Contributed by Randy Nishimura
A cozy group gathered at the Eugene Builders Exchange this past Thursday for the May chapter meeting of the Construction Specifications Institute-Willamette Valley Chapter. The topic for the meeting was repurposedMATERIALS, the successful enterprise at the vanguard of the rapidly growing materials repurposing industry.
CSI-WVC member Alorie Mayer, who has a background in energy and resource conservation management, organized the presentation of a webinar by repurposedMATERIALS president Damon Carson. Damon founded the company in 2011, and it has only grown by leaps and bounds since then. In Damon’s words, repurposing occupies the intersection of affordability and sustainability. The repurposedMATERIALS business model involves taking byproducts out of the waste stream and extending their maximum practical benefit while minimizing waste and the expenditure of new energy to ready them for new uses.
Damon introduced the topic of repurposing materials by having us think about what many of us did naturally as preschoolers: taking an empty Quaker Oats canister and transforming it into a drum or a container for Lego blocks, or reimagining a Maytag refrigerator shipping box as a medieval fort or a space-age rocket. This, in his words, was our “substitutionary thinking” at work. Repurposing isn’t a new concept; fundamentally, it is an innately human behavior.
Damon cited the waste hierarchy pyramid and how reuse occupies a perch near its peak. Repurposing is not the same as recycling, which typically involves energy-intensive processing of the materials (e.g. chipping, shredding, grinding, or melting) before reuse is possible. Repurposing is a means to extract the maximum practical benefit from products while minimizing the cost to the environment. As a waste-management strategy, repurposing minimizes emissions of greenhouse gases, reduces pollutants, saves energy, conserves resources, creates jobs, and stimulates the development of green technologies. Repurposing rather than reprocessing previously-used items also saves time and money, making quality products available to people and organizations who may be of limited means.
Of course, repurposing isn't a new concept. Artists (like my friend and former co-worker Rosie Nice) have long fashioned sculptures and other works out of what most people would consider junk. Habitat for Humanity ReStores and Eugene/Springfield’s own BRING Recycling sell salvaged materials but tend to emphasize reuse rather than repurposing. For example, salvaged doors or windows sold by Habitat for Humanity ReStores or BRING are typically used by the purchasers for the same ends they originally were originally intended for. What distinguishes repurposedMATERIALS is its procurement of large amounts of discarded products no longer suitable for their original purposes but are otherwise practical for altogether different uses.
Contributed by Emily Conner
American’s spend more than 90% of their lives indoors. The majority of those daytime hours are set inside the office walls. Despite the rise of e-commerce and remote workers, most businesses still operate out of traditional, energy-hogging buildings.
Collectively, our country’s building stock accounts for almost half of our annual total energy usage, 3/4s of our electricity consumption, and pumps out more than 39% of CO2 emissions produced in the U.S. The World Economic Forum also reports that the Engineering & Construction (E&C) industry is the nation’s single largest consumer of raw materials like steel. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) predicts that, conservatively, by 2025 energy use in the business sector will cost more than $430 billion – about the same as our annual Medicare spend.
Businesses have a major opportunity to reduce their environmental impact. Where do they begin? Easy. A better-built environment starts with a more sustainable building sector. We’ve collected some climate-friendly ways to make a positive contribution.
But first, some quick business.
Potential CO2 and Energy Savings
The lifespan of an average building is 50-100 years. During that time, they produce tons of CO2 emissions every day. With new construction breaking records every year, we have the ability to make huge gains regarding energy efficiency.
As ESSI points out, “If half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year.”
So, there it is. Problem solved, right? New builds for everyone and our climate is saved? We think taking a more realistic course is a better plan of action.
Building Better with Sustainable Solutions
Let’s face it, not every business can afford to erect an entirely new LEED-certified green building and still have money to operate out of it. But there are ways businesses and construction companies both large and small can help transform the built environment.
Though this list is by no means comprehensive, here are seven moves that can inch us toward a better-built building stock.
Contributed by Al Eini
The Basics: Maintain Aesthetics, Ensure Safety
Life safety and egress are critical considerations in every building so it comes as no surprise that panic devices play a significant role in the design and installation of entrance systems. Panic devices come in several styles for various door types. With all-glass entrances growing in popularity, however, tubular panic devices are being specified more frequently, particularly in high-end applications. These elegant systems offer maximum transparency and a contemporary look.
Although panic hardware is nothing new, tubular panics and glass doors present unique challenges. For example, all of the mechanics of a standard panic need to be concealed in a sleeker, more attractive design while meeting safety standards. Issues with glass templates and sizing, and hardware compatibility can arise.
For successful tubular panic handle and glass door installations, key hardware and overall entrance design considerations must be taken into account, as well as specification criteria that will ensure door openings comply with life safety codes. Overcoming the challenges associated with tubular panics will lead to safe and secure all-glass entrances that meet the design intent.
First, Know the Code
Both the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code require panic devices to be listed in accordance with UL 305 – Standard for Panic Hardware. The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) also has its own standard for panic hardware: ANSI/BHMA A156.3 – Exit Devices.
IBC and NFPA 101 panic device requirements apply to most jurisdictions. According to the IBC, panic devices are required on doors when Assembly Occupancies have a load of 50 or more people; Educational Occupancies have a load of 50 or more people; and when High Hazard Occupancies have any occupant load.
NFPA 101 requires panic devices on doors where Assembly Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; Educational Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; Day Care Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; and where High Hazard Occupancies have a load of 5 or more people.
Other key code requirements include:
Be aware that there are often exceptions, and every jurisdiction adopts specific code requirements for panic hardware. That’s why it’s very important to consult the Authority Having Jurisdiction early on in the project. Failing to do so can lead to compliance issues, which translates to costly and time-consuming reworks.
^^ A very typical stock image for "construction" ^^
Contributed by Darren Lester
For as long as I’ve been involved in and around the construction industry, there’s been an underlying consensus that we need to clean up the public's perception of the industry.
Disasters like Grenfell Tower and scandals like the Carillion collapse tend to bring this into sharp focus and we see a renewed energy to show people the positive stuff in construction.
The legitimate worry is that all of the negativity, combined with the image of the stereotypical construction worker, complete with hard hat and hi-vis jacket, will limit our ability to attract younger, smarter, tech-savvy professionals and the must-needed next generation workforce.
So the logical conclusion is to try to push the good stuff even harder.
But perhaps this is the wrong approach.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the public image of the construction industry exists for a reason — it’s mostly accurate.
To portray anything else would be misleading.
Our industry has huge issues, from top to bottom.
We’re embarrassingly inefficient. Rarely deliver as promised. We overspend. We’re huge polluters. We're wasteful with resources. We put people’s physical health and lives at risk on a daily basis. We have a terrible record of mental ill health amongst workers. We’re rife with corruption and 'old boys' clubs. We treat women unfairly. We lack any sort of competent leadership. And we’re pretty much the worst of laggards in adopting digital technology.
I could go on.
If we continue to try to put a positive spin on things, or suppress these issues in order to exemplify the glimmers of hope there are within the industry (and don't get me wrong, they do exist), then we’ll end up with another generation of workers who simply knuckle down and accept that this is as good as it gets.
Ironically, shining a light on these shortcomings, by making them painfully transparent to the whole world and by holding our hands up to say “sorry, things aren’t great”, perhaps we can give ourselves the best chance of driving change.
Because all of the sh*t that’s wrong with our industry is actually what could attract the smartest, most ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs (and the capital to back them), who see an opportunity to really disrupt and rebuild a huge industry.
Yes, we should continue to educate young professionals about the industry, and show them that there are more options to a career in construction than working on a cold, wet building site. But all industries have their stereotypes - that in itself isn't holding us back from change.
But perhaps we should also share with them our biggest failings, and present them as rewarding opportunities for those willing to challenge the status quo.
Not an easy thing to do, but maybe we'd end up with real change, rather than a slightly improved public image.
Contributed by Elias Saltz
There is some misunderstanding, both inside the profession and among the population at large, about what architecture is and what architects do. The misunderstanding begins with popular cultural depictions of architects, both fictional and real, as iconoclastic visionaries who wave their hands around, making beautiful buildings appear - buildings that will be immortalized in the glossy pages of magazines and hardcover coffee table books. This image of the architect is being reinforced by modern home improvement shows like "Fixer Upper" in which the designer and builder are the primary on-air personalities and it only takes one hour to buy, design and renovate an entire house. It's also being reinforced, unfortunately, in architecture schools, where professors are teaching aspiring architects to think of their designs as grand conceptual gestures and to equate architecture with culinary arts and fashion design, but not to anticipate what working as an architect will really be like.
Architects are taught in school that what they want to design matters, and little is discussed about client expectations, except that in the case of design studios, the clients are the professors. Architects learn to please other architects to ensure the best critique, grade and peer recognition. That peer recognition extends into professional life, where architects look to have their work published in journals juried by other architects.
This is obviously a wrong approach. Architecture is a professional service. Most architects come to understand this fact as they move up the ranks of practice. When you look in the offices of real architecture firms today, you don't see Joanna Gaines or Howard Roark (perish the thought!) or Bobby Flay. You see people who are working hard, using their knowledge and experience and skill to design projects on behalf of their clients. But habits of hand-wavy thinking remain, embedded through the architect-as-chef idea, where big ideas matter and where a silver cover is whipped off a plate, revealing the delectable and beautiful creation hidden within (or, similarly, posterboards on wheels that depict the "before" condition are pulled apart to reveal the hour-of-TV creation), and that is why architects sometimes think that their beliefs matter more than those of their clients.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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