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Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES)



Barbara C. Lippiatt


Buildings significantly alter the environment. According to Worldwatch Institute (1), building construction consumes 40 percent of the raw stone, gravel, and sand used globally, and sand used globally each year, and 25 percent of the virgin wood. Buildings also account for 40 percent of the energy and 16 percent of the water used annually worldwide. In the United States, about as much construction and demolition waste is produced as municipal garbage. Unhealthy indoor air is found in 30 percent of new and renovated buildings worldwide.Negative environmental impacts arise from these activities. For example, raw materials extraction can lead to resource depletion and biological diversity losses. Building product manufacture and transport consumes energy, generating emissions linked to global warming, acid rain, and smog. Landfill problems may arise from waste generation. Poor indoor air quality may lower worker productivity and adversely affect human health.Thus, building-related contributions to environmental problems are large, and therefore important. Selecting environmentally preferable building products is one way to improve a building's environmental performance. However, while 93 percent of U.S. consumers worry about their home's environmental impact, only 18 percent are willing to pay more to reduce the impact, according to a survey of 3,600 consumers in time U.S. metropolitan areas (2). To be practical, then, environmental performance must be balanced against economic Performance. Even the most environmentally conscious building designer or building product manufacturer will ultimately weigh environmental benefits against economic costs. To satisfy their customers, manufacturers and designers need to develop and select building products with an attractive balance of environmental and economic performance.In this spirit, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Green Buildings Program began the Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) project in 1994. The purpose of the BEES project is to develop and implement a systematic methodology for selecting environmentally and economically balanced building products. The methodology is based on consensus standards and is designed to be practical, flexible, and transparent. The BEES model has been implemented in publicly available decision-support software, complete with actual environmental and economic performance data for a number of building products. The intended result is a cost-effective reduction in building-related contributions to environmental problems.In 1997, the U.S. environmental Protection Agency Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program also began supporting the development of BEES. The EPP program is charged with carrying out Executive Order 12873 (10/93), Federal Acquisition, Recycling, and Waste Prevention, which encourages U.S. Executive agencies to reduce the environmental burdens associated with the $200 billion in products and services they purchase each year, including building products. Over the next several years, BEES will be further developed as a tool to assist the U.S. Federal procurement community in carrying out the mandate of executive Order 12873.This paper describes in general terms the current formulation of the BEES model for balancing the environmental and economic performance of bu8ilding products, and illustrates its application in Windows-based decision support software.
Proceedings Title
Conference Proceedings Green Building Challenge '98
Conference Dates
October 26-28, 1998
Conference Location
Vancouver, CA
Conference Title
International Council for Building Research Studies and Documentation


building products, economic performance, environmental performance, green buildings, life-cycle assessment, life-cycle costing, sustainable development


Lippiatt, B. (1998), Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES), Conference Proceedings Green Building Challenge '98, Vancouver, CA, [online], (Accessed May 19, 2024)


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Created October 1, 1998, Updated February 19, 2017