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Introduction and Overview

species for landscaping; passive heating, cooling, and ventilation; and other approaches that minimize environmental impact and resource consumption.

  • 2.

    Green buildings virtually always make economic sense on a life-cycle cost (LCC) basis, though they may be more expensive on a capital, or first-cost, basis. Sophis- ticated energy-conserving lighting and air-conditioning systems with an excep- tional response to interior and exterior climates will cost more than their conventional, code-compliant counterparts. Rainwater harvesting systems that col- lect and store rainwater for nonpotable uses will require additional piping, pumps, controls, storage tanks, and filtration components. However, most key green build- ing systems will recoup their original investment within a relatively short time. As energy and water prices rise due to increasing demand and diminishing supply, the payback period will decrease. LCC provides a consistent framework for determin- ing the true economic advantage of these alternative systems by evaluating their performance over the course of a building’s useful life.5

  • 3.

    Sustainable design acknowledges the potential effect of the building, including its operation, on the health of its human occupants. A 1984 World Health Organiza- tion report suggested that as many as 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may generate excessive complaints related to indoor air quality.6 Esti- mates peg the direct and indirect costs of building-related illnesses, including lost worker productivity, as exceeding $150 billion per year.7 Conventional construc- tion methods have traditionally paid little attention to sick building syndrome (SBS), building-related illness (BRI), and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) until prompted by lawsuits. In contrast, green buildings are designed to promote occupant health, including measures such as protecting ductwork during installa- tion to avoid contamination during construction; specifying finishes with low to zero volatile organic components to prevent potentially hazardous chemical off- gassing; more precise sizing of heating and cooling components to promote dehu- midification, thereby reducing mold; and the use of ultraviolet radiation to kill mold and bacteria in ventilation systems.8

Defining Sustainable Construction


The Principles of Sustainable Construction

  • 1.

    Reduce resource consumption (reduce).

  • 2.

    Reuse resources (reuse).

  • 3.

    Use recyclable resources (recycle).

  • 4.

    Protect nature (nature).

  • 5.

    Eliminate toxics (toxics).

  • 6.

    Apply life-cycle costing (economics).

  • 7.

    Focus on quality (quality).

The terms high performance, green, and sustainable construction are often used inter- changeably; however, the term sustainable construction most comprehensively addresses the ecological, social, and economic issues of a building in the context of its community. In 1994, the Conseil International du Batiment (CIB), an international construction research networking organization, defined the goal of sustainable con- struction as “. . . creating and operating a healthy built environment based on resource efficiency and ecological design.”9 The CIB articulated seven Principles of Sustain- able Construction, which would ideally inform decision making during each phase of the design and construction process, continuing throughout the building’s entire life cycle (see Table 1.1).10 These factors also apply when evaluating the components and other resources needed for construction (see Figure 1.4). The Principles of Sustainable Construction apply across the entire life cycle of construction, from planning to dis- posal (here referred to as deconstruction rather than demolition). Furthermore, the principles apply to the resources needed to create and operate the built environment during its entire life cycle: land, materials, water, energy, and ecosystems.


The issue of resource-conscious design is central to sustainable construction, which ultimately aims to minimize natural resource consumption and the resulting impact

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