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Software to Tap Database to Help Builders Match Environmental Concerns with Economic Performance

Environmentally sensitive and cash-conscious BEES soon could be helping designers and architects plan better buildings.

BEES, an acronym for "Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability," is a software product being developed to identify building materials that improve environmental performance with little or no increase in cost. A National Institute of Standards and Technology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency team plans to have the building tool ready by 1997.

Barbara Lippiatt, NIST BEES project leader says, "The building community is making decisions today that have environmental and economic consequences. Their decisions are plagued by incomplete and uncertain data as well as the lack of a standardized methodology for evaluating the data. The NIST/EPA team seeks to support these decisions by gathering environmental and economic performance data and by structuring and computerizing the decision-making process. The software thus will enable users to compare the environmental and economic performance of alternative building materials."

The Office of Applied Economics in NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory is working with EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Air Pollution Prevention Control Division, to develop the BEES standardized methodology and set up a publicly available database. EPA is developing the database of environmental performance data. NIST, with EPA support, is developing the methodology and implementing it in decision support software for building designers and materials manufacturers. NIST is adding economic performance data to the database. The decision support software will access the database of environmental and economic performance data.

BEES will measure environmental impacts of a material by using a multidisciplinary tool known as life-cycle assessment. It is based on the belief that all stages in the life of a material generate environmental impacts and must be analyzed. The stages include raw material extraction and processing, material manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance, and recycling and waste management.

Economic performance of various building materials will use the life-cycle cost method. The technique includes the costs over a given study period of initial investment (less resale or salvage value), replacement, operation, maintenance and repair, and disposal. The study period varies with circumstances. For example, a homeowner would select a study period based on the length of time he or she expects to live in the house, whereas a long-term owner or occupant of an office building might select a study period based on the life of the building.

BEES will be available either in CD-ROM format or downloadable from the Internet. The on-line availability offers almost instantaneous access to the tool and immediate dissemination of data refinements. Data updates will be made as the state of the art of environmental assessment advances, new building materials are introduced and the costs of building materials change. Users will be able to customize data. Individuals thus will be able to do "what if" analyses to examine how changing the data affects the environmental and economic performance balance.

For technical information, contact either Barbara C. Lippiatt, B226 Building Research Building, NIST, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-0001, (301) 975-6133, e-mail: lippiatt [at] (lippiatt[at]enh[dot]nist[dot]gov), or James B. White, MD-54, Air Pollution Prevention Control Division, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27711, (919) 541-1189, e-mail: white.james [at] (white[dot]james[at]epamail[dot]epa[dot]gov).

An agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Released November 2, 1995, Updated November 27, 2017