Executive Summary
In this paper, the role of Sustainable development in construction industry will be investigated as it is an effective way of controlling the use of resources for both the present and the future generations. In this regard, three major pillars that define the importance of sustainable development- including people, planet, and the pocketbook will be considered. The paper will also discuss on some of the rating systems that are used to classify buildings on their adherence to sustainable development principles. These include BREEAM, and LEED rating systems among others. Finally a conclusion will be made regarding the state of sustainable development from the investigation.
Sustainable development is all about ensuring that meeting the needs of the present will not compromise on the ability of the future generations to meet their needs (Kissinger, Rees, & Trimmer, 2011). As such, all this focused on ensuring that the current generation meets their requirements to a satisfiable level but maintaining the resources. Resources may be depleted either by excessive use or environmental pollution.
Considering that the construction industry is one of the largest in the world, sustainable approaches need to be implemented to ensure that there is no overexploitation of the available resources. Moreover, the building industry is one of the industries that is considered to have a direct influence on the 3P’s (the WBDG sustainable committee, 2018).The 3P’s stand for the people, the planet, and the pocketbook. As such, there is need to implement a sustainable design as well as building concept that will ensure there is no drastic environmental degradation which will consequently lead to the loss of resources.
The sustainable approach to building and design has emphasized three objectives (Kibert, 2016). The first objective is to ensure that there is no depletion of the world resources. The resources that are used by the construction sector range from power, water, land, and other raw materials and as such, maintenance is imperative (Yudelson, 2008). Secondly, sustainable building design and construction is aimed at ensuring that there is the minimization of environmental pollution. Environmental pollution is witnessed in the form of emissions, building waste pollution among others. Finally, it is aimed at ensuring that the environment that is created is comfortable and can sustain human life in a proper manner.
The sustainable approach in building design has been majorly influenced by the increase in the rate of building construction. Increasing population-estimated at 9billion by the year 2050 (Cuthill, 2010)- have resulted in an increase in housing requirements which means that more land is being put up for construction purposes. This, in turn, means that there is a decrease in land area and furthermore, an increase in the pollution and emission levels (Dobson, 2007). Increase in land use means that there is a decrease in the land area available to absorb atmospheric water while the increase in the occupancy levels means that there is an increase in the rate at which resources are utilized which translates to greater emissions (Glavinich). According to research, in the United States alone, the amount of electricity used by buildings is 68% while the energy used is about 39% (Gowri, 2004). Furthermore, the water that is used by the building sector alone is about 12% (Gowri, 2004).On the other hand, the carbon emissions that emanate from the building industry are about 38% while the non-industrial wastes are 60% (Gowri, 2004).
Considering all the aforementioned and the emphasis on profit as well as a reduction in the total overhead costs, building designers and engineers are at a bottleneck in designing and constructing green buildings. Green buildings are defined as a building whose design as well as construction principles are based on the restoration of the surrounding environment and more so, the buildings has a very little impact on the environment. In a nutshell, this means a building whose energy as well as power usage is kept at a minimum while the pollution, as well as the emissions, are also kept at a minimum.
As per the principles used in the design and construction of buildings, various tools have been used to determine the levels of sustainability. The rating system determines the extent to which sustainable designs and construction have been implemented and therefore a useful approach in sustainable development.
Sustainability rating principles
There are guiding principles which outline the requirements of a sustainable building approach (Griggs, Stafford-Smith, Gaffney, & Rockstrom, 2013) Regardless, they are all centered on ensuring that the building has the least impact on the environment and uses the resources in an efficient and effective manner. The principles, as stated by the National Institute of Building Science guide the design, construction, use, and demolition of buildings (Beraradi, 2012).
To begin with, the building design and construction should be focused on the conservation of water (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). The approach should ensure that there is sufficient land to ensure that groundwater is restored efficiently. This may be achieved by decreasing the amount of impervious cover (Dempsey, Bramler, & Power, 2011). The effect of building construction is pronounced in the hydrological as well as the ecological aspects because of the decrease in the land available for water to penetrate into the ground cover and more so, there is an enormous amount of water that is consumed throughout the building life (Kubba, 2016). On the other hand, improper disposal of wastewater from buildings leads to the contamination of the available water resources which should be prevented at all costs.
The second principle is focused on optimization of the materials used in building construction as well as minimization of the land used (Weerasinghe, 2007). The demand for materials is on the increase mainly due to the increase in the population. Therefore, if the materials that are available currently are not optimized, there will be an increase on the levels of stress on the available resources translating to a shortage of materials in the near future (Makower, 2008). Therefore, there should be maximum optimization on the resources currently available, a reduction in the pollution levels and furthermore, an increase in the conservation levels (Kernan, 2007). All this can be achieved by designing buildings that may reuse materials and by increasing the use of materials that have the least impact on the environment. Furthermore, retrofitting (Kubba, 2016) may be used in designing and constructing buildings that meet the needs of the present while maintaining the profit levels at the desired level. Retrofitting is mainly concerned with renovating an existing building to the standards of a green one. This ensures that the resiliency of the building is raised while the impacts on the environment are reduced.
Thirdly, the building should conserve energy (Fowler, 2007). Increasing demand for buildings means that there is an increase in the demand for energy. Fossil fuels play a fundamental role in energy delivery and as such, the increase in the energy demand means that there is an increase in the use of fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels over the recent past has led to an increase in global warming and as such, it is imperative to minimize their usage. However, minimizing the use of fossil fuels will require a sustainable approach to energy use which will require alternative approaches to energy production. The use of sustainable sources of energy such as solar energy or biofuels may be one way in which there will be a reduction in the amount of fossil fuels used. Furthermore, these buildings should be independent of energy usage and more to this should be designed such that the energy requirements are minimal and the energy performance is high (Beraradi, 2012).
Fourthly, the building design should consider the site. Optimization of site mainly considers the effect of the new building on the ecosystem as well as the available resources (Fowler, 2007). Moreover, the location of a building affects the transportation routes, the energy used and the local resources among others. Siting a building in a location where there is a shortage of resources will lead to numerous requirements which are likely to affect the overall ecosystem. On the other hand, site location may increase or reduce the energy performance of the building which translates to environmental effects,
The fifth principle considers the maintenance as well as the operational requirements of the building and in this, the building should be highly adaptable to the surrounding environment with minimal requirements. Periodic maintenance, as well as the frequency of the building maintenance, will be determined by the principle used in the design. Sustainable buildings require fewer maintenance practices and this may be achieved by sustainable design materials as well as approaches. Some of the sustainable design approaches will have to consider the waste management principles employed as well as the runoff management.
Finally, the building should have a sustainable indoor environment. The indoor environment is determined by the heat as well as the cooling requirements. The principle states that a sustainable building has a proper indoor quality with less heat as well as ventilation requirements. All this may be achieved by using the natural forces such as daylight and the wind. As such, the siting of the windows, the materials used for the walling among others should be considered prior to the actual design.
Sustainable rating
The above principles determine the level of sustainability employed by the building. However, there are various tools that may be used to determine the sustainability of the building with each approach having its unique requirements as well as stipulations. Some of these rating systems focus on the indoor environment, the sustainability of the design, the costing as well as assessment of the lifecycle, the tools used for operation and maintenance, the design and the performance among others (Azhar, Charlton, Olsen, & Ahmad, 2011).
Therefore, a sustainable rating tool may be defined as the methodology that is centered on the performance, or the expected performance, of the building and its comparison to other buildings with the main emphasis on the sustainable approaches used (US Green Building Council). There are numerous tools that are used to rate the sustainability of a building with some of them recognized on an international platform while others are only recognized only in a specific country. However, regardless of the fact that they measure the sustainability of a building, these rating systems usually have different intentions, different measurement as well as different emphasis. Some of these rating standards include the leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED), Green Globes, the energy standards for building, and BRE environmental assessment method among others.
It is one of the most used rating system considering its track record. One of the factors that make it one of the most used rating systems is the fact that it covers a number of buildings. Some of the buildings that are considered under this assessment include schools, industrial units, retail centers homes, and officers. Furthermore, it can be customized so that it rates specific types of buildings. Customization of the system is centered on ensuring that there is a transparent method through which each type of building may be ranked. The criteria used in ranking the building are: pass, good, very good and excellent depending on the sustainable approaches adopted (Lee, Trcka, & Hensen, 2011).
There are nine factors that are considered in building analysis and these are the management, energy, transport, ecology, the use of land, pollution, the materials used, the water management practices employed and the health and comfort levels of the occupants (Jonahthan, 2006). By considering all these aspects of the analysis, it has various implications for the stakeholders. Building stakeholders include the owner, the occupants, the contractors and consultants and the government. In this, it provides a blueprint as to the necessary modifications that may be made to the general layout of the building with a focus on ecology, water management, the land usage and the transport. Moreover, the types of materials that may be used in the construction process influence the designers as well as the clients to adopt better approaches to building construction and design.
LEED Rating System
Unlike BREEAM, this rating system was developed in the United States with the main emphasis on the impacts of buildings on the environment (Nguyen & Altan, 2011). As such, it models the whole building environment and tries to address the sustainable approaches used in the overall design and construction. Moreover, there is a rating system for new buildings and those that have undergone major renovations. The rating system is known as LEED-NC
One of the criteria used in rating the sustainability of a building is water management. The major emphasis is on the reduction in water that is used in landscaping as well as indoor use. Moreover, the strategies that are used in the management of wastewater are also considered. The second criteria is concerned with the site selection and in this, some of the considerations are the prevention of pollution strategies, reduction of the building impacts on the environment, light pollution, management of stormwater, alternatives to transportation, and heat island effect (Elgendy). The third criteria concern the implementation of design practices. Other criteria used in this rating system are the quality of the indoor atmosphere, the materials used and energy.
Considering that the rating system focuses on the impacts of buildings on the general environment, it has been used extensively to develop the proper framework for design and construction with the focal point the environment. This has a profound impact on the stakeholders specifically the clients and the government. The government is mandated with the responsibility of ensuring that there are laws which mitigate the impacts of improper building practices on the environment. On the other hand, landowners and clients are supposed to adopt proper building techniques in design and construction phases.
It has developed extensively since its inception and is used in over 25 countries (Jonahthan, 2006). Unlike the two aforementioned rating systems, it is generally focused with the general environment and the surrounding. The rating system is based on the local practice with the different levels of practice determining the number that can be allocated. The lowest number that can be scored by a building is -1 while the highest that can be scored is 5 (Fowler, 2007). The former refers to a building whose performance is below practice while the latter refers to a building structure whose performance is excellent.
The tool has developed remarkably and it considers all the stages of building development from the pre-design, design, operations and the maintenance stages. It is, therefore, a wholesome approach to building assessment which may be used to provide a clear description of the building in terms of sustainability. The criteria used in the assessment are mainly proactive with the major emphasis on the environment.
To begin with, assessment of the energy consumption is based on the non-renewable sources used, the renewable sources used, and the peak demand management among others. Secondly, the rating system estimates the resources that are used through the use of materials. It, therefore, emphasizes the reuse as well as recycling of materials that can be used in the construction process. Thirdly, the rating system considers the environmental loadings that may emanate from greenhouse gases, solid waste, stormwater, the impact on the site among other environmental factors. The other criteria include the environmental quality and other site aspects. It, therefore, ensures that the criteria used in site selection, as well as the materials used in construction, have the least impact on the environment.
Sustainable design and construction have continually been emphasized in the building industry It is a known fact that the building industry is one of the largest consumers of energy as well as one of the largest producers of wastes. This has led to various concerns about sustainable approaches to be used in the design and construction with various rating systems employed to determine the sustainability of a building.
There are various rating systems that are employed to determine the sustainability of a building. These ratings have different criteria, intentions as well as requirements and focus on different aspects of building design and the environment. Nevertheless, they play a fundamental role in the development of sustainable approaches to design and construction


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