Friday, September 24, 2010

Green Building Process Scrutinized

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have received a $2 million federal grant to investigate the actual environmental effects of “green” buildings.

Led by Pitt engineering professors Melissa Bilec and Amy Landis, the study aims to make sure green buildings are performing as well as they can.

Bilec says every new structure, including any green building, has an environmental footprint from the materials used to build it to the last day of its existence. That total environmental effect constitutes a building’s life-cycle assessment, or LCA.

Bilec says one of the goals is to expand the scope of LCAs to include the building’s effect on the people who live or work in it.

“[We’re] really trying to connect people with their buildings. Right now, 90% of our time is spent inside, but we really know very little about the environment that we occupy, from the air quality to the energy usage or the water usage. So that’s what we’re trying to do, is connect people with the indoor environment.”

Another component of the study is a survey of architects, contractors, and other people in the construction process to determine the weaknesses of the LCA.

Bilec says the team will ultimately submit new recommendations to the United States Green Building Council.

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