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function() based national building code

dwellings could be made more splendid plus cheaper IF building codes were changed to specify function() rather than "noun"
  (+7, -4)
(+7, -4)
  [vote for,

with a 30 pt currency fluctuation it is a beneficial time to think of ways things made of materials could be niftier; people that have read a popular technology magazine has hints that dwellings could be made more splendid plus cheaper IF building codes were changed

what if building codes specified : dimension; stiffness; durability, fastener type rather than "quarter inch plywood" we might suddenly permit skinnier stronger lasting materials

precast cement much improvable; view a cinderblock that cinderblock could be specified with dimension plus load bearing function; cinderblocks could have microaggregate surface reducing the number of coats of costly goop required to create function; I'm sure mortar cups have been studied yet cinderblocks have planar joint surfaces; I think a more readily coated,structurally sound cinderblock with lighter cheaper materials is rapidly produceable IF the building codes are based on function() rather than "noun"

wiring is another area; what if wiring were just specified with load at less than a degree of thermal generation; less copper makes cheaper wiring; again specifying function allow wiring with a function description like

load, less than a degree thermal generation, durability

durability matters because a functional specification like that creates an opportunity to make Al wiring which "oxidizes" cleverer to meet the durability function; one version of cleverer would be gallium wetted Al that connects like a fresh surface then gradually oxidizes leaving a conductive path

Imagine the US getting together with China to define a better cheaper function() standard with ecological benefits, at this writing Chinas GDP PPP was an eleventh that of the US the combination of preference for cheapest effective technology plus developed world standards could create awesome functional building materials

beanangel, Apr 12 2008


       Building codes are, indeed, extremely conservative. This is particularly true in the UK and US, perhaps less so in more advanced countries.   

       However, I suspect there is a very good reason for specifying materials and dimensions rather than function: architects and builders are not always expert engineers.   

       If I specify that a roof must be able to shed water against a 50mph wind, then it is up to the architect or builder to try to figure out what is needed in order to achieve that. It is also up to an inspector or the housebuyer to determine if the roof will actually do what it is meant to do.   

       If, instead, I specify that the roof can be either slates at a slope greater than 30 degrees, pantiles with a slope down to 22.5 degrees, or continuous sheet with a slope down to 3 degrees, then there is no problem and no question: those materials will work well at those slopes.   

       Likewise, a builder may *think* that a two inch pipe will perform the required function of carrying waste containing a certain amount of solids, but he may very well be wrong. If the regs specify a four-inch pipe with a fall of one foot in ten, everyone knows it'll work.   

       That is why the regs specify materials and dimensions more often than functions.   

       Now, having said that, there is a need for much more flexibility in building regs. However, the way to achieve this without a lot of very bad buildings going up is as follows. Continue to specify materials and dimensions, but ensure that the regs allow for new materials and new construction methods. Then, the builder has the choice of slates, pantiles, felt-roof, green-roof, or electrostatically rainproofed carbon nanotubes.   

       Incidentally, your writing style is funny when you're posting frivolous ideas, but it's a pain in the arse when someone actually wants to read the idea. What does the second part of your first sentence mean, for instance?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 12 2008

       There is always a performance-based criteria for material assemblies in building codes. Building codes rely on international testing agencies to certify different assemblies. If you have a better assembly, get it UL listed and you will be rich.   

       Automating the process of UL listing, so that anyone could propose an assembly would be a good idea.   

       [says leinypoo13's architect girlfriend]
leinypoo13, Apr 12 2008

       Exactly - the codes specify materials and dimensions that architects and builders can work to; but those specifications are based on defined functional criteria.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 13 2008

       I like this idea. [+]. My suspicion is that it should not replace the existing regulations but instead extend them, to cater for:   

       //architects and builders are not always expert engineers.//   

       ...if you have an expert engineer (appropriately qualified) then you can have him sign off any materials and constructions against the function() constraints; failing which you have to use the noun constraints.
vincevincevince, Apr 13 2008

       There I go again, I was hoping for something super silly like the building code would be expressed as "f(longitude, latitude and altitude)" or something equally impossible to calculate on your own thus requireing a new industry for Code Function Calculators similar to the US tax preparers... sigh
cblunds, Apr 15 2008

       Building codes are designed to allow Building Inspectors to rapidly determine if design standards have been met. Generally if a blueprint is approved by an engineer (with non traditional materials) the inspector merely verifies that the design is followed. The building code is a set standard for safe design in a conventional structure. Any novel design needs the assistance and approval of a structural engineer.
WcW, Apr 15 2008

       //Any novel design needs the assistance and approval of a structural engineer.// If that is the case (and I know little about the US system) then it seems this idea is entirely baked, with the added safeguard that you need a qualified person to sign it off. [+]->[o] (good idea, shame it's baked).
vincevincevince, Apr 16 2008

       What [WcW] said. Our building code law effectively only says that a building must be sure to work. What that means in practice and in terms of the fine print is that, if a rational design has been prepared by a qualified and registered professional, by which the expectation that it will work may be rationally demonstrated, and the building is constructed in accordance therewith, the building is sure to work.   

       Alternatively, if the building conforms to a standard called SANS 10400 it is deemed to be sure to work. SANS 10400 is not a law as such, it is a set of "deemed-to-satisfy" rules. If you're within SANS 10400, it is as if you've had a rational design done, even though you haven't.   

       These apply as much to the architect's field of expertise as regards suitable dimensions for spaces, ergonomics, etc. as the structural engineer's field.   

       There is a third possibility, adopted from the French, called the Agrément System, whereby specific approval is given for alternative or experimental techniques.   

       However, what [cblunds] said. The problem is not so much that compliance is difficult as that proving it is a nuisance. I'd like to see a no-questions-asked scenario as regards local vernacular techniques. The current onus-of-proof situation favours the larger speculative builder over the affordable local custom builder of bygone days. These former operate on a basis which in turn justifies the onus-of-proof situation, and that results in a spiral of regulation feeding organizational power, requiring more regulation to contain the effects of the organizational power, which creates a need for more organizational power, and so on. I would like to see an opposite spiral induced by clever systemic adjustment.
Ned_Ludd, Apr 16 2008

       I don't know much about the structural side, but on the energy side, you have two options in meeting code: using the prescriptive or the performance method.   

       Under the prescriptive method, you simply choose materials and equipment that meet the code. This is somewhat restrictive, and creative solutions don't always meet this code.   

       Under the performance method, you're able to design whatever you want. Except the mechanical engineer must then model the energy performance of this building and compare it to the building as it would have performed under the prescriptive method. If you use less energy, it's allowed.   

       Of course in other codes (say, fire protection) there really is no alternative. If you run a duct through a smoke barrier you need to use a UL-listed smoke damper. And that's it. Don't try to use your existing VAV box hooked up to a smoke detector - it simply won't be approved. This is probably a good thing when it comes to life safety, since limiting construction to widely-tested and simple equipment means there's less chance of something going wrong.
Worldgineer, Apr 16 2008


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