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building codes: The Latest Architecture and News

Earthquake Hits Taiwan: How Strict Building Codes Averted a Larger Disaster

On April 3, Taiwan was hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, the strongest one in 25 years. According to the latest reports, nine people have been killed, and at least 900 others have been injured by damaged buildings and landslides on the island. The seism was centered off the eastern coast of Hualien County, severely damaging buildings, some leaning at severe angles. However, the country’s strict building codes, developed in the past two decades in response to the area’s intense seismic activity, have prevented even more extensive damage and loss of life.

Embodied Carbon in Real Estate: The Hidden Contributor to Climate Change

The window for solving climate change is narrowing; any solution must include embodied carbon. The Sixth Assessment Report published by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) concludes that the world can emit just 500 gigatonnes more of carbon dioxide, starting in January 2020, if we want a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees. In 2021 alone, the world emitted about 36.3 gigatonnes of carbon, the highest amount ever recorded. We’re on track to blow through our carbon budget in the next several years. To quote the IPCC directly: “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years (high confidence).”

Paris Reimposes the Ban on Skyscrapers After Tour Triangle Controversy

The city of Paris has officially reinstated a rule that limits the height of new buildings in the French capital to 37 meters, or 12 storeys. Among the factors for the decision was the controversy surrounding the construction of the 180-meter-tall Tour Triangle, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, which began in 2021 after more than a decade of legal battles and backlash. The new urban planning regulation is introduced as part of Mayor Anne Hidalgo's Local Bioclimatic Urban Plan, which aims to reduce Paris' carbon emissions.

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In Conversation with ChatGPT: Can AI Design a Building?

“Can you help me design my residential tower? It's 30 stories and located in Brooklyn, New York.” ChatGPT’s response may be surprising. Given that the bot has no architectural experience, and is certainly not a licensed architect, it was quick to rattle off a list of considerations for my building. Zoning codes, floor plan functionality, building codes, materiality, structural design, amenity spaces, and sustainable measures were just a few of the topics ChatGPT shared information about.

Zoning Laws and Their Impact on Urban Planning in the United States

Land use and zoning laws have been a trending topic in recent years, gaining significant public attention across the United States. People are beginning to rethink the ways that our cities have been planned, seeking ways to improve their quality of life- and it often stems from codes and policies that dictate what can be built and where. Zoning that is too restrictive often makes it difficult for developers to build necessary projects such as multi-family housing. But when zoning is too loose, it creates neighborhoods that aren’t walkable and don’t have a strong sense of community.

Mass Timber: Shattering the Myth of Code Exceptions

Structural timber is in the midst of a renaissance; an ironic trend given that timber is arguably the most ancient of building materials. But new innovations in structural timber design have inspired a range of boundary-pushing plans for the age-old material, including everything from bridges to skyscrapers. Even more crucially, these designs are on the path to realization, acceding to building codes that many (mistakenly) view as restrictive to the point of impossibility.

The timber structures of today aren't just breaking records - they're doing it without breaking the rules. 

Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?

In a study recently published by AIA, less than 13% of architectural firms have incorporated building performance as part of their practice. With buildings contributing 40% of total carbon emissions leading to climate change, just 25 projects are roughly equivalent to planting 1 million trees each year. In addition to that, teams that are able to showcase data-driven and performance-driven decision-making and feature an energy analysis in every pursuit are able to increase fees and generate more revenue. Although integrating building performance sounds like a no-brainer, it proves to be difficult at many firms, because in addition to the practical changes, it requires a culture shift. That culture shift can only happen if the tools are easy to use, accurate, and mesh well with current workflows. Right now is the perfect time to tackle these culture changes due to a few reasons:

Can Building Codes be Copyrighted?

Startup UpCodes has created a free, searchable database of building codes, and the company is at the center of a lawsuit by the International Codes Council. The ICC writes the most widely used building codes in the United States, and they claim they have copyright over the codes and require a license fee for their use. UpCodes argues it is covered by the fair use doctrine, which permits some use of copyrighted material, but the ICC alleges its copyright and ability to raise revenue is being infringed upon. Central to the lawsuit is the question of whether the law can be copyrighted.

5 Ways to Discuss Building Performance for Your Next Project Pursuit

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Today in the United States, buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions (EESI) and 78% of electricity usage. The most sustainability-focused firms run energy simulations for less than 50% of their projects (10% for a typical firm) and only doing so late in the process when design changes are limited and insufficient to combat red flags found in the performance report (AIA 2030 report). We can make building performance widespread once we help the entire community discuss the subject in terms of investment and return. Especially during a project pursuit, since having the buy in from the whole team helps ensure the key project metrics are met. Owners are seeking out teams who are using actual metrics and data driven processes that affect their bottom line. This new approach to practice is what makes the younger teams’ standout and will benefit both the climate and the bottom-line. Here are 5 ways to talk about building performance in your project pursuits: 

The Science Behind the Next Generation of Wood Buildings

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At a time when engineers, designers, and builders must find solutions for a resource-constrained environment, new wood technology, materials, and science are accelerating efforts to enhance safety and structural performance.

International Building Code requires all building systems, regardless of materials used, to perform to the same level of health and safety standards. These codes have long recognized wood’s performance capabilities and allow its use in a wide range of low- to mid-rise residential and non-residential building types. Moreover, wood often surpasses steel and concrete in terms of strength, durability, fire safety, seismic performance, and sustainability – among other qualities.

This New App Wants to Answer All Your Building Code Questions

Perhaps nothing can kill a project budget or give an owner heartburn quite like costly code fixes during (or in the worst case, after) construction. As architects, we do our best to navigate construction codes during design, but there’s no denying their complexity. Projects have to comply with multiple different codes at both the federal and local levels; different codes sometimes even contradict one another, leading to headaches for the design team.

However, a new website and mobile app hopes to make understanding and complying with building codes easier for architects and designers. “The solution we provide is a search engine tailored for architecture,” explains Scott Reynolds, co-founder of UpCodes. With his background in architecture, Reynolds has partnered with his brother Garrett Reynolds—who has a PhD in machine learning—and through UpCodes, the pair to ease some of that building code-driven frustration.