Browsing: Buildings and Construction

I think curiosity is at the root of all scientific careers. That, and insecurity. In my formative years, I felt compelled to assign a rational explanation to everything. I didn’t know it then, but I was practicing to be a scientist—and having lots of fun. I remember entertaining numerous misconceptions. Looking back, I think in many cases the misconceptions made a better story than the truth. For instance, as a child, I thought that when you dropped a letter into the mailbox on the corner, it was delivered to the correct address through one of a multitude of underground channels connecting all mailboxes to all residences. Then I grew up a little. It’s definitely more fun making things up, but…

Guest blog post by Dominic Sims, CEO, International Code Council “Buildings built to the most modern building codes were the safest places to be during Hurricane Sandy.” Having spent most of my life in code enforcement, I’ve known this to be fact and have seen the evidence with my own eyes. But hearing New York City Chief Resilience Officer Daniel Zarrilli say it on stage at the White House Conference on Resilient Building Codes this past May after the death and destruction wrought on the Northeast during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 brought back so many memories and reminded me why the International Code Council’s motto and mission is: “People Helping People Build a Safer World.” Spending much of my career…

Have you ever wondered if the things inside your house that you consider safe and harmless actually are? The perfume that you spray, the plastic food containers that you put in your dishwasher, the carpet that your kids lie on as they watch their favorite TV show, even the wrinkle-resistant clothing you wear — all of them could be potential sources of indoor air pollution. We don’t normally think about stuff inside our homes emitting pollutants, but just about all building materials and consumer products emit organic compounds. When I say “organic compounds” I don’t mean expensive broccoli, though broccoli and all foods are made of organic compounds. No, when I say “organic compounds,” I mean molecules that contain or are…

I’m a dragon wrangler. While that might sound like something straight out of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, this isn’t fantasy, this is serious science. As a dragon wrangler, or more colloquially, a fire researcher, my job is to help protect people and property from fire’s devastating effects. My area of expertise is wildfires, and in particular wildfires that threaten whole communities, which we call Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) fires. In the U.S. alone there are more than 80,000 wildfires every year. About 2 to 3 percent of those fires threaten populated areas, putting 46 million structures and over 120 million people at risk. And every year, we lose about 3,000 homes to these kinds of fires. The “Beast” wildfire…

The May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin, Mo., rated an EF-5—the most powerful ranking—on the Enhanced Fujita tornado intensity scale. It caused 161 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries, making it the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since we began keeping official records in 1950. With losses approaching $3 billion, it was also the costliest tornado on record. All told, the tornado damaged 553 business structures and nearly 7,500 residential structures. Over 3,000 of those residences were heavily damaged or completely destroyed. I was among a small, but highly skilled team of engineers and a sociologist dispatched to the scene two days later to collect data on how well the buildings and emergency communications systems had performed during the storm.…

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