Sustainable development (SD) is the social, economic, and environmental commitment to growth and development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Creating a more sustainable community, nation, and world is pertinent, and developers of the built environment (architects, engineers, material suppliers, etc.) shoulder a large part of the responsibility to protect the interests of present and future generations.
Specifiers may use a number of environmental impact assessment methods to measure how sustainable a product or process is; however, many methods are highly subjective. Factors considered in an evaluation can run from concrete tangibles, such as carbon emissions and energy use, to the more abstract, such as training courses and recycling initiatives. Two of the most accepted and well-known methods for measuring sustainability are the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) and the combination of life-cycle inventory (LCI) and life-cycle assessment (LCA).
Let’s start with an overview of these methods.