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Building codes should protect us from "emergent" hazards

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.
Building codes should protect us from "emergent" hazards

Eisenberg: Transforming building codes to address climate change

EcoBuilding ally David Eisenberg, keynote speaker at the EcoBuilding 2010 conference & retreat recently published an academic paper in Building Research and Infornation (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. Unlike the familiar hazards in individual buildings which codes have nearly eliminated - such as structural collapse, fire, and waterborne disease - Eisenberg argues that "emergent hazards" that are less well known have been excluded from consideration. Emergent hazards such as building-related carbon emissions contributing to climate change, have traditionally been beyond the scope of building codes because the regulatory system lacks a comprehensive formal process to assess and balance risks across hazard types, locations, timeframes and scales.

In fact, innovative building designs and methods attempting to address these emergent hazards often struggle to gain regulatory approval. Ironically, codes may inadvertently be accelerating these general risks even though they effectively deal with specific known hazards.  In his paper, Eisenberg compares current regulation to the positive outcome goals of the Living Building Challenge, and suggests expanding the role of the building regulatory system from policing minimum standards to include enabling the most regenerative and positive outcomes possible. Read the Paper.

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