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September/October 2008
InFocus

Sustainability in Buildings

A Selection of Standards

It’s all about buildings. From soil to cement, cellar to ceiling, ASTM International Standards for Sustainability in Buildings: 3rd Edition collects specifications, tests, guides and practices covering materials, construction and the evaluation of sustainable structures.

The CD compilation of 150 standards, now in its third edition, represents a landmark effort in more than one way. “Every industry sector is struggling with best practices for sustainability,” says Dru Meadows, principal at theGreenTeam Inc. in Tulsa, Okla., compilation co-coordinator and chair of Subcommittee E06.71 on Sustainability in Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. “That ASTM has so man standards on the topic already developed and viable for the building industry is indicative of the proactive way in which ASTM responds to market needs. ASTM is ahead of the curve here. The compilation demonstrates that quite clearly.”

When Committee E06 began planning the original sustainability compilation, standards made the cut by addressing aspects of both sustainability and buildings. (Sustainability addresses environmental, or “green” concerns, plus social and economic aspects.) The large list of potential standards then had to be trimmed even further to come up with a practically sized group of documents.

According to Meadows, the collection came from the convergence of three factors: the need for relevant standards in the marketplace, technical committees’ need to know about existing related standards and the intention to help coordinate future standards development. One more factor played a particular role — participants at workshops sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (the nonprofit responsible for the LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building rating system) questioned presenters about purchasing relevant ASTM standards.

Assessing these needs helped put the project in motion, and work by a government agency that cites ASTM standards further guided the selection process. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Federal Environmental Executive and the Whole Building Design Guide, developed the U.S. Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers, a guide for government to use in procuring green building products and construction services. Consequently, the ASTM group organizing the compilation decided to include only those standards cited in the federal green guide.

The compilation includes standards on:

  • Site and ecosystems,
  • Water,
  • Energy,
  • Materials,
  • Indoor environmental quality, and
  • Operations.

Meadows singles out standard E2432, Guide for General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Buildings, as particularly significant. In her ASTM Advantage Award-winning paper, “ASTM Standard Breaks Barriers to Global Sustainable Development,” published in the November 2007 SN, she writes, “This standard elegantly and succinctly translates globally significant sociopolitical concepts into a standardized framework accessible by the market. Without such a standard, discussion of sustainable development likely would remain just that — discussion.”

All in all, ASTM International Standards for Sustainability in Building provides a valuable reference for professionals across the spectrum of building construction, from planners to product manufacturers, architects to contractors.

For more information about ASTM International’s activities on sustainability and a list, plus keywords, of more than 500 related ASTM standards from numerous technical committees, click here.