Methods to Measure Sustainability

The growing demand for green buildings has been invigorated by green building programs such as the LEED rating system. With new construction projects, owners and builders alike are looking for materials that offer reduced operating costs, improved health benefits, and perform better environmentally throughout the life-cycle of the products.

Although this can result in some confusion in assessing the impact of such materials on all of these aspects, there are many good resources being developed to assist in making informed decisions. Experts working in the field of sustainable design are improving the methods that are used to more accurately measure the value of the return on the green investment.

One of these tools is called a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) and is used in determining the actual performance of green building materials. This cradle-to-grave assessment starts with a product evaluated by the impact of extracting the raw material, to the manufacturing process and distribution, to the durability and performance. Additionally the ease of reusing or recycling the material is judged and taken into account.

When considered early in the planning and design stages, sustainable criteria offer the greatest cost-efficiency as well as the best ability to influence design. Therefore, it is important that architects and owners have the most up-to-date information available right from the start of a project.

Green products are typically made from reused or recycled-content or from renewable resources. The EPA says the goal should be to promote clean air and reduce the emissions of VOC (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde. They should not contain CFCs, HCFCs or other toxic substances and need to promote practices that conserve energy and water. Furthermore they should offer good durability and ease of maintenance, and aid in reducing a building’s overall operating cost.

The EPA concludes that green buildings should be designed to reduce the environmental impact on human health and the natural environment by:

• “Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
• Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
• Reducing waste, pollution and environment degradation”

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Conco is a leading supplier of concrete services for the Western United States. As one of the leading commercial concrete contractors in the San Jose area, we have been involved with large-scale projects in the area including the Mineta Airport. Our concrete services include commercial, educational, parking and other construction development as well as public works projects.

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