in the regulation of tiny homes in local communities. Originally published in MRSC Insight Blog, by Steve Butler, Policy Director
EcoBuilding Innovators are a virtual R&D Department for better buildings! Case in Point: At virtually the same time, Martha Rose, spec builder of "City Cabins" fame, and Ben Walsh, Portland developer of Sage Green net-zero homes, invented an amazing new wall assembly. The "Thermal Break Shear Wall" affectionately known by many of us as the "Martha Wall" places a 1-1.5" layer of rigid foam insulation between the lumber framing and plywood sheathing in an otherwise conventional light-frame wall assembly. Will you use this innovation??
The latest news from Engineering News-Record: "Database Aims to Remove Code Barriers to Sustainability." The article, published on August 10th, highlights three cases from the Code Innovations Database and quotes several leading building advocates on the value of our work. Energy Guru and past Guild Board member Dan Wildenhaus said “The Code Innovations Database is a way to make sure the speed of innovation is not held back by the code-change process, which is relatively slow-moving.”
Our friend and case study contributor Molly Winter from Recode was featured on the front page of TED.com yesterday! What a great talk! Taking the stage at TEDxBend, she shared some powerful insight about what it will really take to legalize composting toilets. "Thinking about where it all goes is the first step in activating superpowers in our poop and pee. If we use them well, we can live healthier and more beautifully."
EcoBuilding ally David Eisenberg, keynote speaker at the EcoBuilding 2010 conference & retreat recently published an academic paper in Building Research and Information (professional journal) titled "Transforming building regulatory systems to address climate change." His analysis, based on long-term personal observations of building codes and policies, highlights a major gap in regulatory authority which has allowed significant large-scale hazards attributable to the built environment to go unregulated.
EcoBuilding rappers Sage Saskill and Mike Vacirca unveiled their killer container project at last year’s Green Building Slam, and it was an overnight sensation! Designed as a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) or "backyard cottage" it was assembled in about a week using good ol' fashioned EcoBuilder ingenuity.
Among it’s other life-affirming innovations, the Bullitt Center is part of a renaissance of mass-timber construction in non-residential buildings gaining momentum in the Northwest and around the world!
The Code Innovations Database is expanding to become the go-to resource for innovative permitting, compliance and regulatory policies! EcoBuilding Innovators are the R&D Department for tomorrows building industry. Help us recognize and empower these gems of innovation by helping underwrite one of their case studies. Together, we'll make it easier to permit high-performance green buildings.
Pioneering architect Michael Green from Vancouver BC is designing skyscrapers made entirely of wood! Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) isn’t all that new as a building product. What is new, is using this incredibly strong material made from low-quality wood to construct buildings up to 30 stories tall! The provincial government had to adopt a Site Specific Regulation and amend the building code to allow it to go forward.
Eric Thomas and Alexandra Salmon wanted to build themselves an affordable "net-zero energy" home that would produce as much energy as it uses. But they had to stay within their budget which in burgeoning Seattle is not easy to say the least. Their dreams came true easier than you might think, when they met Ted Clifton, an energy efficient builder based in Whidbey Island, WA.
Ben Ferguson, an architect with a passion for historic preservation recently worked with Oakland-based architect Tom Dolan, to propose new code amendments that encourage redevelopment of the City’s large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings.
Ben Walsh of Green One Construction built “Sage Green,” a development in Beaverton, OR with five net-zero energy homes using the unique “Martha Wall” ply-on-foam wall assembly we’ve posted on previously, to achieve 40% more energy efficiency than standard construction (R-33). With a goal of affordability, they used least cost and familiar 2x8 wood construction, a near-standard framing technique that made their assembly cost-effective and familiar ...
To heat 3 million square feet of new office space in Seattle, Amazon partnered with Clise properties, McKinstry, and City of Seattle Dept. of Transportation to gain approval to use a city right-of-way to transfer thermal energy between buildings. According to Amazon, their newest buildings will be heated with an “EcoDistrict” approach by recycling energy from a nearby data center.
The Bullitt Center in Seattle exemplifies “Code Innovations for Living Buildings” because it took numerous code variances and policy innovations to get it permitted and built. One of those innovations, inspired by the Living Building Challenge’s (LBC) “net-zero water” imperative, is still awaiting approval after more than 2 years: harvesting rainwater for potable (drinking water) use in a public building.
Chris van Daalen and Andrew Lee recently gave a presentation “Code Innovations for Living Buildings” to a packed house at Paladino and Co. in downtown Seattle. They told a remarkable story about policy innovations happening around Puget Sound, helping overcome regulatory barriers and incentivize buildings that meet the “Living Building Challenge” (LBC) the world’s most rigorous green building standard.