Building sector stakeholders need compelling metrics, tools, data, and case studies supporting major investments in sustainable technologies. Proponents of green building widely claim that buildings integrating sustainable technologies are cost-effective, but often these claims are based on incomplete, anecdotal evidence that is difficult to reproduce and defend. The claims suffer from two main weaknesses: (1) buildings upon which claims are based are not necessarily green in a science-based, life-cycle assessment (LCA) sense and (2) measures of cost-effectiveness often are not based on standard methods for measuring economic worth. Yet the building industry demands compelling metrics to justify sustainable building designs. The problem is hard to solve because, until now, neither methods nor robust data supporting defensible business cases were available. The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Building and Fire Research Laboratory is beginning to address these needs by developing rigorous metrics and tools for assessing the life-cycle economic and environmental performance of buildings. Economic performance is measured using standard life-cycle costing methods. Environmental performance is measured using LCA methods that assess the carbon footprint of buildings as well as 11 other sustainability metrics including fossil fuel depletion, smog formation, water use, habitat alteration, indoor air quality, and impacts to human health. Carbon-efficiency ratios and other eco-efficiency metrics are established to yield science-based measures of the relative worth, or business cases, for green buildings. Here, the approach is illustrated through a realistic building case study. Also, the evolution of the BEES multidiscipline team and future plans in this area are described.
Citation: Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Pub Type: Journals
BEES, green building, hybrid life cycle assessment, life-cycle costing, buildings