GREENBUILD 2011: Sustainable Construction Should Stress Durability as well as Energy Efficiency

There is now a call for making enhanced resilience of a building’s structure to natural and man-made disasters the first consideration of a green building.
October 05, 2011

Each year in the U.S., more than $35 billion in direct property loss is caused by natural disasters. Yet, while states and municipalities are seeking to adopt ordinances that require “green” or “sustainable” construction, they are overlooking disaster-resistance construction.

There is now a call for making enhanced resilience of a building’s structure to natural and man-made disasters the first consideration of a green building. Increased longevity and durability, combined with improved disaster resistance, results in the need for less energy and resources.

This is not only the case for repair, removal, disposal, and replacement of building materials and contents due to disasters, but for routine maintenance and operations as well. 

“Integration of durability and functional resilience into sustainability codes, standards, and programs is long overdue,” David Shepherd, director of sustainability for the Portland Cement Association (PCA) said. “Some say the most sustainable structure is the one that isn’t built. We believe the most sustainable building is the one still standing.”

Functionally resilient buildings place less demand on resources and allow communities to provide vital services, even after a natural disaster. For example, resilient construction allows businesses to continue operations, providing municipalities with a consistent tax base. Further community economic, societal, and environmental benefits occur when cities are not required to reallocated resources for emergency recovery.

A resilient building is not limited to one that is operational after a natural disaster but also one that can withstand the hardship of the passing years. The Brookings Institution projects that by 2030, the U.S. will have demolished and replaced 82 billion sf of its current building stock, or nearly one-third of existing buildings, largely because the vast majority of them weren't designed and built to last any longer. Robust, functionally resilient buildings are frequently reused and even repurposed when downtowns are renovated.

To allow local governments to adopt green building codes that address high performance as well as conventional sustainable features, the PCA and the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) have developed High Performance Building Requirements for Sustainability 2.0. The criteria are written in mandatory language that amends and appends the International Code Council International Building Code. The provisions are generic and do not specify one specific material over another. 

PCA and IBHS have aligned the provisions with the concepts of both the Whole Building Design Guide and High Performance Building Council. Enacting and enforcing these provisions provides the basis for designers and owners to obtain certification as a US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction. BD+C

         
 

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