According to Building Enclosure Online:

Texas-based Priest & Associates Consulting, LLC., through an engineering evaluation, determined that current code-evaluated exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) adhered to DensElement Barrier System are compliant with NFPA 285. According to their evaluation, it can safely replace exterior gypsum sheathing in current code-evaluated EIFS designs.

Brent Paugh, President of Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, says the acknowledgement speaks to the strength of the DensElement Barrier System: “This kind of recognition is a tremendous advancement for an important product,” he said. “And with the increased use of continuous insulation across all climate zones, NFPA 285 compliance is essential to ensure the safety of building occupants.”

What’s the big deal? This means that there is yet another substrate option that designers can opt for when implementing an EIFS barrier system for higher performing exterior cladding.

Gypsum-based sheathing is often used as a substrate for barrier-based EIFS exterior assemblies. The problem, in my experience, is that standard gypsum board products are extremely vulnerable to water and moisture intrusion. The whole point of the building’s envelope is to protect vulnerable interior materials such as gypsum wallboard from exposure to weather. So the idea of placing gypsum on the exterior of a building has always seemed counterintuitive to me.

The DensElement Barrier System is a versatile product that, unlike standard gypsum board, is water resistant, serves as a proper air barrier when properly installed, resists flame spread, and may reduce labor costs.

While I refuse to endorse any particular building product, I applaud the innovation.

Once again, some thought provoking writing from longtime sustainable architect and Treehugger columnist Lloyd Alter:

The best way to have our buildings use less energy is to insulate them really well. But for a long time, I have also been writing about the problems of insulating with plastic foam, even writing that Polystyrene insulation doesn’t belong in green building.

There were a number of reasons, including the fact that they are full of dangerous fire retardants, that the blowing agents were serious greenhouse gases, and that they were made from fossil fuels. That’s why I have often written that it is better to build foam free.

Green building is a series of tradeoffs and compromises. Remember, the greenest building is one that already exists.

Sustainability ultimately becomes a value engineering exercise — it’s just that not all of the “values” being engineered necessarily have to do with money or profit.

EPS foam can be a wonderful insulating material that can reduce the energy usage requirements for a building substantially. In the same way, phthalates and bitumen can make for some pretty impervious and resilient waterproofing materials. The dominance of vinyl over aluminum framed windows in the residential markets for the past couple decades have virtually eliminated claims of defective manufacturing, plus they tend to perform much better.

So in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, we need to rely on byproducts of the production of fossil fuels. No easy answers, to be sure.

Retrofit Magazine shared the following major construction safety news announcement:

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) has voted to adopt the Iron Workers (IW) safety standard updates for reinforcing steel and post-tensioning activities. California is the first state-approved OSHA plan to work with the IW to reform existing safety standards. The IW Safety and Health Department has been working with the IW Department of Reinforcing Steel and industry stakeholders such as the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI), National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors (NARSC), Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI)and the Western Steel Council (WSC) to reform existing standards since 2010.

In 2013, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) updated its A10.9 Concrete and Masonry standard to reflect reforms the IW Safety and Health Department and the industry stakeholders proposed. As part of the 2017 ZERO Incident Campaign commissioned by the IW General President Eric Dean, the IW Safety and Health Department is pursuing updates to the 1971 federal OSHA standard to prevent incidents and fatalities. It continues to pursue new reinforcing steel and post-tensioning standards in other state-approved OSHA plans throughout the country.

Iron Workers International is applying pressure to update federal safety guidelines that date back to the early 70s, that it feels are outdated. Accordingly, the organization cites a direct relationship between lax safety regulations/enforcement and injuries.

Specifically, the 1971 OSHA standards fail to address modern methods of steel reinforcement erection and post-tensioning.

The new California safety standards are due to go in effect beginning in January of 2018.

[Via: Construction Dive]

Shane Hedmond, at Construction Junkie, recently shared the following:

Just last week, an Encino, California man was sentenced to 6 months in county jail and 18-months of supervised release after an excavation collapse killed one of his employees, according to the Ventura County Star.  The project manager, who was acting as an unlicensed contractor at the time, faced a prison term of up to 4 years. The man was officially charged with involuntary manslaughter and causing the death of an employee from violating a health or safety standard in July of this year.

On the one hand, stories involving serious injury and/or death from construction job site mishaps are seemingly increasing, not decreasing as one would expect from all the hype around safety in the industry. On the other hand, this story is unique in that in the many cases I’ve been involved in where a construction worker has been injured or killed on site, it is rare for there to be any real personal accountability.

Construction is still very dangerous work, despite decades of a “Safety First” mentality. I really appreciate Hedmond’s closing paragraph on the topic:

Bottom line is: if you’re a supervisor, you should never allow your employees to work in an unsafe excavation and if you’re an employee, you should never think you’re safe in an excavation that is not sloped, shored, or benched. 2016 saw a sharp spike in the amount of trench collapse deaths, more than doubling that of 2015, so there’s still plenty that needs to be done . There are plenty of tools and resources availablethat explain how to dig a safe excavation, as well.

According to Rong-Gong Lin II, Raoul Rañoa and Jon Schleuss of the LA Times, the city of Santa Monica is considering a mandated seismic retrofit program:

Santa Monica’s safety rules would go beyond what Los Angeles has done by requiring not only wood-frame apartments and concrete buildings to be retrofitted, but also steel-frame structures.

The ordinance would require the owners of more than 2,000 buildings identified by the city to conduct a seismic evaluation, and, if needed, have the buildings retrofitted.

For the ordinance to be approved, the City Council will need to pass the law a second time in the next month. If the measure receives that affirmation, the proposal will become law 30 days later.

West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are also considering similar measures. In the city of Los Angeles, over 13,000 buildings of an estimated 15,000 buildings have already been identified as needing retrofit and work is currently ongoing.

In Santa Monica, 1,700 of the 2,000 buildings listed are wood framed. The remainder are primarily brick, with about 60 or so buildings made of non-ductile or brittle concrete, lacking sufficient steel reinforcement to resist seismic forces.

With now close to 20,000 buildings required to undergo seismic retrofitting, the LA basin seems to be opening one ginormous can of worms.

Adele Peters, writing for Fast Company:

At a construction site on Google’s new Bay View campus–a few miles from its headquarters in Mountain View, on NASA-owned land near the San Francisco Bay–cranes lift tubing high in the air and drop it into holes that descend 80 feet into the ground. It’s a step that will allow three new office buildings to heat and cool themselves without fossil fuels, setting apart from nearly all existing offices, which use enormous amounts of energy to manage the temperature in their spaces.

The system uses geothermal heat pumps, relying on the steady 65-degree temperature of the ground to absorb and reject heat. Excess heat from the buildings can also be sent into the ground to be stored until it’s needed.

[…]

It’s one piece of an overall design for the campus that aims for LEED Platinum certification, the highest level possible in the sustainability rating system for buildings. Outside, 20 acres of open space will be planted with native species. Stormwater will be collected and treated for reuse in on-site ponds. (Materials will be vetted through Google’s healthy materials requirements.) The windows–which fill the space with natural light–are treated with a pattern that helps birds avoid crashing into the glass. The windows can also automatically shade themselves and darken at night to reduce light pollution. Electricity use, as in other Google campuses, will be offset by renewable energy. By using heat pumps, the company will reduce its carbon footprint even further.

Kudos to Google for making sustainability, resilience and building performance such high priorities in their building program. By the numbers:

  • Heat pumps will provide 95% of cooling for the buildings, the other 5% will be made up by a cooling tower
  • Ground temperature at the site tends to stay around 65 degrees, but by concentrating heat from the pumps, the interior temperature can be raised
  • 2,500 of 4,500 of the piles supporting the foundation will serve a dual purpose as “energy piles”
  • To pull this feat off will require 69 miles of tubing, making it the largest heat pump system in North America

According to Catalin Cimpanu of Bleeping Computer:

Since mid-September, a new IoT botnet has grown to massive proportions. Codenamed IoT_reaper (Reaper for this article), researchers estimate its current size at nearly two million infected devices.

According to researchers, the botnet is mainly made up of IP-based security cameras, network video recorders (NVRs), and digital video recorders (DVRs).

Researchers from Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 Netlab and Israeli security firm Check Point have spotted and analyzed the botnet as it continued to grow during the past month.

The way the virus works is that it scans the internet for unmatched devices and then forcibly takes control of the device. Once enough devices are added to the attacker’s command-and-control infrastructure, the devices can then be used to perform coordinated Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on targeted servers and networks.

Almost exactly one year before researchers discovered the Reaper IoT botnet the Mirai botnet was discovered, which took down most of the internet for much of Europe and North America.

Since job site cameras, connected to the internet, are fairly ubiquitous throughout the construction industry, it is possible that some construction projects are already inadvertently part of the Reaper botnet.

How about that for a risk that few project managers have considered?

Researchers at Stanford are pleased to report the following:

Thousands of miles of buried optical fibers crisscross California’s San Francisco Bay Area delivering high-speed internet and HD video to homes and businesses.

Biondo Biondi, a professor of geophysics at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, dreams of turning that dense network into an inexpensive “billion sensors” observatory for continuously monitoring and studying earthquakes.

Map shows location of a 3-mile, figure-8 loop of optical fibers installed beneath the Stanford campus as part of the fiber optic seismic observatory. Over the past year, Biondi’s group has shown that it’s possible to convert the jiggles of perturbed optical fiber strands into information about the direction and magnitude of seismic events.

In other words, our existing fiber optic infrastructure(s) can be utilized as an advanced seismographic monitoring network increasing both the quantity and quality of data available to researchers. The ultimate goal for this specific team is the development and implementation of a Bay-area wide mesh network for monitoring seismic activity in realtime.

Once again, the incredibly brilliant minds at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich) have announced innovative processes and materials for a better built environment. Phys.org has the story:

Researchers from ETH Zurich have built a prototype of an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof using innovative digital design and fabrication methods. The tested novel formwork system will be used in an actual construction project for the first time next year.

A prototype for an ultra-thin, sinuous concrete roof using innovative design and fabrication methods has been designed and built by researchers from the ETH Zürich. The shell is part of a roof-top apartment unit called HiLo that is planned to be built next year on the NEST, the living lab building of Empa and Eawag in Dübendorf. The penthouse will provide living and work space for guest faculty of Empa. Researchers led by Philippe Block, Professor of Architecture and Structures, and Arno Schlüter, Professor of Architecture and Building Systems, want to put the new lightweight construction to the test and combine it with intelligent and adaptive building systems.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which thin-film photovoltaic cells are installed. Eventually, thanks to the technology and an adaptive solar façade, the residential unit is expected to generate more energy than it consumes.

Here is a video of the new ultra-thin concrete roof:

Previously, ETH Zurich was featured here on AECforensics.com for their innovative combination of robots and 3D printing. That project also involved some really advanced applications of specialized concrete.

[via ConstructionJunkie]

Lloyd Alter, writing for Treehugger:

According to Jacob Atalla of KB Home, “The best way to predict the future is to make it.” So he and others in the building industry often build model concept homes to test out ideas. Michele Lerner of the Washington Post talks to a few people in the industry to get a sense of what’s coming next.

“When we imagine the home of the future and look at innovations, it’s important to answer two questions,” said Matt Power, editor in chief of Green Builder media in South Portland, Maine. “Just like you ask yourself about relationships, you should ask, ‘Does this make your life better?’ And if the answer is yes, then ask yourself from an ethical point of view, ‘Does this reduce my impact on the Earth?’ ”

Alas, when you look at what they are actually proposing, it doesn’t have a lot to do with reducing impact on the earth. They pay lip service to energy consumption, but it is all about adding stuff.

As always, Alter has exposed the raw nerve of the building industry that ultimately holds progress up for the entirety of civilization: complacency.

Cramming more gadgets and features into the home only results in planned obsolescence, and yet more crap to eventually make its way to a landfill.

We can, and should do better as an industry.