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Barbara C. Lippiatt


Consumers and manufacturers need compelling metrics, tools, and data supporting investments in sustainable products. Today’s marketplace is fraught with sustainability claims that are often based on incomplete, anecdotal evidence that is difficult to reproduce and defend. The claims suffer from two main weaknesses: (1) products upon which claims are based are not necessarily “green” in a science-based, life-cycle assessment (LCA) sense and (2) their measures of cost-effectiveness often are not based on standard methods for measuring economic worth. The problem is hard to solve because methods, tools, and robust data for sustainability performance measurement are not widely available. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is addressing these needs by developing rigorous metrics and tools for scientifically assessing the life-cycle economic and environmental performance of products. Economic performance is measured using standard life-cycle costing methods. Environmental performance is measured using LCA methods that assess the “carbon footprint” of products as well as 11 other sustainability metrics including fossil fuel depletion, smog, water use, habitat alteration, indoor air quality, and human health. These environmental and economic performance metrics are applied to assess the sustainability of 230 building products in the NIST Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) tool. The approach is illustrated with a BEES case study of five floor covering products.
Sustainability Science and Engineering – Volume 1
Publisher Info
Springer Science+Business Media, Chicago, IL


carbon footprint, environmental performance, life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, sustainability metrics


Lippiatt, B. (2012), SCIENCE-BASED METRICS FOR PRODUCT SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT, Sustainability Science and Engineering – Volume 1, Springer Science+Business Media, Chicago, IL, [online], (Accessed July 20, 2024)


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Created September 30, 2012, Updated February 19, 2017