A few weeks ago, I got a letter from the International Code Council Foundation (ICCF). Sometimes letters make me nervous; they're usually from people who are upset over something I've said. But this time, it was a good letter — a really good letter. The ICCF wanted to let me know I had been chosen to be the 2012 Honorary Ambassador for Building Safety Month this May.
This is a big deal, especially for me. Building safely has always been a top priority on every job I work on. And when it's ignored, I get really upset.
But the real question here is why building safety should be important to you.
Every May, the ICCF sets an entire month aside to talk about all things building safely. The point is to help people understand why we need safe, durable and sustainable buildings and homes, and what it takes to maintain safe structures.
To me, building safety is a no-brainer. It's important, because it affects everyone. Anyone who lives in a home, works in a building, learns in a school, shops in a store, or receives care in a hospital is affected by building safety. And if we don't address building safety during the construction and maintenance of these structures and facilities, we're in a world of trouble.
As contractors and builders, we have a huge responsibility to the public at large to make sure every structure we build and work on is safe: safe for the people inside, safe for the people outside, and safe for the environment. This includes outdoor structures, too, like decks, pools and patios.
We've all seen the headlines: Elevated decks crashing down with people still on them. Children drowning in pools because there were no fences protecting them. As builders and contractors, our jobs are to stop these headlines before they happen.
But knowing code and knowing why we have code also helps homeowners. How? Because it teaches people what to look out for when looking at their own homes, and when their safety is jeopardized. When you know something's wrong, you can do something about it and start to make it right.
Building Safety Month is also about educating the public and pushing the government to adopt modern building codes — codes that respond to the most current environmental conditions.
For the first time ever, there are new International Green Construction Codes (IgCC) for communities interested in safe and sustainable construction. These codes go beyond traditional requirements. They include things like energy- and water-efficiency, and building waste and materials. This is smart and definitely a step in the right direction. Yes, it's above minimum code, but we need to set that minimum bar even higher.
For years now, I've been talking about why we need to go green, and I'm not stopping any time soon. The issues aren't going away; if anything, they're becoming more crucial. And as a professional working in the industry, it's great to see a regulatory body like the ICCF taking huge strides in forward thinking and providing these new green codes. The more I work, the more I realize how much of an impact the environment has on all of us.
Last year, all over North America, we were hit with all kinds of extreme weather. And as the environment continues to fluctuate, it's only going to get worse. That's why some homeowners are taking matters into their own hands and building safe shelters to protect their families. What's a safe shelter? It's usually an above-ground safe room that's meant to protect families during severe storms, like tornadoes and hurricanes.
Safe shelters made major headlines last year after the massive tornado outbreak in Alabama. A family survived the storms, only because of their safe shelter. After the tornado passed them, the only thing standing was their safe shelter. Their home, their neighbourhood, and everything in the storm's path had been wiped out.
Are safe shelters something we should be concerned about in Canada? Well, that depends. How severe is our weather going to get? All we need is another Goderich, Ont., or Mont-Laurier, Que., for this danger to hit too close to home.
The bottom line is that strong codes and building practices protect property and saves lives. This is what Building Safety Month is about and it should be important to all of us.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Mike Holmes, 2012 Building Safety Month Honorary Ambassador
This article from Canada.com discusses Mike's involvement in the ICCF's 2012 Building Safety Month.