Achieving Sustainability through Durability, Adaptability and Deconstructibility

March 30, 2010
Publication: Structure Magazine p 10
Author(s): Webster, Mark D. Kestner, Dirk M.

Abstract: A building's life-cycle environmental impact includes both operational and embodied components. Operational impacts are those such as energy consumption that occur during use, while embodied impacts are mostly due to the production and installation of the building?s materials. An example of an embodied impact is the pollution released during the extraction, manufacture, and installation of a building component. The longer a building remains in service, the smaller the embodied impacts are per year of service. Therefore, efforts to minimize embodied impacts must also include strategies to increase service life. This article discusses the validity of common service life assumptions, and challenges design professionals to achieve greater sustainability by incorporating durability, adaptability, and deconstructibility in their designs.|A 50-year lifespan is often assumed for common building types such as commercial buildings and schools. However, many buildings are demolished when they are well short of 50 years of age, often for reasons other than material degradation. Premature demolition and replacement of buildings impacts our environment in many ways, from the disposal of demolition waste to the need to manufacture and install new materials. While many designers have started to specify recycled content materials, this is only a first step. Recycled materials, even those that contain 100% recycled content, still may have significant embodied impacts. In an attempt to increase longevity, some may be tempted to specify more robust or "durable" materials, but durability may not be the best strategy to increase building life.

Services: Structural Design