A World View of Sustainability in Building Construction and Green Building

Posted on 9/11/2013 3:35:55 PM By Bob Braun

In my last post, I reviewed the history of building sustainability and the evolution of USGBC and LEED.  In this post, I briefly summarize various foreign associations also engaged in certification for buildings and how their focus differs from that of LEED but also how international cooperation is evolving.  In addition, I will preview the October ASC Convention items relating to building green and the latest ASTM C24 efforts to develop the Product Category Rule (PCR) for sealants.

First, I will mention the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE), whose major focus aims to facilitate and promote the adoption of policies, methods, and tools to accelerate movement toward a global sustainable built environment.  The iiSBE has an international board of directors and a secretariat in Ottawa, Canada.  The iiSBE has recently announced a call for papers for the March 6-7, 2014 Symposium for the Net Zero Built Environment to take place at the University of Florida, USA.  The association’s specific objectives include…

  • Map global activities and establish a forum for information exchange…
  • Increase awareness of the global SBE initiatives
  • Take action in fields not covered by existing organizations

The iiSBE developed the building performance assessment tool called “SBTool.” This tool is configured to suit most local conditions and building types. 

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) officially incorporated in 2002 but it was originally founded in 1999 with eight countries participating.  In 2007 the secretariat was formally established in Toronto, Canada.  WorldGBC’s mission aims to strengthen green building councils in more than ninety countries.  This makes it the largest international organization in the green market.  This four minute video provides a thorough review of the WorldGBC’s activities.  In the only a few more days, the World Green Building Week will occur from September 16-20th, 2013.   And from October 16-18th, the WorldGBC Congress will meet in Cape Town South Africa.

Clearly the green building movement is a growing worldwide effort and the sealant community is working to develop the tools to become an integral part of this development through the program management support from ASTM and training support of ASC.  Product manufacturers of sealants are a big part of the green building efforts but they now have an additional set of new issues requiring PCR analysis for sealants heretofore unnecessary and this now needs attention.  The long standing requirements for products to meet minimum functional performance, application durability, and regulatory restrictions are now joined by a new set of green requirements.  The building’s “green rating” and can include product issues such as life cycle assessment, environmental effects, indoor air quality, greener chemistries, frequency of maintenance, and building operation including the ease of repair.  In response, the sealants’ industry is planning to develop the PCR and EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) in association with ASTM.  The ASC Fall Convention in Minneapolis from Oct 21-23rd will focus on “Trends with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)” which is one of the necessary inputs to creating An EPD.  There are also presentations on the new LEED v4 requirements, Legal Implications, and an example of a completed LCA for a sealant.

The US Green Building Council defines Green Building Design as follows:  
To significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of buildings on the environment and on the building occupants. Green building design and construction practices address: sustainable site planning, safeguarding water and water efficiency, energy efficiency, conservation of materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

You can see that this is a very broad definition but nevertheless it is obvious that sealants are involved in several of the green building goals.  More importantly, the contribution of a sealant to each goal is “heavily weighted” in the sense that very little sealant in a building contributes to big results.  The “physical weight” of a sealant in a building compared to most other building materials is very small.  Thus, when it comes to any possible emission produced by a sealant ingredient of concern, the gross negative environmental effect is also very small.  LEED currently has no ability to account for this small effect vs. the large benefit however.  Additionally, small additives can often times greatly enhance a sealants service life.  I will have more on these issues in future blogs.

In future posts, I will be highlighting activities at the upcoming October ASC Convention. If you can attend, you will not be disappointed as you will begin to conceptualize how your products are involved in energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality credits within LEED.  There will be numerous speakers providing in depth analysis of the many sustainability issues.  Everything from new trends in life cycle assessments, examples of creating PCRs, and in depth analysis for the newly developed USGBC’s LEED v4 rating program are on the agenda.  I plan to interview some of the ASC Convention speakers in advance to obtain their views on the many recent trends and future expectations.  Stay tuned…

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