High performing and sustainable building certification bodies continue to update their requirements, leading to scope modification of certifications, and an increasing number of viable sources of environmental information for building materials. In conjunction, the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry is seeing increasing demand for such environmental product information. The industry and certifications are moving from using single attribute environmental information about building materials to lifecycle based information to inform their design decisions.
This dissertation seeks to understand the current practices, and then focus on strategies to effectively utilize newer sources of environmental product information in high performance building design. The first phase of research used a survey of 119 U.S.-based AEC practitioners experienced in certified sustainable building projects to understand how the numerous sources of environmental information are currently used in the building design process. The second phase asked two focus groups of experienced AEC professionals to develop a Message Sequence Chart (MSC) that documents the conceptual design process for a recently designed building. Then, the focus group participants integrated a new sustainability requirement for building materials, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), into their project, and documented the adjustments to their specific design process in a second, modified MSC highlighting potential drivers for inclusion of EPDs. Finally, the author examines the broader applicability of these drivers through case studies. Specifically, 19 certified high-performance building (HPB) case studies, for reviewing the impact of three different potential drivers on the design team’s approach to considering environmental product information during conceptual design of a HPB, as well as the projects certification level.
LEED certification has changed the design of buildings, and the new information sources for building materials will inform the way the industry selects building materials. Meanwhile, these information sources will need to expand to include a growing number of products, and potentially more data as the industry’s understanding of the impacts of building materials develops. This research expands upon previous research on LEED certification to illustrates that owner engagement and commitment to the HPB process is a critical success factor for the use of environmental product information about building materials.