Towards a triple bottom-line sustainability assessment of the U.S. construction industry
- 1.9k Downloads
The construction industry has considerable impacts on the environment, economy, and society. Although quantifying and analyzing the sustainability implications of the built environment is of great importance, it has not been studied sufficiently. Therefore, the overarching goal of this study is to quantify the overall environmental, economic, and social impacts of the U.S. construction sectors using an economic input–output-based sustainability assessment framework.
In this research, the commodity-by-industry supply and use tables published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, as part of the International System of National Accounts, are merged with a range of environmental, economic, and social metrics to develop a comprehensive sustainability assessment framework for the U.S. construction industry. After determining these sustainability assessment metrics, the direct and indirect sustainability impacts of U.S construction sectors have been analyzed from a triple bottom-line perspective.
When analyzing the total sustainability impacts by each construction sector, “Residential Permanent Single and Multi-Family Structures" and "Other Non-residential Structures" are found to have the highest environmental, economic, and social impacts in comparison with other construction sectors. The analysis results also show that indirect suppliers of construction sectors have the largest sustainability impacts compared with on-site activities. For example, for all U.S. construction sectors, on-site construction processes are found to be responsible for less than 5 % of total water consumption, whereas about 95 % of total water use can be attributed to indirect suppliers. In addition, Scope 3 emissions are responsible for the highest carbon emissions compared with Scopes 1 and 2. Therefore, using narrowly defined system boundaries by ignoring supply chain-related impacts can result in underestimation of triple bottom-line sustainability impacts of the U.S. construction industry.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies that consider all dimensions of sustainability impacts of civil infrastructures are still limited, and the current research is an important attempt to analyze the triple bottom-line sustainability impacts of the U.S. construction sectors in a holistic way. We believe that this comprehensive sustainability assessment model will complement previous LCA studies on resource consumption of U.S. construction sectors by evaluating them not only from environmental standpoint, but also from economic and social perspectives.
KeywordsEconomic input–output analysis Life cycle assessment Sustainability assessment Triple bottom line U.S. construction industry
- BEA (2002) Benchmark input–output data. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. http://www.bea.gov/industry/io_benchmark.htm. Accessed January 5, 2012
- BEA (2010) Gross domestic product by industry accounts. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. http://www.bea.gov/iTable/index_industry.cfm. Accessed January 5, 2012
- BLS (2002) Industry injury and illness data. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htm. Accessed 15 March 2012
- CMU (2002) EIO-LCA (economic input–output life cycle assessment). http://www.eiolca.net/cgi-bin/dft/display.pl. Accessed 5 January 2012
- EIA (2010) Historical data series - total energy-related carbon dioxide by end-use sector and the electric power sector by fuel type. U.S. Energy Information Administration. http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/excel/historical_co2.xls. Accessed 5 January 2012
- Eurostat (2008) Eurostat manual of supply, use and input–output tables. European Commission, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
- Foran B, Lenzen M, Dey C (2005) A triple bottom line analysis of the Australian economy. In Csiro (ed) Balancing Act. 1:1–111Google Scholar
- GFN (2010a) National footprint accounts: ecological footprint and bio-capacity. Global Footprint Network.http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/footprint_for_nations/.Accessed February 15 2012
- GFN (2010b) Calculation methodology for the national footprint accounts. Global Footprint Network.http://www.footprintnetwork.org/images/uploads/National_Footprint_Accounts_Method_Paper_2010.pdf. Accessed 15 February 2012
- Gradel T, Allenby B (2009) Industrial ecology and sustainable engineering, 3rd edn. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJGoogle Scholar
- Hendrickson CT, Lave LB, Matthews S (2005) Environmental life cycle assessment of goods and services: an input–output approach, 1st edn. RFF Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Lippiat B (2007) BEES 4.0: Building for environmental and economic sustainability technical manual and user guide. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, USAGoogle Scholar
- NRC (2009) Sustainable critical infrastructure systems: a framework for meeting 21st century imperatives. Toward sustainable critical infrastructure systems: framing the challenges workshop committee. National Research Council, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- NRL (2012) U.S. life-cycle inventory database. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. https://www.lcacommons.gov/nrel/search. Accessed 5 September 2012
- UN (1999) Studies in methods: handbook of national accounting. United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
- UNEP (2012) 21 Issues for the 21st century: result of the UNEP foresight process on emerging environmental issues. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
- U.S. EPA (2010) Buildings and the environment: a statistical summary. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar
- USGBC (2009) LEED 2009 for new construction and major renovations rating system. United States Green Building Council, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
- WRI and WBCSD (2004) Greenhouse gas protocol: a corporate accounting and reporting standard. Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar