The Building Life Cycle.

Sustainability must be addressed on a life-cycle basis, from the origins of the materials for a building, through the manufacture and installation of these materials and their useful lifetime in the building, to their eventual disposal when the building’s life is ended. Each step in this so-called  cradle-to-grave cycle raises questions of sustainability.

Origin and Manufacture of  Materials for a Building
Are the raw materials for a building plentiful or rare? Are they renewable or nonrenewable? How much of
the content of a material is recycled from other uses? How much embodied energy is expended in obtaining and manufacturing the material, and how much water? What pollutants are discharged into air, water, and soil as a result of these acts? What wastes are created? Can these wastes be converted to useful products?

Construction of the Building
How much energy is expended in transporting a material from its origins to the building site, and what pollutants are generated? How much energy and water are consumed on the building site to put the material
in place? What pollutants are associ-ated with the installation of this material in the building? What wastes are generated, and how much of them can be recycled?

Use and Maintenance of the Building
How much energy and water does the building use over its lifetime as a consequence of the materials used in its construction and fi nishes? What problems of indoor air quality are caused by these materials? How much maintenance do these materials require, and how long will they last? Can they be recycled? How much energy and time are consumed in maintaining these materials? Does this maintenance involve use of toxic chemicals?

Demolition of the Building
What planning and design strategies can be used to extend the useful life of buildings, thereby forestalling resource-intensive demolition and construction of new buildings? When demolition is inevitable, how will the building be demolished and disposed of, and will any part of this process cause pollution of air, water, or soil? Can demolished materials be recycled into new construction or diverted for other uses rather than disposed of as wastes?

One model for sustainable design is nature itself. Nature works in cyclical processes that are self-sustaining
and waste nothing. More and more building professionals are learning to create buildings that work more nearly as nature does, helping to leave to our descendants a stock of healthful buildings, a sustainable supply of natural resources, and a clean environment that will enable them to live comfortably and responsibly and to pass these riches on to their descendants in a never-ending succession.

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