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 November 2007

DRU MEADOWS is a principal with theGreenTeam, Inc., Tulsa, Okla., a strategic environmental consulting firm specializing in building industry issues and sustainable development.

Article Appendices:
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C


2007 ASTM International Advantage Award Third Place

ASTM Standard Breaks Barriers to Global Sustainable Development

by Dru Meadows

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of ASTM standard E 2432, Guide for General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Buildings, developed by Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. 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. Sustainability is a critical issue internationally. With increasing agreement as to the importance of the concept, the demand for implementation becomes more tangible. Many industry sectors still struggle with this necessity. Thus, while E 2432 represents a sea-change for the "green" - or "environmental" - building industry, the potential for it to positively impact a variety of industries is even more significant.

"Sustainable development" is defined in ASTM E 2114, Terminology for Sustainability Relative to the Performance of Buildings, as: "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

This is consistent with the definition most commonly cited by environmentalists and originating with the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) convened in 1983 to address growing concern "about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development."1 The concept has penetrated vernacular. Merriam-Webster defines "sustainable" as:

  1. capable of being sustained
  2. a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged (sustainable techniques) (sustainable agriculture) b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods (sustainable society)

The challenge with these definitions is translating the concept into action. Unfortunately, the emphasis is almost unilaterally upon environmental sustainability - how society uses (or not) the earth's natural resources; how society controls (or not) pollution; how society anticipates (or not) possible risks associated with synthetic substances introduced into the environment. Such discussion gives little guidance to industry. Certainly there are some synergies. If a particular method is energy efficient, it may produce not only environmental benefits but also economic benefits. If there is a way to reduce production waste, the new process may remove not only material sent to a landfill, but also costs associated with purchasing, processing and transporting the excess material. However, initial investments required to implement such schemes may be so great as to marginalize annual savings generated.

The implementation of the concept of sustainability is one of the most critical imperatives of our generation. There are numerous efforts in various industries that attempt to provide detailed requirements.2 There are repeated political statements acknowledging the need for coordinated action, and international agreements on an assortment of environmental initiatives.3 There are myriad academic studies and alerts from consumer organizations.4 However, there are few examples of standard, overarching frameworks accessible to industry. Establishing a viable framework is fundamental to progress in implementation of sustainability. It is fundamental to developing consistent criteria. It is fundamental to organizing substantive, meaningful action. It is fundamental to breaking the barriers to implementation of sustainability, barriers that have stymied much of the efforts to date. ASTM E 2432 establishes such a framework.

ASTM E 2432 concisely and clearly articulates four critical components underpinning a viable framework for sustainable development. First, it identifies the three general principles associated with sustainability for any industry. Second, it distinguishes between "ideal" sustainability and "applied" sustainability. Third, it emphasizes the need for balance among the three principles. And, fourth, it confirms that continual improvement is vital in practice.

Three General Principles Associated with Sustainability
The three general principles associated with sustainability are environmental, economic, and social. Originally identified by the Brundtland Commission, this tripartite description has not been utilized commonly by the mainstream. In the mainstream, media, industry, consumer organizations and others tend to focus only on environmental principles. Even when initiatives embrace social and/or economic facets, the outreach for the initiatives is typically structured around environmental concerns.

For example, the MBDC [McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry] Cradle to Cradle Certification is branded as an eco-label that "provides a company with a means to tangibly, credibly measure achievement in environmentally intelligent design and helps customers purchase and specify products that are pursuing a broader definition of quality."5 However, the MBDC certification program includes a social responsibility criterion for a company to have publicly available corporate ethics and fair labor statements. Higher levels of MBDC certification require that the company implement an independent, third- party social responsibility assessment, certification, or accreditation. Despite the inclusion of social criteria, the program outreach is built around environmental issues.

Canada's Environmental Choice Program operates EcoLogo which blurs the distinction between environmental claims and sustainability claims. It asserts, "By certifying the environmental leaders in over 300 categories of products, EcoLogo helps environmental marketers win customers, and helps buyers - both consumer and corporate - find and trust the world's most sustainable products."6 The target criteria relate to environmental sustainability, but the conclusion makes no distinction with full sustainability.

Germany's Blue Angel program, introduced in 1977, is the oldest national environmental certification program. To date, there are approximately 3,600 products and services from approximately 580 label users globally entitled to bear the Blue Angel, which began as and still remains primarily an environmental labeling program.7

Industry initiatives also tend to focus on environmental sustainability. EcoTel, an eco-label for the hospitality industry, includes a criterion category for "Employee Education and Community Involvement," but brands the label as "the hallmark of environmentally sensitive hotels."8

The premier labeling program in the North American building industry is operated by the U.S. Green Building Council. As the name of the organization implies, their focus is "green" or "environmental" building. Recently, the USGBC revised its mission statement to include reference to sustainability, but its labeling program, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™, remains categorized primarily according to environmental issues: sustainable site development (embracing some social concerns such as access to community services and infrastructure along with the environmental concerns), water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.9

ASTM E 2432, in contrast, is clearly organized according to the three general principles of sustainability, not just environmental sustainability. Explicitly expanding the core principles to recognize all three criteria - environmental, economic and social - is significant. It injects discussion of gainful employment, health issues and quality of life into the environmental dialog. Such topics are often more immediate to the average consumer trying to make ends meet and obtain a good education for his children. Such topics are at the forefront of corporate strategies to position themselves relative to potential competition. Thus, embracing the three general principles is not only consistent with international sociopolitical consensus, but also clarifies the concept of sustainability in a manner that helps mainstream better access it. Lack of accessibility, of being able to relate the large environmental vision to the more immediate day-to-day economic and social struggles, is the most basic barrier to implementation of sustainable development. ASTM International breaks this basic barrier.

"Ideal" Sustainability v. "Applied" Sustainability
ASTM E 2432 is unique in the distinction it makes between "ideal" and "applied" sustainability. Clearly, the lofty goals of sustainable development are idealistic. However, academia and environmental activists have waged a substantive education campaign that challenges the public to reject anything less than ideal sustainability.10 The rhetoric is in direct proportion to the highly egregious behavior of some corporations and governmental powers. The unfortunate consequence is that issues are delineated in terms of black-and-white, all-or-nothing. This is another primary barrier. Even if the three principles are embraced, a goal of perfection for any of them is unattainable. When perfection is the sole measure of success, failure is inevitable and so most avoid the attempt altogether - especially mainstream businesses for which success is a tangible commodity and failure to achieve any one task may drag down an entire company.

The most prominent challenge resulting from the focus on the ideal rests in the perspective of risk. Risk is inherent in development of any new process or material. It is the nature of scientific discovery and exploration. It is how humanity advances. When ideal sustainability is invoked, it becomes virtually impossible to experiment with new technology. The precautionary principle, a prime example of ideal sustainability, eschews adoption of any action or material that may pose a threat to human health or the environment. As an ideal goal, it is laudable. As a practical exercise, it is extremely problematic. The precautionary principle attained international prominence through the Rio Declaration, also known as Agenda 21, from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The Rio Declaration stated:

  • In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.11

In 2000, the European Commission issued a Communication on the Precautionary Principle that endorsed its application.12 Subsequently, various local initiatives and businesses embraced the precautionary principle. For example, the city of San Francisco, Calif., passed a precautionary principle purchasing ordinance in 2005 that "requires the selection of the alternative that presents the least potential threat to human health and the City's natural systems."13 In 2006, The Body Shop International, a UK-based cosmetics company, pledged to "manage the use of chemicals in a responsible manner by applying the precautionary principle."14

Each of these applications is challenged by the implementation of an ideal. In a purely theoretical interpretation, the precautionary principle forbids all action if there is a reasonable concern for negative impact on human health or the environment. The ideal immobilizes progress. This is a substantive barrier to the implementation of sustainable development. ASTM E 2432 clearly distinguishes between the "ideal" concept and the "applied" reality. While maintaining recognition of an ultimate goal, the standard thus acknowledges the viability of more realistic interim objectives, helping establish manageable steps toward "ideal" sustainability.

Another significant challenge associated with ideal sustainability is that it presupposes a utopia. In reality, society has certain limitations in both its administrative systems and its physical infrastructure. For example, indigenous building construction such as earthen building systems (adobe, strawbale, rammed earth) historically have not been engineered and so often face rejection from building code officials. New technologies for alternative, sustainable construction systems such as green (vegetated) roofs face similar hurdles. The effort to obtain building variances for nonconventional, sustainable designs, products or systems has spawned numerous grassroots help groups. It has also resulted in a range of new ASTM standards and work items (including standards for earthen construction and green roof systems) based upon and consistent with the framework established by E 2432.15

Most building code officials have personal discretion - and liability - for approving variances. Lacking specific knowledge and qualifications to evaluate alternative, sustainable building means or materials, they understandably are reluctant to approve the variances. ASTM International standards are especially helpful in breaking such barriers. Respected as technically competent and consensus-based, ASTM standards for sustainable development help establish a comfort level for mainstream implementation. Thus, ASTM helps break this barrier as well.

Balance Among the Three Principles of Sustainability
Closely related to distinguishing between "ideal" and "applied" sustainability is the concept of balance. Per ASTM E 2432, the three principles are set on equal footing. There is not only recognition but also validation of quality of life issues according to social principles and budgetary issues under economic principles. Identifying the existence of a tripartite assemblage of principles dissipates the solely environmental focus. Declaring that there should be a balance among the three principles reinforces the expansion. The benefits are substantial. If "environmental" is the benchmark, then many organizations - however much they support the ideal - may be discouraged from responding to the challenge. On the other hand, if "sustainable" with a balance of environmental, social and economic factors is the benchmark, then mainstream industry has a realistic opportunity to respond effectively. That means organizations actually embrace more sustainable operations and develop more sustainable products and services. That benefits everyone.

The same year that ASTM E 2432 was first published, the United Nations issued the World Summit Outcome Document, which also affirms a balance among the three principles. It refers to the "interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars" of sustainable development as economic development, social development and environmental protection.16n.16

Continual Improvement for Sustainability
Last, but not least, standard E 2432 affirms continual improvement as fundamental to sustainability, stating:

  • Sustainability is an ideal. The practical application of the general principles of sustainability relies upon balancing environmental, economic, and social impacts and committing to continual improvement to approach this ideal.

From a business perspective, the emphasis on continual improvement is familiar. It is consistent with recognized industry protocols such as the ISO 9000 series, Quality Management Standards, and ISO 14000 series, Environmental Management Standards.17 It is also basic corporate practice. Technologies and regulatory requirements evolve; what is most cost-effective and efficient today will change tomorrow. From a technical perspective, the emphasis on continual improvement is logical. Society does not know how many species there are on the planet. In 1758, the number of earth's species was estimated at 20,000. Today, there are approximately 1,500,000 recorded species and estimates for total species range from 4,000,000 to 100,000,000. Examples of new species recently identified include:

  • Oct 2001: UK - butterfly (Leptidea reali)
  • May 2003: Monterey Submarine Canyon - jellyfish (Granrojo)
  • May 2005: Tanzania - monkey (Lophocebus kipunji)
  • Feb 2006: New Guinea - 20+ species of frogs
  • March 2006: South Pacific - lobster or crab (Kiwa hirsute); a new specimen so distinct scientists created a new taxonomic family for it.

Every day, new knowledge is acquired, altering our understanding of the world. Ideal sustainability is an unattainable utopia. Society does not possess sufficient information to definitively determine what ideal sustainability is but it can identify applied sustainability. Applied sustainability is more a process of becoming than a state of being. ASTM E 2432 recognizes this and directs that:

  • Decisions should be based upon an ever-evolving knowledge base and an understanding of the complex interactions among economic, environmental, and social systems….Decisions should be based upon local, regional and global opportunities and challenges.

Furthermore, the standard notes:

  • In striving for sustainability, decisions and their implementation should be continually monitored, assessed, and adjusted, as necessary, in a process that incorporates continual improvement.

E 2432 allows for flexibility consistent with the limitations of current knowledge and circumstances, but also affirms that applied sustainability is not static. Decisions should be reviewed periodically and past actions may need to be revised based on new information.

Market and Significance of ASTM E 2432

The market, desperately in need of a standardized framework for sustainable development, is rapidly embracing ASTM E 2432. As may be expected, the first impacts have been felt in the green building industry. These include adoption by the U.S. federal government, support for the National Institute of Building Sciences gap analysis, facilitating international harmonization, and providing a framework for development of related standards.

The expansion of focus for the green building industry to include not just environmental aspects but also social and economic aspects is a dramatic shift for professionals in building design, construction and operations. As the building industry is one of the largest industries in the United States, the impacts of such transformation are tremendous. Annually, the building industry accounts for an estimated nine million jobs.18 And the building industry annually accounts for an estimated 40 percent of the world's energy usage, 16 percent of the world's water usage, three billion tons of raw materials (~40 percent of the global total) and 15-20 percent of the waste stream.19 Changes in an industry so large are significant.

The potential for "ripple effects" across all industries, however, is even more significant. The building industry itself includes numerous multiproduct/sector firms that produce other industrial and consumer products (e.g., Dow, Weyerhaeuser, DuPont, etc). Impacts to other industries include education on sustainability for the next generation, and potential guidance for a range of sector-specific initiatives that have been struggling with the fundamental concepts of sustainability. The same basic framework developed in E 2432 for the building industry may be easily adapted to other industries, increasing harmonization.

Adoption by U.S. Federal Government
To help federal agencies meet their project-specific environmental goals and mandates,20 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency partnered with the Federal Environmental Executive and the Whole Building Design Guide to provide model green construction specification language - the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers (Federal Green Specs).21

The Federal Green Specs utilize ASTM E 2432 to establish performance requirements for sustainable building (referencing green building rating programs under the environmental category of sustainable building per E 2432) and to organize building product performance criteria. For example, the solicitation document in the Federal Green Specs,22 which provides model language for requests for proposals on new construction and major renovation projects, has two goals:

  1. Support implementation of federal policy and programs for sustainable building, in accordance with EO13423 and Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Building as per the Memorandum of Understanding dated January 2006.
  2. Support implementation of procedures for tracking and reporting Agency progress in achieving federal initiatives.

To achieve these goals, the model federal solicitation cites the following requirements (bolded items indicate options the contracting officer may edit):

  1. ASTM E 2432 [environmental,] [social,] [and, economic] principles of sustainability relative to building
  2. [USGBC-LEED] [GBI-Green Globes] [xxxx] green building rating program.
  3. Energy Star.

The model notes that "Green building programs may support the environmental component of ASTM E 2432."

The solicitation also includes a building product framework based on E 2432. This framework may be used to specify minimum product category requirements as well as to report and document project impacts. While each product will have environmental, economic and social impacts, only representative impacts are specified. The Federal Green Specs include more than 70 different specifications sections; examples are shown in the table opposite.

The Federal Green Specs go through a substantial peer review process prior to publication. First, agency comment (approximately 200 agencies) is obtained and addressed; then related trade, professional and nonprofit organization comments are sought and addressed; then the draft is posted online for public comment and those comments are addressed. Even after "final" publication, comments are still encouraged, consistent with ASTM E 2432 guidance on continual improvement.

The peer review process involves a great deal of adjustment and compromise. However, at the conclusion, the final product is stronger for the effort. It blends the environmental objectives of the nonprofits with the administrative (including community and social) requirements of federal agencies and the practical (including economic) concerns of mainstream industry. In short, the final product is a very usable document - a viable, new tool in support of sustainable building.

As of July 2006, the Unified Facilities Guide Specifications - used by the Navy, Army, NASA, and other Federal agencies - have incorporated model language from the Federal Green Specs.23 This is helping the U.S. federal government, the largest builder in the world, to embrace sustainability in a flexible, cost-effective manner. The federal government asserts:

  • The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers should assist in lowering design costs for green buildings as it provides preliminary materials/methods research and model Construction Specifications language in a readily accessible format.

  • The Federal Green ConstructionGuide for Specifiers should assist in lowering construction costs for green buildings as it provides guidance that quantifies generally expected performance requirements for green building.24

International Harmonization
The market has become inundated with new claims, labels, standards and rating programs responding to the growing demand for sustainable development. Evaluating the relative merits of each and harmonizing them can be challenging. ASTM International is uniquely positioned to orchestrate an objective discussion of the various efforts and to facilitate the international harmonization. Therefore, on April 19-20, 2007, in Washington, D.C., ASTM convened a symposium organized around ASTM E 2432 - the First International Symposium on Common Ground, Consensus Building and Continual Improvement: Standards and Sustainable Building - in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Environmental Executive.

The response was tremendous. Accepted papers represented a range of international efforts, including presentations from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. They represented perspectives from various standards development organizations, trade and professional organizations, academia and nonprofit organizations. (Refer to Appendix A.)

The symposium garnered significant attention from federal decision makers and from trade and professional organizations - approximately 90 attendees. Keynote speakers included Edwin Piñero, the director of the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, and Earle Kennett of the National Institute of Building Sciences. This forum provided a unique opportunity for government, industry, standards developing organizations and environmental organizations to discuss sustainability standards as well as the organizations developing them. Additionally, the symposium highlighted opportunities and needs for coordination and consensus. These are critical topics given the rapid growth of demand for sustainability standards and the proliferation of associated labels and certifications.

Per federal directive, the NIBS High Performance Building Council Sustainability Subcommittee is tasked with performing a "gap analysis" for sustainability standards relative to building. The timing of the ASTM symposium was quite serendipitous, helping to inform the nascent federal effort at its inception. Immediately after the symposium, the NIBS committee requested access to ASTM E 2129, Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products, and ASTM E 2432 as these are pivotal documents. This offered an excellent outreach opportunity for ASTM International to help respond to and take a leadership role in the federal effort. ASTM granted permission for NIBS use.

Green Building Industry Impact
The Federal Government (per EO13423) requires federal agencies to build sustainable buildings. There are more than 60 mandated municipal "green" building programs and nearly 30 mandated state programs (and, in several examples, "sustainable" building programs); and, there are numerous examples of voluntary green building programs. (Refer to Appendix C.)

Most mandates for either green building or for sustainable building do not provide much, if any, tangible guidance as to the definition of "green" or "sustainable" - or to the associated building requirements. The various programs cited often prove expensive, inflexible, and limited to environmental sustainability only. ASTM E 2432 offers an over-arching framework that is more comprehensive, more flexible, and more cost-effective.

Currently, ASTM International is balloting (through Committee E06 and Subcommittee E06.71 on Sustainability) a draft Specification for the Minimum Attributes of a Building that Promotes Sustainability (WK11944) based on the E 2432 framework. The draft addresses the lack of consistency and lack of definition for sustainable building requirements in the market. 25 Unlike existing green building rating programs that focus on environmental issues with a series of options, this standard addresses all three principles and is intended to set a firm baseline - one that could stand on its own as well as be incorporated into existing rating programs as a prerequisite.

The Green Building Initiative, which offers one of the recognized, national green building rating programs, is participating in the ASTM process and has indicated it may want to utilize the new ASTM standard as a prerequisite to its program. The intent of the new standard is to delineate:

  • minimum attributes and reporting requirements of a building that promotes sustainability. The attributes are consistent with the principles described in E 2432. Additionally, the attributes are consistent with the Guiding Principles set forth in the Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding (2006) and mandated for U.S. federal agency buildings per Executive Order 13423 Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management

It is anticipated that the standard would be:

  • primarily applicable to buildings in the U.S.A. but may be used for buildings throughout North America or under the responsibility of the U.S. Federal Government outside of the United States. It may also be useful in other regions where similar conditions are prevalent.

Academic Impact

ASTM E 2432 is being used in universities at the graduate level to teach the next generation about sustainability.

The Catholic University of America has incorporated instruction on various standards into its curriculum for some time. Recently, the Department of Civil Engineering introduced the use of E 2432 to address a void in the engineering program.26 The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Engineering Criteria require a capstone design project in which students use "appropriate engineering standards." One of the ABET design constraints that students must consider is sustainability. Additionally, the first Fundamental Canon of the ASCE Code of Ethics states in part that civil engineers "shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties."27 ASTM E 2432 has been recognized as providing a "framework for organizing student design projects to accomplish multiple objectives" associated with the ABET and ASCE requirements.26

The Oklahoma State University Environmental Institute offers a graduate level, multidisciplinary course, "Sustainability and International Standards," which reviews the role of standards in the global economy and their potential impact on sustainable development. Fundamental to the course objectives is a detailed review of E 2432 - both in terms of content and in terms of the standards development process. As a final project, each student drafts an ASTM standard on the topic of his/her choice, utilizing and referencing E 2432 as appropriate. Standards the students have written include:

  • Classification for Energy Production Relative to Sustainable Development
  • Classification for Degradation, Mobility and Bioaccumulation of Organic Chemicals in the Terrestrial Environment
  • Classification for Economic Indicators
  • Classification for Genetically Modified Organisms Used in Food Products
  • Classification of Traditional Medicines
  • Guide for Social Criteria Fundamental to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
  • Guide for the Utilization of Wetlands for Stormwater Management
  • Practice for Assessment of Residential Wastewater
  • Practice for Managing Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Practice for Precautionary Due Diligence in Product Development
  • Practice for Principles and Data for Estimating Carbon Footprint using Input-Output Methodology
  • Specification for Attributes and Representation of Indigenous Cultures
  • Specification for Standard Practice for Generic Labeling of Recycled Products
  • Terminology for Intellectual Property

Other Industry Impacts
As of 2006, ASTM International's Web site includes a reference database of ASTM standards related to sustainability for all industries. The intent is for the database to help stimulate discussions regarding the need for future standards on sustainability, which will be critical for each industry as technology continues to evolve and the trend toward sustainability grows stronger. ASTM E06.71 (the subcommittee responsible for E 2432) is assisting ASTM staff on this project. ASTM E06.71 is helping to craft the introduction for the database and to assess all ASTM standards to determine applicability to sustainable development, categorization per primary aspects of sustainability as stated in E 2432 (environmental, economic and social), and appropriate keywords.

Most standards development organizations continue to debate possible standards actions and/or attempt to address sustainability piecemeal.

There are numerous sector-specific examples of initiatives toward sustainability; most gravitate toward a single attribute. Those that do attempt to embrace all three general principles of sustainability get mired in specific requirements and fail to establish an overarching framework including balance, continual improvement and - most importantly - a recognition of "ideal" versus "applied" sustainability. (Refer to Appendix B for examples of sector-specific efforts - the appendixes for this article are available for download in the sidebar at left).

The International Organization for Standardization's Technical Management Board recently issued Resolution 44/2007 deferring decisions as to possible standards work on sustainability pending more discussion. The resolution:

  • Concurs that sustainability is not the exclusive domain of any one ISO technical committee or activity but in fact all ISO's work program contributes in some manner to sustainability,
  • Decides to defer consideration of the establishment of a strategic advisory group on Sustainability at this point in time,
  • Establishes a task force of TMB Members, to be convened by SCC (Canada) with the following tasks:
    • Develop an appropriate communication to ISO Committees on ISO and sustainability
    • Carry out an inventory of ISO work relevant to sustainability
  • Develop proposed terms of reference for a possible SAG
  • Requests the task force to report back at the TMB meeting in September 2007.

While other organizations struggle with the sociopolitical concepts of sustainability, ASTM has effectively translated those concepts into a viable framework for implementation in the mainstream market. ASTM E 2432 harmonizes sustainable development for the building industry and establishes a pattern that can be easily replicated in other industries.

ASTM E 2432 addresses each of the fundamental barriers to sustainability:

  • A myopic focus on environmental concerns;
  • An unattainable utopian goal of "ideal" sustainability; and
  • The expectation of single, "right" answers to complex problems for which society does not currently possess all input data.

While it doesn't exclude focused standards (standards that address only one of the three general principles), E 2432 establishes an expectation that such focused standards will be organized in a consistent global framework according to the tripartite general principles - environmental, economic and social. It delineates the need for balance among the general principles and for continual improvement. It clearly articulates a distinction between "ideal" and "applied" sustainability allowing concurrent, related development of both theoretical understanding and practical implementation.

ASTM E 2432 breaks the fundamental barriers to global sustainable development, making way for future standards development and true progress toward sustainability in the mainstream. //


  1. United Nations. 1987. "Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development." General Assembly Resolution 42/187, 11 December 1987 (accessed 6/12/07)
  2. Refer to Appendix B. [Appendixes to this paper are available for download online at http://www.astm.org/SNEWS/NOVEMBER_2007/
  3. Examples include:
    • Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 5-16 June 1972 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.73.II.A.14 and corrigendum), chap. I.http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/
      English/POI_PD.htm - 1
    • Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and corrigenda), vols. I-III.; adopting the global programme entitled Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Rio Conference was a significant milestone that set a new agenda for sustainable development. http://www.unep.org/Documents/Default.asp?
    • World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 2 to 4 September 2002, reaffirm our commitment to sustainable development. http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/
    • Between Rio and Johannesburg, the world's nations have met in several major conferences under the auspices of the United Nations, including the International Conference on Financing for Development, Report of the International Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, Mexico, 18-22 March 2002 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.02.II.A.7), Chap. I, Resolution 1, Annex; as well as the Doha Ministerial Conference, Ministerial Declaration adopted on 14 November 2001. http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/Doha_declaration.pdf
    • U.S. Federal Executive Order 13423 "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation Management," which consolidates and strengthens a number of prior EOs by establishing new and updated goals, practices, and reporting requirements for environmental, energy and transportation performance and accountability. Under EO 13423, ‘sustainable' means "to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans." http://www.wbdg.org/sustainableEO
  4. Examples include:
    • Center For Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) Principles; Available from Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), 99 Chauncy Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02111 USA. http://www.ceres.org
    • The Natural Step System Conditions (See also, Azar, Holmberg, and Lindgren, "Socio-Ecological Indicators for Sustainability," Ecological Economics, 18, 1996, pp. 89-112.); Available from The Natural Step (TNS), 50 Osgood Place, Penthouse San Francisco, CA 94105. http://www.naturalstep.org
    • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) IISD champions sustainable development around the world through innovation, partnerships, research and communications. http://www.iisd.org/
    • The World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Available from World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), 4, chemin de Conches 1231 Conches-Geneva, Switzerland. http://www.wbcsd.org
  5. http://www.mbdc.com/certified.html (accessed 6/14/07)
  6. http://www.environmentalchoice.com/English/Home/ (accessed 6/14/07)
  7. http://www.blauer-engel.de/englisch/navigation/
    body_blauer_engel.htm (accessed 6/14/07)
  8. http://www.concepthospitality.com/ecotel/ECOTELAbout_Criteria.htm (accessed 6/14/07)
  9. http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19 (accessed 6/14/07)
  10. By summer 2006, Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" grossed over $20 million dollars, making it the fourth highest grossing documentary of all time. In the film, Gore presents the latest evidence to demonstrate how the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other pollutants of the industrial age are increasing temperatures. Gore argues -- with scientific evidence projected on big screens at his back -- that global warming may soon lead to catastrophic sea level rises, global pandemics and extreme weather events. Refer to "Standards for a Sustainable Future: Balancing Environmental, Social and Economic Goals"; Meadows, ASTM Standardization News March 2007.
  11. At international level, the precautionary principle was first recognized in the World Charter for Nature, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1982. It attained public exposure in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration; http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?
    DocumentID=78&ArticleID=1163 (accessed 6/14/07)
  12. http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/
    library/pub/pub07_en.pdf (accessed 6/14/07)
  13. http://www.municode.com/Resources/
    gateway.asp?pid=14134&sid=5 (accessed 6/14/07)
  14. The Body Shop 2006 Chemicals Strategy; http://www.thebodyshopinternational.com/
    BSI_Chemicals_Strategy.pdf. (accessed 6/14/07)
  15. Refer to work of ASTM E6.71; http://www.astm.org/
  16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_development
  17. The flagship standard of the 14000 series is ISO 14001, Environmental Management Systems – Requirements with Guidance for Use. Environmental Management Systems (EMSs), particularly ISO 14001 registered EMSs, have become fundamental to the international market; in the USA, Executive Order 13423 requires federal agencies to implement EMSs and "ensure that contracts … for contractor operation of government-owned facilities… require the contractor to comply with provisions of this order..."
  18. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics, www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs003.htm
  19. Worldwatch Paper No. 124.
  20. Federal mandates for sustainable building or aspects thereof include:
    • Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding
    • Greening of Government Executive Orders
    • Energy Policy Act of 2005
    • EPA's Final Guidance on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
    • EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for recovered content
    • USDA's Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program
    • ENERGY STAR and DOE Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) Product Efficiency Recommendations
    • ASTM, LEED, Green Globes, and other rating systems and standards
    • Other ‘best practices' as determined via industry and public comment
  21. http://fedgreenspecs.wbdg.org
  22. Section 00 10 00 (Section 00100) - Solicitation (RFP); http://www.wbdg.org/design/greenspec_msl.php?s=001000
  23. Refer to http://www.wbdg.org/ccb/browse_org.php?o=70
  24. http://www.wbdg.org/design/greenspec_faq.php
  25. www.astm.org/DATABASE.CART/ WORKITEMS/WK11944.htm
  26. Dr. William Kelly, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, School of Engineering, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064; Introducing Standards and Sustainable Design, presented at the First International Symposium on Common Ground, Consensus Building and Continual Improvement: Standards and Sustainable Building; April 19-20, 2007
  27. http://www.asce.org/inside/codeofethics.cfm