Home energy honors: JLC contributor Matt Bowers' upstate New York custom home earned top honors in the RESNET Cross Border Challenge competition this year, getting attention in the local press (see "Honeoye Falls Home Named Most Energy Efficient in United States, Canada," by Melanie Johnson - Spectrum News).

Bowers' project was profiled in JLC's energy column in July (see: "Testing House Tightness With a Duct Blaster"). If you want to know more, Bowers has described the construction of the house, including the envelope details and the mechanical systems, on his "Rochester Passive House" blog. GreenBuildingAdvisor reported on Bowers' RESNET honors here (see: "New York Builder Wins RESNET Prize," by Scott Gibson). Bowers most recently appeared in JLC as author of the March 2017 story "Fixing the Bonus Room."

A northern spotted owl perched on a tree in the Six Rivers National Forest. (Photo courtesy United States Forest Service Region 5)
A northern spotted owl perched on a tree in the Six Rivers National Forest. (Photo courtesy United States Forest Service Region 5)

The northern spotted owl is back. Well, maybe not the actual bird—but a legal dispute dating back to the early 1970s is back in the news. Here's coverage from The Sacramento Bee (see: "Appeals court restores lumber companies’ challenge to northern spotted owl habitat," by Michael Doyle). "In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the lumber companies united as the American Forest Resource Council have the legal standing to challenge the owl’s designated 'critical habitat'," the paper reported. "Federal officials in 2012 designated more than 9.5 million acres in the three states as essential for the owl’s survival."

The northern spotted owl became famous in the 1990s, when a lawsuit brought by environmental groups culminated in a federal court order that put tens of millions of acres of federally owned or managed old-growth forest in the western United States off-limits to logging. Indirectly, the ruling had a huge ripple effect across the building materials industry, catalyzing the development of a whole new category of manufactured substitutes for large-dimension sawn lumber and veneer products made out of huge old-growth trees—substitutes that included wood I-joists, glue-laminated beams, laminated veneer lumber (LVL), parallel-strand lumber (PSL), and even oriented strand board (OSB).

But there's still a lot of money at stake in any policy that affects timber harvesting. With the home-building industry on the upswing, lumber prices are trending up, The Financial Times reported this week (see: "Lumber prices at highest point since US housing crash," by Jamie Chisholm).

For background, here's a look at the owl itself and its native habitat (see: "Evidence Of Absence: Northern Spotted Owls Are Still Vanishing From The Northwest," by Sarah Gilman).


Texas: A county's adoption of FEMA floodplain designations and regulations does not constitute a taking of property, a Texas appeals court has ruled. In the case of Guadalupe County v Woodlake Partners, Inc., a developer (Woodlake) argued that the new floodplain rules, which limited construction in some lots and also required homes to be elevated, represented a taking of private property by the county government without compensation, in violation of the Constitution. But the Texas Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals shot down the case this week, noting that federal policy would have imposed the same costs on the company had the county taken no action.
Read more: "Memorandum Opinion," by Justice Marialyn Barnard

Florida: Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency as Florida's wildfire season heats up. Read more:
"Governor declares state of emergency as wildfire risk remains high," by Stephanie Allen - The Orlando Sentinel
"Wildfires Continue to Spark in Florida as Drought Worsens," by Pam Wright - The Weather Channel
"Scott issues state of emergency as Florida wildfire season worsens," by Jenny Staletovich - The Miami Herald

Massachusetts: OSHA wants to fine the Atlantic Drain Company almost a million and a half dollars in the death of two workers who drowned in a flooded trench in Boston last fall. Read more:
"OSHA proposes $1.4M fine for company in trench death," by Dan Atkinson - The Boston Herald
"OSHA Cites Atlantic Drain For 18 Violations In Trench Collapse Deaths," CBS Boston

New York: In an unusual move, prosecutors have charged a repair contractor with arson after he allegedly set a building on fire with a torch while repairing a roof. The fire damaged 112 apartments, leaving dozens homeless. Read more:
"112 Apartments Damaged as Inferno Devours Queens Building: FDNY," by Katherine Creag - NBC Channel 4
"Contractor arrested for allegedly starting Queens apartment fire with torch," by Thomas Tracy and John Annese - The New York Post