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Which Criteria Might Be Most Appropriate for Assessing the Sustainability of Building Materials - Essay Example

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The industrial and scientific progress made in the past few centuries has revolutionized the lifestyles of people. It has modified the way we travel, enjoy, communicate, and build. However, the benefits of this progress have come at a cost…
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Which Criteria Might Be Most Appropriate for Assessing the Sustainability of Building Materials
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Download file to see previous pages The resources used to fuel this economic growth (fossil fuels, minerals, fresh water, wood etc.) are being depleted at a very alarming rate. Issues such as global warming, pollution etc. has raised concerns about the future of life on the planet. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the community of scientists and engineers are now promoting sustainable practices in the various fields of engineering (Braganca, Mateus and Koukarri, 2010). This includes lesser dependence on the fossil fuels with increased power production from renewable energy resources, energy conservation through more efficient production systems and building designs and the use of sustainable and recyclable materials in construction industry and consumer goods. The construction industry currently consumes a huge amount of resources mainly the building materials such as structure steel, concrete, cement, sand, gravel, wood, and glass etc. The current annual consumption of structure steel in USA alone is 7.1 million metric tones. On the completion of its lifecycle, as the building is destroyed for renovation or incorporation of new designs, this material is usually dumped in waste land and creates environmental issues. Moreover, the materials traditionally used for construction such as masonry bricks and concrete are good conductors of heat and hence they significantly increase the energy consumption for cooling and heating the building. Operation and maintenance of buildings is also a very important concern while selecting the building materials. Deterioration of traditional building materials causes waste materials to escape in to the atmosphere. The maintenance of buildings usually causes use of the same materials with the same drawbacks. It is also reported that the traditional construction materials are responsible for toxic emissions to both outdoors and indoors of the building causing damaging effects on the human health. The above discussion shows that the traditional practices involve wastage of materials and energy and in most of the cases has deteriorating effects on the environment. It is hence of great importance that the materials used for construction must be environment friendly and sustainable. When it comes to engineering design and material selection process, it is important that the decisions are made on the basis of quantified data rather than abstract observations and experiences. It is important to measure how much a material is environment friendly or to what extent it has the damaging effect on the environment. Hence as the first step towards the use of sustainable materials in the building design, the criteria on which the sustainability of a building is measured should be specified. This paper discusses the research made in this regard and summarizes the criteria used by different researchers and in different regions around the globe. According to Oxford dictionary sustainability is defined as the ‘conservation of the ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources’. With reference to the building materials, the term implies that the selection of building materials should be made considering the environmental effect of their production and usage. Such materials should be given preference which are recyclable, have none or negligible emissions, have very low carbon foot print during their production and transportation. There are several different properties which are desirable in building materials in order to increase their sustainability. The manufacturing processes for the materials should involve minimum green house gas emissions or other harmful environment effects. The emissions from the building mate ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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