Maryland Green Building Network
August 14, 2002 – 9:30–11:30 am
Gary Allen, Chesapeake Communities
Walt Auburn, MEA
Robert Boone, Anacostia Watershed Society
Rick Brush, Montgomery County
Jessica Burgard, DesignCollective
Greg Deal, Harford CC
Rich Dooley, NAHB-RC
Matthew Flyer, Next Step Partners
Michael Fox, AA County P&Z
Bill Gardiner, PG Co. EDC
Jim Hanna, DHCD
Janet Harrison, Harrison Arch.
S.K. Kulkarni, MD DPS
Mike Li, Office of Smart Growth
Deniel McCawley, Flying Colors
Tawna Mertz, National Aquarium
Vivian Marsh, AA County P&Z
Ruth Newell, City of Bowie
Janice Outen, MDE
Albert van Overeem, Winchester Homes
Jay Pandya, DHCD
Marianne Pettis, Howard Co. Conservancy
Dan Porter, Harford CC
Pam Rowe, City of Rockville
David Seydel, MNCPPC
Kevin Shaver, AA Co P&Z
Von Siggars, MD GBC
Bonita Telford, Home Improvement Corp.
Louisa Thompson, Master Gardners
Kevin Vienneak, Charles County
Mary Vogel, Prince George’s County
John Vlah, Holophane
Jane Willeboordse, Baltimore Co.
Jeff Zimmerman, Foley & Lardner
Introductions and Announcements
Sean briefly overviewed announcements and upcoming events. He reminded attendees of Maryland’s Green Building Conference on September 17-18 in Baltimore. For more information on the Conference and other events, go to www.dnr.state.md.us/smartgrowth/greenbuilding.
Shifting Instead of Drifting Toward Sustainable Development
David began by having the over 70 attendees introduce themselves, which he later commented positively on the high number of government planners. The role of planners is critical as local governments are the key as we implement true sustainable development. We need to move toward more regenerative development and activities than we are doing now.
The basic question of David’s discussion is this: Is the purpose of codes to keep the wrong things from happening or to insure that the right things happen? Clearly, there is a big difference in the results. Contrary to popular belief, code officials do care and want to do the right thing, but are too often forced to focus on narrowly defined constructs and regulations. For instance, the introduction to the International Building Code states that its main goal is to "safeguard against fire and other hazards". But there are other much more damaging "hazards" than just fire, especially in the long-term.
From this point, David explained the far-reaching issues behind codes. There are 3 specific spheres, each with broader ramifications: the Sphere of Concern, Sphere of Responsibility, and Sphere of Consequence. Responsibility and Consequence are much larger than just the immediate concern. It connects their work to a much higher purpose than just the code. When presented in this manner, code officials are empowered and engaged -- they are not "impeders" but an integral part of the built environment.
Accordingly, we are obligated to reinvent our regulatory systems. We need building departments that are community resources, not mere regulatory agents and that create and maintain the best built environment possible. We need to shift away from preventing disasters and more toward healthy, livable communities.
Here are Five Steps toward realizing this goal:
1. Begin to integrate land use and building codes
2. Begin a process of mapping community assets and community values and goals
3. Begin to focus on performance criteria for community goals
4. Look at other communities that have started working toward similar goals
5. Don't be limited by what has not been done elsewhere
Building codes look very narrowly at the buildings and do not span to the entire community. We can no longer look only at the flower, but instead at the garden, or the acre, or the town, or the state, or even the world.
Even though there are over 6 billion people, only a third live in buildings like the ones we take for granted. They live in homes constructed of natural materials, if even anything at all. This narrow focus has led us to ignore the larger consequences and risks of industrialized systems and focus on the details of mainstream practice and the greater perceived risks of alternatives. For instance, a horribly inefficient wall is the norm, but if you try to install a better designed wall or even solar panels you have to justify every penny spent.
Over 90% of home construction is built with wood, but if it were introduced today it would not pass code. If examined closely, wood splits, insects love it, it rots, supports mold, it’s flammable, dimensionally unstable, and strength is determined by the grain. Try to build a strawbale home and they say "It's gonna burn, it's unstable, etc." The barrier is only in our mind.
There is also the misconception that if buildings are built to code, they are guaranteed not to fail. That is not true. Codes are nothing more than best guesses, and that should not keep us from trying alternatives. Materials, too, are changing. The current mold issue is, both fortunately and unfortunately, changing codes and materials. If we can't keep moisture out of double paned windows, how can we expect to keep moisture out of the walls? Technology by itself is not the answer.
David then went through the environmental and resource effects from the building process. The sprawling designs, energy cycles, electricity and water requirements, site destruction, maintenance and remodeling necessities -- all of these wastes and resource demands have incalculable consequences.
Durability – David showed slides from Europe of homes built in the 12th Century, where people are still living in. These weren't built "to code". Which is fortunate, because they probably wouldn't still be here.
Technology – always use appropriate technology. Whether it's high tech or low-tech.… only use what you need. Again, we have a tendency to automatically choose the highest tech and not what we need. Look around the area and see what has worked over a long period of time. Look at locally available, minimally processed, and traditional materials that are climate appropriate and use minimal transportation.
Lastly, David explained the efforts of his organization and how DCAT is changing the codes:
1. Awareness Raising: DCAT produces particles, videos, and CDs. thy provide presentations to code officials and conduct surveys to bets target their message and outreach.
2. Capacity Building: Providing training for code officials and providing resources, techniacl assistance, and standards development.
3. Transfer of Leadership: Having the industry lead themselves toward sustainable design. If our efforts are successful, environmental design will be embedded into the building and code process and, more important, the thought process.
The bottom line is the building and code process should NOT keep us from better buildings in the name of safety, but instead promote the best buildings possible. In conclusion, we need to identify institutional barriers to sustainable building and development, map the sectors with existing and missing connections, and then develop an integrated, strategic plan to address these barriers. DCAT is in the process of gathering workgroups to begin and conduct this process.
David reviewed their new website and materials, which can be seen at www.dcat.net. DCAT will provide a wide array of resources, be able to disseminate and gather information, and interactive searchable resource database.
Question: How and what steps process for LG to change their direction?
Identify champions in the process and provide them time. They need to get a good understanding of the landscape, a list of resources, and understanding of the community. A critical key is to invest in your own knowledge, stakeholders, and community. There is no need to hire an outside firm to tell you what you already know. Clearly, you need to invest in tech experts, but this should not be an overwhelmingly expensive process.
Then, take the 3-phase approach as discussed above. But the key is to be an involved and proactive motivator in the sustainable development movement. And most important of all, stay positive and know that there are scores of professionals just like yourself.