LEED criteria for identifying the best multi-functional sustainable building strategy

A quick and objective method developed in Microsoft Excel that looks at building’s potential and needs

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The impacts that the construction industry has on the environment has become an element of concern worldwide. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) claims that building activity has the potential to dramatically alter land’s surface (Sikra, 2017). This is mostly because many construction projects include destroying vegetation and digging, which extensively pollutes the area’s surroundings. Additionally, due to their high embodied energy contents, construction materials like concrete, aluminum, and steel are directly to blame for significant amounts of CO2 emissions. Uncomfortably, building activities account for one-sixth of world freshwater consumption, one-quarter of global wood consumption, and one-quarter of global waste. They also consume half of all natural resources that are taken from the environment. 40% of drinking water contamination, 50% of landfill waste, 23% of air pollution, and 50% of climate change are all caused by the building industry (Sikra, 2017). And these are just some of the aspects in which the construction industry is involved, but it is enough to realise that solutions are needed to heal planet Earth and in fact contribute positively to it.

One approach to this problem is to leave room for nature to manifest and express itself and then to be inspired by it. Natural creatures are an example of living and thriving on Earth by striking a balance between themselves and the surroundings. They are constantly integrating and optimizing themselves in order to produce life-friendly settings (Oguntona and Aigbavboa, 2017). The lessons that can be learned from nature are summarised in Bio-mimicry Life’s Principles. One of them suggests how natural organisms evolved with the logic of optimising rather than maximising by developing a multi-function design (De Pauw et al., 2010a).

This report deals with two key principles: sustainability and multi-functionality. The aim is to develop a methodology that allows, in an objective manner, the identification of the best tailored building strategy in terms of maximisation of the level of sustainability achievable with one single solution.

The project follows 6 steps: research, development, investigation and improvement, validation and testing. The methodology is designed within Microsoft Excel and integrates the sustainability criteria of LEED green building rating system, a program for assessing the green level of buildings that is already widely used internationally. The LEED program appears in all project phases but particularly in the research, development and validation phase. The latter is conducted by the method of comparing data obtained from the tool in Excel with verified data from LEED-certified projects. After the development phase, it emerges that the tool while based on a well-structured, widely used and tested program such as LEED, is prone to subjectivity. Much of the time is therefore devoted to making sure that the tool is project-dependent and not user-dependent. As for the investigation and improvement phases, these are carried out by means of a survey built in Google Forms. Finally, the process of testing the tool is performed by applying it to a real case which is offered by the engineering and architecture company OneWorks. It is the General Aviation terminal at Orio al Serio airport (Bergamo, Italy).

To conclude, time is a crucial aspect when it comes to reducing the impact on the environment. So, this thesis aspires to provide a new methodology that can help designers, engineers and architects to shorten the time it takes to choose the best tailored strategy in terms of sustainability and multi-functionality.