The path to a renewable economy is paved with local acts of progress…
Building codes rule; they cannot be ignored, they cannot be misinterpreted. Yet, technology develops faster than regulations. Codes lag; and often Building Department heads can’t take the time to sit down and evaluate new strategies. Engineers, architects, clients are frustrated, amending code takes too much time and energy, so they settle and comply, “you can’t change City Hall.”
Most of the time.
Sometime, the value of a design, the determination of the engineers, and the openness of the Building Department converge to belie the rule.
A corporate client moving into a completely restored high-end office building in Mountain View commissioned Staten to design and build its solar system. The roof had just been replaced and Staten engineers recommended using a ballasted anchoring system, to save money and time.
Wind loads have to be factored into the engineering design to avoid panels flying off. In most jurisdictions with high wind loads history, code requires the racking system to be anchored into the roof. The Federal building code recognizes the value of ballasted systems and authorizes their use. Mountain View’s code did not.
The difference in ballasted systems, versus anchored system is significant. Anchored systems use steel racks which are bolted through rafters. Ballasted system rest on the roof surface and are held down by weights, they require no bolts. In this case the difference was 648 bolts driven through a new roof, versus 61 for the hybrid solution (high localized wind loads required some rows to be anchored).
Staten’s engineering and project management team committed to making the case in Mountain View. A month of preparation, a month of solicitation and visiting the Building Office where users are seen without appointment. Engineers and project managers took relays. The Chief Building Official warmed to the friendly campaign and allowed for resubmission of permit with full calculations for testing. Permit was granted. Installation was finished last week.
Mountain View believes in environmental sustainability and is committed to lowering its carbon footprint. As a result of this experience, it updated its code which is now aligned with the City’s values. The client saved over $11,000 in added costs and the roof from hundreds of penetrations; the system will offset over 292 tons of C02 per year. A climate changer.