Toward a Rational Framework for Sustainable Building Materials Standards
An increasing public awareness of the impact that buildings have on human health, climate change, energy usage and environmental degradation have led in recent years to a growing interest in environmentally-sustainable building. One of the most significant factors affecting building sustainability is the sustainability of materials used in construction. Yet there is little coherence in the measurement and assessment of materials sustainability attributes, resulting in a landscape today that is littered with hundreds of competing, inconsistent and often imprecise eco-labels, standards and certifications. This discord has led both to confusion among consumers and commercial purchasers of sustainable building materials, and to the incorporation of inconsistent sustainability criteria in larger building certification programs. In response to the need for greater clarity in evaluating the sustainability of building materials, we conducted an in-depth study of sustainability standards and certifications for selected categories of building materials and have developed a set of recommendations for government, standards-setting organizations and industry that, we hope, will bring a greater degree of consistency and rationality to this critical area. These recommendations include: (1) the development of a widely-accepted, uniform nomenclature for describing materials sustainability features, (2) the development of consistent and transparent methodologies for measuring materials sustainability features, (3) the adoption of a uniform, concise and user-friendly format for disclosing key materials sustainability features, along the lines of the FDA’s standardized Nutrition Facts Label, (4) the use of consistent and comparable materials sustainability measurements as criteria in broader certification programs and regulation, and (5) the development of a public database for materials sustainability information.
Contreras, Jorge L., Roth, Hannah and Lewis, Meghan, Toward a Rational Framework for Sustainable Building Materials Standards (September 1, 2011). Standards Engineering, Vol. 63, No. 5, p. 1, September/October 2011.