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International Code Council focuses on energy efficiency

International Code Council focuses on energy efficiency

Construction Global Dominic Ellis informs that the International Code Council focuses on energy efficiency to mitigate the built environment’s inherent high carbon emission. It is fundamentally evident to everyone that the Environmental Impact of the Global Built Environment is no more a debatable topic. It is about Reducing the environmental impact of the global built environment sector.

New International Code Council framework will drive energy efficiencies but climate change demands quicker implementation.

The International Code Council has released a new framework to assist governments and building industry stakeholders in meeting energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals.  

The Code Council Board of Directors, which consists of 18 government code officials who were elected by their peers, adopted the framework, Leading the Way to Energy Efficiency: A Path Forward on Energy and Sustainability to Confront a Changing Climate

This framework includes using the Code Council’s American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved standards process to update the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).  

Future editions of the IECC will build on prior successes including an increase of efficiency requirements by about 40%, or an average of 8% a cycle from 2006 to 2021, allowing the IECC to remain a strong avenue for communities to reach their energy efficiency and sustainability goals globally. 

With the base 2021 IECC efficiency requirements just 10% away from net zero for residential buildings, under the new framework future editions of the IECC will increase base efficiency using a balancing test proposed in bipartisan legislation that has cleared the US House and Senate and has been supported by energy efficiency advocates and the building industry

The IECC will be developed under a revised scope and be part of a portfolio of greenhouse gas reduction solutions that could address electric vehicles, electrification and decarbonization, integration of renewable energy and energy storage, existing buildings performance standards and more. 

The Code Council’s new framework will also provide optional requirements aimed at achieving net zero energy buildings presently and by 2030. Using a tiered approach, the framework offers adopting jurisdictions a menu of options, from a set of minimum requirements to pathways to net zero energy and additional greenhouse gas reduction policies.   

The Code Council has also announced the establishment of an Energy and Carbon Advisory Council which will consist of governmental and industry leaders to inform the Code Council’s efforts. 

The Energy and Carbon Advisory Council will advise on which additional greenhouse gas reduction policies the IECC should integrate, the pace that the IECC’s baseline efficiency requirements should advance, plus needs and gaps that the Code Council should work to address. The Code Council will begin outreach to fill the Energy and Carbon Advisory Council in March. 

Focus on climate and energy efficiency globally

The Use of Climate Data and Assessment of Extreme Weather Event Risks in Building Codes Around the World was published last month. 

Climate data is frequently only updated on a 10-year cycle on average, so as weather becomes more severe from year to year, the underlying data simply does not accurately reflect the risk to the building of these extreme weather-related events. International Codes are updated on a three-year cycle.

Climate change, coupled with net zero emission targets, is focusing minds to act faster.

From the end of this year, all new buildings in Singapore will face higher minimum energy performance requirements, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). It will raise the minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings and existing buildings that undergo major retrofit, to be 50% and 40% more energy efficient respectively, compared with 2005 levels. The city state aims to ‘green’ 80% of buildings by 2030.

The Net Zero Home standard developed by CCG (Scotland) is intended to deliver a standard of specification that reduces greenhouse gas emissions arising from regulated operational energy use to a rate less than or equal to 0kg C02/m2/year. 

A new construction products national regulator is imminent in the UK, in a bid to bolster standards following the Grenfell inquiry.  

Could plastic roads make for a smoother ride?

Could plastic roads make for a smoother ride?

The BBC‘s Could plastic roads make for a smoother ride? By Chermaine Lee is an eye-opener in one right way of ridding the World of those nasty tons of polymer derivatives that are encombering the World. When energy is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, it is more than reasonable to make fair use of that material. It would be even more useful if all those hydrocarbon related stranded assets have some usage in future infrastructural development. But that is another story.

From lower carbon emissions to fewer potholes, there are a number of benefits to building a layer of plastic into roads.

On a road into New Delhi, countless cars a day speed over tonnes of plastic bags, bottle tops and discarded polystyrene cups. In a single kilometre, a driver covers one tonne of plastic waste. But far from being an unpleasant journey through a sea of litter, this road is smooth and well-maintained – in fact the plastic that each driver passes over isn’t visible to the naked eye. It is simply a part of the road.

This road, stretching from New Delhi to nearby Meerut, was laid using a system developed by Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a professor of chemistry at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in India, which replaces 10% of a road’s bitumen with repurposed plastic waste.

India has been leading the world in experimenting with plastic-tar roads since the early 2000s. But a growing number of countries are beginning to follow suit. From Ghana to the Netherlands, building plastic into roads and pathways is helping to save carbon emissions, keep plastic from the oceans and landfill, and improve the life-expectancy of the average road.

By 2040, there is set to be 1.3 billion tonnes of plastic in the environment globally. India alone already generates more than 3.3 million tonnes of plastic a year – which was one of the motivators behind Vasudevan’s system for incorporating waste into roads.

It has the benefit of being a very simple process, requiring little high-tech machinery. First, the shredded plastic waste is scattered onto an aggregate of crushed stones and sand before being heated to about 170C – hot enough to melt the waste. The melted plastics then coat the aggregate in a thin layer. Then heated bitumen is added on top, which helps to solidify the aggregate, and the mixture is complete.

Many different types of plastics can be added to the mix: carrier bags, disposable cups, hard-to-recycle multi-layer films and polyethylene and polypropylene foams have all found their way into India’s roads, and they don’t have to be sorted or cleaned before shredding.

As well as ensuring these plastics don’t go to landfill, incinerator or the ocean, there is some evidence that the plastic also helps the road function better. Adding plastic to roads appears to slow their deterioration and minimise potholes. The plastic content improves the surface’s flexibility, and after 10 years Vasudevan’s earliest plastic roads showed no signs of potholes. Though as many of these roads are still relatively young, their long-term durability remains to be tested.

By Vasudevan’s calculations, incorporating the waste plastic instead of incinerating it also saves three tonnes of carbon dioxide for every kilometre of road. And there are economic benefits too, with the incorporation of plastic resulting in savings of roughly $670 (£480) per kilometre of road.New roads in India built near large urban centres are mandated to use waste plastic in their construction (Credit: Getty Images)

New roads in India built near large urban centres are mandated to use waste plastic in their construction (Credit: Getty Images)

In 2015, the Indian government made it mandatory for plastic waste to be used in constructing roads near large cities of more than 500,000 people, after Vasudevan gave his patent for the system to the government for free. A single lane of ordinary road requires 10 tonnes of bitumen per kilometre, and with India laying thousands of kilometres of roads a year, the potential to put plastic waste to use quickly adds up. So far, 2,500km (1,560 miles) of these plastic-tar roads have been laid in the country.

“Plastic-tar road can withstand both heavy load and heavy traffic,” says Vasudevan. “[It is] not affected by rain or stagnated water.”

Similar projects have emerged around the world. The chemicals firm Dow has been implementing projects using polyethylene-rich recycled plastics in the US and Asia Pacific. The first in the UK was built in Scotland in 2019 by the plastic road builder MacRebur, which has laid plastic roads from Slovakia to South Africa.

MacRebur has also found that incorporating plastic improves roads’ flexibility, helping them cope better with expansion and contraction due to temperature changes, leading to fewer potholes – and where potholes do happen, filling them in with waste plastic otherwise destined for landfill is a quick fix. The UK government recently announced £1.6m for research on plastic roads to help fix and prevent potholes.The plastic that goes into roads would otherwise go to landfill or the incinerator (Credit: MacRebur)

The plastic that goes into roads would otherwise go to landfill or the incinerator (Credit: MacRebur)

In the Netherlands, PlasticRoad built the world’s first recycled-plastic cycle path in 2018, and recorded its millionth crossing in late May 2020. The company shredded, sorted and cleaned plastic waste collected locally, before extracting polypropylene from the mix – the kind of plastic typically found in festival mugs, cosmetics packaging, bottle caps and plastic straws.

Unlike the plastic-tar roads laid in India, the UK and elsewhere, PlasticRoad doesn’t use any bitumen at all. “[PlasticRoad] consists almost entirely of recycled plastic, with only a very thin layer of mineral aggregate on the top deck,” says Anna Koudstaal, the company’s co-founder.

Each square metre of the plastic cycle path incorporates more than 25kg of recycled plastic waste, which cuts carbon emission by up to 52% compared to manufacturing a conventional tile-paved bike path, Koudstaal says.

But once the plastic is inside a path or road – how do you make sure it stays there? Might the plastic content be worn down into microplastics that pollute soil, water and air?

Ordinary roads, tyres and car brakes are already known to be a major source of microplastic pollution. Koudstaal says that plastic-containing paths do not produce more microplastics than a traditional road, as users don’t come into direct contact with the plastic.Plastic bags can be hard to recycle, but they are an ideal ingredient for plastic in roads (Credit: Alamy)

Plastic bags can be hard to recycle, but they are an ideal ingredient for plastic in roads (Credit: Alamy)

The other potential point where microplastics could be released from the paths is from below: the paths are designed to allow rainwater to filter through them, trickling down through a drainage system beneath the path’s surface. But Koudstaal says microplastics are unlikely to leave this way either: “The bike paths include a filter that cleans out microplastics, and ensure rainwater infiltrates into the ground cleanly.”

Gurmel Ghataora, senior lecturer at the department of civil engineering at the University of Birmingham, agrees that using plastics in the lower surfaces of the road minimises the risk of generating additional microplastics. “It is inevitable that such particles may be generated [at surface level] due to traffic wear,” he says.

With India home to one of the world’s largest road networks, growing at a rate of nearly 10,000km of roads a year, the potential to put plastic waste to use is considerable. Though this technology is relatively new for India, and indeed the rest of the world, Vasudevan is confident that plastic roads will continue to gain popularity, not only for environmental reasons, but for their potential to make longer-lasting, more resilient roads.

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Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change

Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change

Posted By Scientific Foresight (STOA) is this article asking “What If We Could Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change?” It is a Science And Technology Podcast as well.

The picture above is for illustration ans of The New Yorker.

What If We Could Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change?

Written by Lieve Van Woensel

Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change
©phonlamaiphoto AdobeStock

Efforts to curb carbon emissions are falling short. As climate change impacts become all too clear, geoengineering is again in the spotlight. Some see it as a last-resort option to fight climate change. Detractors highlight the risks and uncertainties. Will governments end up ‘tinkering with Earth’s thermostat’?

In the summer of 2018, a succession of heatwaves struck the EU. Record-breaking temperatures were reported, and wildfires ravaged the continent. Sweden suffered the worst forest fires in modern history. In Greece, blazes swept through Attica and left 102 dead. For many citizens, wildfires threw the reality of climate change into sharp relief.

Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries pledged to keep global warming well below 2°C. But progress in curbing carbon emissions is not on track. If the current trend is not reversed, extreme weather events like the 2018 heatwave will become more and more frequent.

Large-scale tree planting and direct air capture (DAC) are being considered to boost these efforts. While these are steps in the right direction – and could end up playing a significant role in tackling climate change – DAC is currently very costly and energy intensive, and planting trees can only help so much.

Geoengineering refers to large-scale interventions in the global climate system, intended to counteract climate change. In 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity called for a moratorium on geoengineering ‘until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities’. Only a decade later, scientists and policy-makers are again looking for last-ditch solutions to buy some extra time. Geoengineering is again in the spotlight.

Potential impacts and developments

Geoengineering includes a number of techniques of varying complexity, risk, and cost. In policy-making, the debate revolves almost entirely around ‘solar geoengineering‘. This describes a set of methods aimed at cooling the planet by reflecting a portion of solar energy back into space, or increasing the amount of solar radiation that escapes the Earth.

Cirrus clouds are known to have a warming effect on Earth. Seeding the atmosphere with innocuous Sahara dust would prevent the formation of cirrus clouds, and reduce global temperatures. Stratospheric aerosol injection entails creating an artificial sunshade by injecting reflective particles in the stratosphere. Its working principle is based in nature. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 pumped around 15 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere; in the two years that followed, global temperatures decreased by about 1°C.

Solar geoengineering would be inexpensive, and scientists agree on its potential. Without actions to reduce emissions, the concentration of CO2 is likely to be double pre-industrial levels by 2060. In theory, getting rid of all cirrus clouds would balance the doubling of CO2; so would using stratospheric particle injection to reflect 2 % of the incoming solar radiation.

But there is no simple solution. For a start, solar geoengineering does not target the root of the problem; it only mitigates its effects. Solar geoengineering has never been tried before. If done incorrectly, it could cause even more global warming; and there could be other unintended consequences. The real challenge, however, may not be technological but rather one of governance. Climate politics is slow and complex; agreeing on using untested technology on a planetary scale could prove impossible. Who decides to use solar geoengineering? Who benefits from it? Who is affected?

Solar geoengineering is a geopolitical issue. The atmosphere has no borders, and the actions of some countries could affect the climate of others. To make matters worse, the science is not always conclusive. Some climate models suggest that almost every region in the world would benefit from solar geoengineering. Other scientists claim that since heat-trapping gases would still operate, temperatures would be more evenly distributed. This would reduce precipitation. Such a geoengineered world would be cooler, but also drier.

Many stakeholders see a moral hazard in solar geoengineering. All efforts are now focused on reducing emissions. With new tools in their climatic toolbox, governments could become complacent. Scientists insist that geoengineering is a supplement and not a substitute for mitigation. For example, solar geoengineering will not solve ocean acidification, and its impact on the water cycle is uncertain. Eventually, part or all the carbon released into the atmosphere will need to be recaptured, regardless of whether geoengineering is used or not.

To some citizens, meddling with the climate may sound like playing god. But across the world, about 40 % of the population live within 100 kilometres of the coast. Rising sea levels will threaten these coastal communities. Many regions will see more intense and frequent summer droughtsextreme weather events, and heavy rainfall. This could strain the fragile agricultural systems in the global South, sparking an exodus of climate refugees. As the consequences of climate change accumulate, the public’s opinion on solar geoengineering could shift rapidly.

Perceptions could be as important as the science. In 1962, the US started a programme to weaken hurricanes through seeding. In 1963, Hurricane Flora caused thousands of deaths in Cuba. The Cuban government accused the US of waging weather warfare. Similarly, any country suffering from extreme weather could blame geoengineers. In addition, geoengineering would be deployed progressively. Its effects would be initially difficult to decouple from natural fluctuations and climate change. Detractors would be quick to discard it as a failed idea.

There is a bigger problem, however. Once started, solar geoengineering cannot be stopped. Assuming that carbon emissions continued, the artificial sunshade would mask increasing amounts of extra warming. If geoengineering ceased abruptly – due to sabotage, technical, or political reasons – temperatures would shoot up rapidly. This termination shock would be catastrophic for humans and ecosystems.

Anticipatory policy-making

Solar geoengineering should only be considered as a last-resort solution. There is ample consensus that cutting emissions is the safestmost economical route to tackling climate change. The world needs a climate champion to accelerate these efforts, and the EU could lead the way.

Ultimately, the debate surrounding solar geoengineering could come down to balancing the risks and benefits. Solar geoengineering is not without risks. However, failing to mitigate climate change will also bring major new risks, disrupt ecosystems across the world, and hit the most vulnerable regions particularly hard.

Ironically, one reason that solar geoengineering may become necessary is the slow pace of international climate negotiations. Yet discussions on geoengineering are following the same path. Should solar geoengineering become necessary, governments need to be ready. The EU could help advance preparedness in this area; for example, by throwing its diplomatic weight behind multilateral initiatives moving in this direction.

The EU and its partners could promote an international governance framework for solar geoengineering. However, all parties must be on board. There are real risks that some of the countries worst affected by climate change could act unilaterally. Even if well-intentioned, this could create geopolitical tension. An international regulation system would ensure that no country ‘goes rogue’, and that geoengineering is not done for some at the expense of others.

The EU could also support research on solar geoengineering. Studies and trials may have been hampered by fears of promoting a quick ‘technofix’. But if geoengineering became necessary to avert disaster, its full effects must be known. Current techniques are criticised for posing a risk to biodiversity, precipitation patterns, and the ozone layer. A better understanding of these problems is the first step towards tackling them. Research could also help governance. For example, counter-geoengineering tools could serve as a deterrent against unilateral action.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘What if we could engineer the planet to help fight climate change?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to Science and Technology podcast ‘What if we could engineer the planet to help fight climate change?’ on YouTube.


The Pros and Cons of Online University Learning

The Pros and Cons of Online University Learning

With the unfortunate obligation to a general lockdown, University eLearning courses became necessary. Students staying at home are offered jam-packed features courses with control over their speed, language, theme, and media. Moreover, interactive content ensures comprehension, and eBook takeaways support the application of learning at home as well as in the workplace. In this context, the story of the Pros and Cons of Online University Learning by Haifaa M. Mussallam is worth reading.


The Pros and Cons of Online University Learning
A semester online had some pluses, including helpful new learning technologies. But the lack of face-to-face meetings was a disappointment (Photo: Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto/Alamy).

Online learning has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me since it was introduced in my senior year at Effat University, in Saudi Arabia. As an introvert, I found it both a blessing and curse. The online fall semester of 2020 was a learning experience for both professors and students, as typing on a laptop replaced notebooks and pens, and face-to-face interactions gave way to professors with headsets on our computers or phone screens.

I like the fact that students and teachers alike have been forced to adapt to the new normal, and I’d say both sides have been pleasantly surprised by how well everyone has been able to push through and learn the best we can, both with the curriculum and technology.

I was also pleasantly surprised how the quality of education remained the same. But I am lucky to be in a major, English Literature, that doesn’t require practical work like architecture, computer sciences, or engineering.

Still, I can confidently say that I have received the same quality of education I would have received on campus. And the transition to online learning went smoothly for me, thanks to the flexibility of being able to attend from wherever there is an Internet connection and being able to log into classes using a range of devices, such as a laptop or even a cellphone.

Moreover, the fact that lectures are recorded on the learning platform Blackboard Collaborate is an added bonus that I am certain many students are grateful for. Even if a student misses a lecture for one reason or other, all they have to do is replay the recorded session to catch up. This is a double-edged sword, however, because it can cause students to take fewer notes in real time and rely on the recordings.

New Technological Resources Are a Plus

Another added benefit of online learning is that new technological resources are being used to enhance learning, which in my opinion is long overdue.

Another added benefit of online learning is that new technological resources are being used to enhance learning, which in my opinion is long overdue. Prior to the pandemic, most students and faculty members depended on the old-fashioned way, using PowerPoint slides and submitting papers in person.

Although slides remain, platforms that were previously unheard of are now at the center of many teachers’ online curricula. One example is the digital educational platform BlinkLearning. Students are able to purchase books, open them via the platform’s website and do the homework assigned by their professors. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of the platform as I am using it myself this current semester to learn German.

A downside to online learning is the lack of face-to-face interactions, and not being physically on campus takes away from the typical college experience. Another negative aspect in Saudi Arabia is that some female students are too shy to turn on their cameras. This is understandable as lectures are recorded, but it does diminish opportunities for the professor to feel a genuine interaction with his or her students. (See a related article, “Universities in Qatar Help Students Stay Connected in a Remote-Learning World.”)

Other facilities on campus have not been used since the pandemic began, such as study rooms, the university’s abundant library, and restaurants. (See a related article, “Pandemic Casts a Shadow on Extracurricular Activities for Egyptian Students.”)

It cannot be denied that some aspects of college life were taken for granted by students and faculty members. I miss passing my classmates or professors in the hallways and giving them a nod or smile. Another downside, other than the lack of physical contact, is that due to the absence of facial expressions, professors tend not to take pauses for questions or discussions while giving lectures. The pandemic has taken away the possibility for spontaneous discussions in a virtual classroom, as both sides are looking at the finish line more than they would have on a physical campus.

Mixed Feelings About a Virtual Graduation

Being so close to my own finish line, with my graduation approaching in a few months, I am excited and disappointed. Any future graduate will surely experience a mix of emotions, but a virtual graduation causes its own surge of feelings, since YouTube is the center of the stage we will stand on, rather than the university’s auditorium. 

Although no plans for graduation have yet been announced at my university, there is perhaps the off-chance that there will be a real physical graduation ceremony.

The university has sent emails about a graduation photoshoot to me and other future graduates, and some of my fellow classmates have participated, but I was not interested due to my lack of love for cameras.

Overall, the learning experience online has been a success and I am grateful for all the effort put in by my professors, the administration of universities across Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Education, and information technology departments everywhere for making the connection between us all possible and stable.

Haifaa M. Mussallam is a 23-year-old published poet and almost a graduate in English literature from Effat University, in Jeddah.

(See a related article, “Covid-19’s Second Wave Leaves Plans for Resuming On-Campus Studies in Doubt.”)

(See a related article, “Ajman University Caps a Challenging Year with a Drive-Through Graduation.”)

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Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

Despite the high oil revenues reaped from hydrocarbon resources and their spillover effects on all oil and non-oil producing countries, most MENA region economies suffer from structural problems and fragile political systems, preventing them from adopting effective politico-economic transformations.

The capital was available, but investments were typically misdirected to form in all cases ‘rentier’ economies, with Arab countries economies remaining very undiversified.  They primarily rely on oil and low value-added commodity products such as cement, alumina, fertilisers, and phosphates. 

Demographic transitions present a significant challenge: the population increased from 100 million in 1960 to about 400 million in 2011.  Sixty per cent are under 25 years old.

Urbanisation had increased from 38 per cent in 1970 to 65 per cent in 2010.

Rural development being not a priority; the increasing rural migration into the cities searching for jobs will put even more strain on all existing undeveloped infrastructures. 

Current economic development patterns will increasingly strain the ability of Arab governments to provide decent-paying jobs.  For instance, youth unemployment in the region is currently double the world average.

The demand for food, water, housing, education, transportation, electricity, and other municipal services will rise with higher learning institutions proliferating; the quality of education below average does not lead to employment. 

Power demand in Saudi Arabia, for example, is rising at a fast rate of over 7 per cent per year.

Amman, Cairo, and other Arab cities gradually lose their agriculture space because of the suburbs’ expansion.  Gated communities and high-rise office buildings are sprawling while ignoring low-income housing. 

In the meantime, the real world feels the planet is in danger of an environmental collapse; economists increasingly advise putting the planet on its balance sheets. For over a Century of Burning Fossil Fuels, to propel our cars, power our businesses, and keep the lights on in our homes, we never envisioned that we will paying this price.

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

In effect, a recent economic report on biodiversity indicates that economic practice will have to change because the world is finite.

For decades many have been aware of this reality. However, it is a giant leap forward for current economic thinking to acknowledge that Climate change is a symptom of a larger issue. The threat to life support systems from the plunder and demise of the natural environment is a reality.

Society, some governments, and industry are recognising that climate change can be controlled by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, electric cars and reducing emissions from every means of production.

Talking about replacing fossil fuels would mean a potential reduction of the abovementioned revenues.

However, would the spreading of solar farms all over the Sahara desert constitute compensation for the losses?

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