The trend toward sustainability has been very strong in recent years as both the private and public sectors continue to develop new programs that bring specific sustainability issues to the forefront. The EPA for example, has an entire portion of their website dedicated to their sustainability programs and partnerships http://www.epa.gov/sustainability.
ASTM has also played a major role in helping to fulfill the world.s sustainability needs through the development of consensus standards. For a list of ASTM Committees and Subcommittees involved in this area, click here. ASTM has developed a spreadsheet of the ASTM and additional globally relevant sustainability standards, which can be accessed at www.astm.org/sustainability.htm.
Sustainability is a complex subject in that it involves environmental, economic and social considerations. It can therefore be challenging for ASTM committees to understand and meet the standards needs in this very important area. Provided below is an example of how Committee E60 on Sustainability, formally E06 on Performance of Buildings, has addressed sustainability in the building industry and a summary of how the EPA breaks down four different areas of sustainability.
Committee E60 on Sustainability develops standards related to the environmental performance of sustainability of building materials, building components, building systems and buildings individually and in aggregate. In addition, it is working on issues relating to the hospitality industry. For a complete listing of the standards and work items for E60, please visit their homepage: /COMMITTEE/E60.htm.
In 2005, ASTM E2432-05, Standard Guide for General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Buildings was published. The Guide defines three types of general sustainability principles: environmental, economic and social. It covers the fundamental concepts and associated building characteristics for each of the general sustainability principles and further distinguishes between ideal sustainability and applied sustainability. The standard explains that ideally, human activities would not require making trade-offs among environmental, economic and social goals. However, the guide recognizes that in applying sustainability principles to buildings, decision makers must often balance opportunities and challenges associated with each of the general principles. In other words, preservation of the environment is important…but so is a decent quality of life and so are jobs. The standard also identifies general methodologies associated with the decision making process used in pursuing sustainability.
The standard defines sustainability and sustainable development as follows.
sustainability, n - The maintenance of the ecosystem components and functions for future generations.
sustainable development, n - Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The EPA has dozens of programs, policy tools and incentives that implement and encourage sustainability under the following key areas and ASTM technical committees have developed many key standards that address these areas as indicated below (also see the ASTM spreadsheet of standards).
Energy and the Environment Coal, natural gas and oil are the main energy sources but there are problems associated with the emissions of these energy sources and the negative impact it creates in the environment. Sustainability issues in this category include alternative energy sources that can be produced by cleaner and more efficient technologies and be used more efficiently and with greater conservation.
Products, Materials and Toxics This category relates to the study of potential impacts of materials and chemicals on human health and the environment with a focus on reducing waste and chemical contamination and promotion of the use of cleaner materials.
This overview and the ASTM database can be used to help stimulate discussions regarding the need for future standards, which will be critical for each industry as the technology continues to evolve and the trend toward sustainability grows stronger.