We Expect A Lot From Our Buildings — How Do International Codes Assure Sustainability?
Today, society faces 3 major challenges in the built environment: ensuring building safety, improving sustainability, and addressing our affordable housing crisis.
May is Building Safety Month. Up-to-date international codes can make communities more equipped to endure increasingly frequent and severe weather events, improve sustainability, and address the affordable housing crisis. This year, innovation and collaboration are evolving due to the increasing frequency and severity of global weather events. All communities need building codes to protect their citizens from disasters like fires, weather-related events, and structural collapse.
It seemed to make sense to learn more about how modern and innovative international building codes address these imperatives, how code officials work day in and day out to keep the public safe, and how the International Code Council is enabling the flow of innovative policies and practices around the world to improve the built environment.
Q: Thanks for making yourself available to answer some questions. For those unfamiliar with the International Code Council, why is it in existence, and what effect has it had on cities and towns across the globe?
Dominic Sims, CEO of the International Code Council, Photo provided by International Code Council
The International Code Council was established in 1994 as a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated model building codes. The mission of the Code Council is to steward the development process for model codes that benefit public safety and support the industry’s need for one set of codes without regional limitations. We are a member-focused association with members from across building industries who come together to participate in our democratic and transparent process to develop the most widely used set of building safety codes and standards in the world – the International Codes® (I-Codes®).
Our technical staff works closely with legislators and code officials to help jurisdictions implement the most appropriate set of codes for their specific regions.
Q: I’m struck by the call for reciprocity toward improving sustainability and addressing the affordable housing crisis. These 2 objectives seem not to be related. Might you offer some insights into their symbiosis?
We expect a lot of our buildings. They are complex systems that have broad ranging impacts on our lives and communities. They protect us from hazards, influence our health, and impact our environment. Finding the balance across all these expectations while maintaining affordability is challenging, but the Code Council and governments must navigate these complexities.
Housing affordability is particularly important for low and moderate income households. These households are often the hardest hit by disasters — many of which are exacerbated by climate change — and lack the resources for post-disaster recovery. At the same time, they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on utility bills — in some places 3 times as much as the average household. When we talk about housing affordability, it’s not just whether we can get someone in a house but whether they can afford to stay there.
The International Code Council is currently the only code development organization that actively considers cost as an element of the code development process. Through the code development, process stakeholders from across the building industry come together to identify the best practices for safety and sustainability while ensuring the resulting buildings remain affordable and accessible to broad populations. Naturally, individual communities have their own perspectives on priorities for their building stock. The Code Council provides communities with tools to achieve those priorities from model codes that capture the current consensus to stretch codes that can assist communities in going beyond minimum-level requirements.
Q: May is Building Safety Month. What should our readers know about the need to adopt modern, regularly-updated building codes?
Today, society faces 3 major challenges in the built environment: ensuring building safety, improving sustainability, and addressing our affordable housing crisis. Modern and innovative international codes are society’s first line of defense to address these imperatives. One of the most cost-effective ways to safeguard communities against natural disasters is to build using hazard-resistant building codes.
FEMA studies show that every dollar invested in the adoption of modern building codes provides 11 times more in savings by reducing casualties, lowering the cost of building damage and helping communities get back on their feet faster by minimizing indirect costs such as business interruptions and lost income. We want to emphasize to all communities the importance of adopting modern building codes and stress the critical importance of continued inspection and enforcement to keep buildings and their occupants safe and healthy. We also encourage local governments to fund their building departments to support the needed level of maintenance inspections.
The formula for success in implementing and supporting modern building codes and inspections is simple: staff, train, and finance.
Q: How is the building industry working to increase water efficiency through innovative practices and technologies — not just domestically but worldwide?
Logo provided by ICC
Innovation and collaboration must evolve due to global weather events’ increasing frequency and severity. There are many examples of countries in water-scarce areas that are innovating to increase water efficiency. Those involved in the code development process can draw best practices from the following examples across the globe:
Israel is leading the world through its policies, practices, and technologies for its water resources and conservation, most notably through reclaiming over 80% of its wastewater and stormwater for agricultural operation.
Saudi Arabia boasts the highest production of desalinated water worldwide (the country removes salt out of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf) and is in the process of converting its desalination plants to solar.
Cape Town, South Africa is incorporating automated domestic water metering installations to set a target water usage for each resident per day, leveraging alternative water sources, and updating their supply network infrastructure.
The United Kingdom is cutting water use through water metering, incentives for water-saving technologies, hosepipe bans, and investing in updating the country’s water supply equipment.
The North China Plain has addressed increasing agricultural demands on water through increased monitoring, institutionalized water conservation practices, ground leveling, and more efficient drainage and irrigation sprinklers.
Q: How does Building Safety Month address some of the issues that we face as a global community, including extreme weather events and water scarcity?
Clean water is the world’s most precious commodity, and public health depends on safe and readily available water. The World Health Organization estimates over two billion people live in water-stressed countries, which is expected to worsen in some regions due to a changing climate and population growth. Water conservation and efficiency issues have become crucial conversations amongst building safety professionals in recent years. Building Safety Month raises awareness about these issues by reinforcing the need to adopt modern, regularly-updated building codes, and helps individuals, families, and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures.
Q: What additional details or insights might you provide on how we can institute these best practices in the US?
There is currently no national standard on maintenance and inspection. Individual states follow their own enforcement procedures to seek out, modify, adopt and enforce their own building codes and standards. Currently adopted codes, which local jurisdictions can, and do, modify on a case-by-case basis, may or may not include provisions for building re-inspections and maintenance requirements. The International Property Maintenance Code® (IPMC®) established minimum requirements for the maintenance of existing buildings through model code regulations that contain clear and specific maintenance and property improvement provisions. The latest edition is fully compatible with the International Building Code® (IBC®).
Every jurisdiction needs to understand what their specific regional needs are so that their building, maintenance, and re-inspections codes have appropriately specific provisions for the natural, environmental, and emergency conditions more prevalent in their area (e.g., Florida hurricanes, Kansas tornadoes, California earthquakes and wildfires).
World Cup stadium 974 is one of the seven stadiums Qatar built for the World Cup, that is meant to disappear after the tournament.
The image above is A partial view of the Stadium 974 prior to the start of the World Cup group G soccer match between Serbia and Switzerland, in Doha, Qatar, Qatar, Friday Dec. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)
Built to disappear: World Cup stadium 974
By Suman Naishadham
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Of the seven stadiums Qatar built for the World Cup, one will disappear after the tournament.
That’s what the games’ organizers have said about Stadium 974 in Doha — a port-side structure with more than 40,000 seats partially built from recycled shipping containers and steel.
Qatar says the stadium will be fully dismantled after the World Cup and could be shipped to countries that need the infrastructure. Outside experts have praised the design, but say more needs to be known about what happens to the stadium after the event.
“Designing for disassembly is one of the main principles of sustainable building,” said Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank who previously worked as a climate consultant for the World Cup.
“It allows for the natural restoration of a building site or its reuse for another function,” he said, adding that a number of factors need to considered “before we call a building sustainable.”
Buildings are responsible for nearly 40% of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions. Of that, about 10% comes from “embodied” carbon or the greenhouse gas emissions related to the construction, maintenance and demolition of buildings.
Qatar has faced international criticism for its treatment of low-paid migrant workers who built over $200 billion worth of stadiums, metro lines and other infrastructure for the World Cup. Qatar says the criticism ignores labor reforms enacted in recent years.
Stadium 974, named after Qatar’s international dialing code and the number of containers used to build the stadium, is the only venue that Qatar constructed for the World Cup that isn’t air-conditioned. During a match Friday in which Switzerland defeated Serbia, the air was noticeably more humid and hot than in other venues.
The stadium is hosting only evening matches, when temperatures are cooler.
Fenwick Iribarren Architects, which designed Stadium 974 and two other World Cup stadiums, says the idea was to avoid building a “white elephant,” a stadium that is left unused or underused after the tournament ends, as happened following previous World Cups in South Africa, Brazil and Russia.
Qatar says it has developed plans for the other six stadiums after the games are over. Many will have a number of seats removed.
The multi-colored shipping containers are used as building blocks for Stadium 974 and also to house facilities such as restrooms in the interior of the structure. Like giant Lego blocks, the bright red, yellow and blue corrugated steel boxes appear suspended between layers of steel. The design gives the stadium an industrial feel.
Qatar has not detailed where the dismounted stadium will go after the tournament or even when it will be taken down. Organizers have said the stadium could be repurposed to build a venue of the same size elsewhere or multiple smaller stadiums.
Where its components go matters because of the emissions implicated by shipping them thousands of kilometers away.
Carbon Market Watch, an environmental watchdog group that investigated Qatar’s World Cup sustainability plans, said whether Stadium 974 has a lower carbon footprint than a permanent one comes down to “how many times, and how far, the stadium is transported and reassembled.”
FIFA and Qatar acknowledge that in a report estimating the stadium’s emissions. If the stadium is reused only once, they estimate its emissions would be lower than a permanent one as long as it is shipped fewer than 7,000 kilometers (about 4,350 miles) away.
If it’s repurposed more than once, it could be shipped farther and still be less polluting than a permanent venue, they said, because of how energy-intensive building multiple new stadiums is.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organizing committee for the World Cup, did not respond to a request for more information about plans after the tournament.
The report also didn’t factor in operational emissions — or those produced from running a building — once the stadium is repurposed because standards vary in different countries, FIFA and Qatar said.
A view of the Stadium 974 during the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Switzerland, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)
“The energy required for dismantling and shipping the building components will obviously need to be estimated,” Elgendy said, “but it is unlikely to outweigh the carbon embodied in the building materials.”
For now, the stadium’s design isn’t lost on spectators. On any game night, fans entering and leaving the stadium take selfies against its modern, industrial facade. The temporary stadium is hosting seven games in total — with the final one on Monday between Brazil and South Korea.
Jhonarel Miñoza, a 42-year-old Qatari resident originally from the Philippines, said she and her sister wanted to see a game in each of the seven stadiums.
Miñoza, an administrative officer who has lived in Qatar for five years, said she had heard about Stadium 974′s unconventional design before the game she attended on Friday.
“I was really eager to know how they built it,” Miñoza said. “When I came inside here, I was just checking how they did that.”
A visiting official says that hosting success sets new standards for future mega sporting events. The Qatar World Cup is the first edition of the significant soccer tournament ever held during December, and in the Middle East.
Qatar invested significantly in the mega-event, including revamping its national infrastructure. The sought-after ‘soft power’ implications start slowly but surely to show as the games unfold.
On the other hand, sustainable development requires, per the UN an integrated approach that takes into consideration environmental concerns along with economic development but, above all sustainability in the future. Will all those built-up infrastructures be of some use?
Qatar’s hosting success sets new standards for future mega sporting events: Bosnian Deputy PM
DOHA: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina HE Dr Bisera Turkovic said that Qatar did an amazing work to welcome the world during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and succeeded in establishing an incredible and excellent infrastructure, indicating that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has set new standards for future sporting mega-events.
In her remarks to Qatar News Agency, Her Excellency pointed out that Qatar’s hosting of such a global event will inspire generations of young people to come to embrace each other and create a more tolerant world.
Her Excellency said: “The whole world was watching the Al Bayt stadium for the opening ceremony. I am happy that I was present as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Western Balkans and a European country. The opening was a great global event for the first time to be held in an Arab country. Qatar has emerged into a modern, prosperous state, whose citizens enjoy opportunities and security, thanks to the wise leadership of HH the Amir, following the footsteps of HH the Father Amir.”
HE stressed the need to develop the culture of tolerance and respect, as highlighted during the World Cup opening ceremony, saying: “This is the first World Cup taking place in an Arab country and in a Middle Eastern country. It is a great chance for people to get to know a different culture and to learn about one great religion in the world.”
“The more we know the better chance we have for progress and stability in the world. Qatar offers open hand to all who want to come and witness what the Qatari nation achieved in such a short period of time offering unity of basic values and appreciation for difference with full respect of their own culture and religion,” Her Excellency added.
HE Dr. Bisera Turkovic indicated that previous World Cup hosting countries were not subjected to smear campaigns as Qatar was, saying: “Other countries did not receive such scrutiny when hosting global sporting events, even though those countries had many more things that could be criticized.”
Her Excellency explained that Qatar once again stresses that there is more that can unite people rather than divide them, and as sports are a healthy part of societies, it should remain clear from political influence, struggle to dominate, and imposition of bad habits such as alcohol and drugs.
The Bosnian official expressed her happiness that a Bosnian folklore group was present to take part in the world cup festivities at Katara Cultural Village for this truly global event.
HE Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that there are strong fields of cooperation between Bosnia and the State of Qatar, including political, economic, and cultural cooperation that is based on friendship and fraternity. This has been maintained through the exchange of visits between officials of the two countries at the highest levels and documented by the signing of many agreements and bilateral cooperation protocols. Her Excellency expressed her hope to see economic cooperation expansion during the coming period in all sectors.
Her Excellency added that the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been working hard to attract public and private investment from Qatar through having more connectivity between the two countries, enabling direct flights with Qatar Airways, and increasing rights and security for Qataris in ownership of the real estate in Bosnia.
A growing global population increasingly living in cities has led to a spiralling rise in the extraction of sand and aggregates, with serious environmental, political and social consequences.
Sand and coarse aggregates form the backbone of the modern world and, through land reclamation, the ground on which we live, of the materials we take for granted: concrete, glass and asphalt. A point in case, Archinect News looking at Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, per a new study confirms it.
Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, says new study
The study, published in the journal One Earth, notes that “sand, gravel, and crushed rock, together referred to as construction aggregates, are the [world’s] most extracted solid materials. Growing demand is damaging ecosystems, triggering social conflicts, and fueling concerns over sand scarcity. Balancing protection efforts and extraction to meet society’s needs requires designing sustainable pathways at a system level.”
In total, around 50 billion tons of sand, gravel, and crushed rock are used by humankind each year. As a key ingredient in the production of concrete and glass, sand plays an important role in the construction of almost every component of the built environment, from buildings and walls to bridges and tunnels.
As a global shift from rural to urban areas continues, it is expected to that eight cities the size of New York will be built each year for the next thirty years. As a result, global use of sand, gravel, and crushed rock is set to dwarf the use of all other solid materials on Earth, hitting over 50 gigatons per year by 2060. Torres’ study also makes the ironic point that coastal responses to climate change, which will involve significant construction and upgrading of sea walls and flood defenses, will also contribute to an increased demand for sand mining.
Despite our reliance on sand, the global supply network is poorly regulated and managed, leading to a lack of data and understanding over the quantities and impact of the network on both the environment and social fabrics. To overcome this, the latest paper departs from its predecessors, which tended only to focus on excavation sites, and instead undertook a broader overview of the network. “We take a broad look at the physical and socio-environmental dimensions of sand supply networks,” Torres told Gizmodo, “linking extraction, logistics, distribution, economics, policy, to gain an understanding of the stresses on both nature and people.”
The paper sets out some of the environmental and social hazards associated with the sand supply network as it exists today. For example, sand mining can lead to riverbed collapse and increased erosion along coastal settlements. In parts of India and Vietnam, this phenomenon has forced coastal populations to move inland to larger urban areas, which only adds further to sand supply needs. The paper also describes the risk of conflict associated with sand mining, which has already triggered conflict and displacement in Singapore, and a dangerous black market in Southeast Asia. Gizmodo notes that sand mining gangs have also depleted enough sand to cause 24 Indonesian islands to disappear from erosion.
To combat these issues, the paper calls for more regulated, monitored networks to manage global sand resources. The authors also note the need to decrease our reliance on sand, whether through crushing rocks to create more a sustainable alternative to sand, or a requirement by governments that the rubble from demolished buildings is recycled as a replacement to new concrete. The authors also point to the need to embrace alternatives to concrete, such as hempcrete and timber, and call for the construction of buildings with a longer operating life.
A tall building is not defined by its height or number of stories. The important criterion is whether or not the design is influenced by some aspect of “tallness.”It is a building in which tallness strongly influences planning, design, construction and use: the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
Yanko Design has pertinent pictures of the world’s main trendy construction types to illustrate that statement best. A Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture are the elements that come, as it were, to justify the tallness of these structures and take into account all ecological concerns as if to alleviate their higher demand in the required material, men and money.
The above picture is for illustration and is of Yanko Design.
Green Skyscrapers that add a Touch of Nature + Sustainability to Modern Architecture!
Skyscrapers have taken over most of the major cities today. They’re symbols of wealth and power! And most of the skylines today are adorned with glistening glass skyscrapers. They are considered the face of modern architecture. Although all that glass and dazzle can become a little tiring to watch. Hence, architects are incorporating these tall towers with a touch of nature and greenery! The result is impressive skyscrapers merged with an element of sustainability. These green spaces help us maintain a modern lifestyle while staying connected to nature. We definitely need more of these green skyscraper designs in our urban cities!
Zaha Hadid Architects designed a pair of impressive skyscrapers that are linked by planted terraces, for Shenzhen, China. Named Tower C, the structure is 400 metres in height and is supposed to be one of the tallest buildings in the city. The terraces are filled with greenery and aquaponic gardens! They were built to be an extension of a park that is located alongside the tower and as a green public space.
Polish designers Pawel Lipiński and Mateusz Frankowsk created The Mashambas Skyscraper, a vertical farm tower, that is in fact modular! The tower can be assembled, disassembled and transported to different locations in Africa. It was conceptualised in an attempt to help and encourage new agricultural communities across Africa. The skyscraper would be moved to locations that have poor soil quality or suffer from droughts, so as to increase crop yield and produce.
The Living Skyscraper was chosen among 492 submissions that were received for the annual eVolo competition that has been running since 2006. One of the main goals of the project is to grow a living skyscraper on the principle of sustainable architecture. The ambitious architectural project has been envisioned for Manhattan and proposes using genetically modified trees to shape them into literal living skyscrapers. It is designed to serve as a lookout tower for New York City with its own flora and fauna while encouraging ecological communications between office buildings and green recreation centers. The building will function as a green habitable space in the middle of the concrete metropolis.
ODA’s explorations primarily focus on tower designs, in an attempt to bring versatility and a touch of greenery to NY’s overtly boxy and shiny cityscape. Architectural explorations look at residential units with dedicated ‘greenery zones’ that act as areas of the social congregation for the building’s residents. Adorned with curvilinear, organic architecture, and interspersed with greenery, these areas give the residents a break from the concrete-jungle aesthetic of the skyscraper-filled city. They act as areas of reflection and of allowing people to connect with nature and with one another.
Heatherwick Studio built a 20-storey residential skyscraper in Singapore called EDEN. Defined as “a counterpoint to ubiquitous glass and steel towers”, EDEN consists of a vertical stack of homes, each amped with a lush garden. The aim was to create open and flowing living spaces that are connected with nature and high on greenery.
Designed by UNStudio and COX Architecture, this skyscraper in Melbourne, Australia features a pair of twisting towers placed around a ‘green spine’ of terraces, platforms, and verandahs. Called Southbank by Beulah, the main feature of the structure is its green spine, which functions as the key organizational element of the building.
Mad Arkitekter created WoHo, a wooden residential skyscraper in Berlin. The 98-meter skyscraper will feature 29 floors with different spaces such as apartment rentals, student housing, a kindergarten, bakery, workshop, and more. Planters and balconies and terraces filled with greenery make this skyscraper a very green one indeed!
Algae as energy resources are in their beginnings and are seen as high potential. Extensive research work has dealt with algae as an energy source in recent decades. As a biofuel, they are up to 6 times more efficient than e.g. comparable fuels from corn or rapeseed. The Tubular Bioreactor Algae Skyscraper focuses on the production of microalgae and their distribution using existing pipelines. Designed by Johannes Schlusche, Paul Böhm, Raffael Grimm, the towers are positioned along the transalpine pipeline in a barren mountain landscape. Water is supplied from the surrounding mountain streams and springs, and can also be obtained from the Mediterranean using saltwater.
Tesseract by Bryant Lau Liang Cheng proposes an architecture system that allows residents to participate in not just the design of their own units; but the programs and facilities within the building itself. This process is inserted between the time of purchase for the unit and the total time required to complete construction – a period that is often ignored and neglected. Through this process, residents are allowed to choose their amenities and their communities, enhancing their sense of belonging in the process. Housing units will no longer be stacked in repetition with no relation whatsoever to the residents living in it – a sentimental bond between housing and men results.
In a world devoid of greenery, Designers Nathakit Sae-Tan & Prapatsorn Sukkaset have envisioned the concept of Babel Towers, mega skyscrapers devoted to preserving horticultural stability within a single building. The Babel towers would play an instrumental role in the propagation of greenery in and around the area. These towers would also become attraction centers for us humans, like going to a zoo, but a zoo of plants. Seems a little sad, saying this, but I do hope that we never reach a day where the Babel Tower becomes a necessity. I however do feel that having towers like these now, in our cities, would be a beautiful idea. Don’t you think so too?
Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
Traditional construction methods were no match for the earthquake that rocked Morocco on Friday night, an engineering expert says, and the area will continue to see such devastation unless updated building techniques are adopted.
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