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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A framework for assessing the performance of sustainable technologies for building projects Nelms, Cheryl Elizabeth


The building industry has attempted to reduce the impact of the design, construction and operation of buildings by replacing traditional technologies with sustainable technologies that have a reduced ecological, health and environmental life cycle impact. At present, the performance of sustainable technologies in buildings is generally not assessed holistically, but rather from a primarily single-issue perspective, e.g., only financially or only environmentally. Such an approach is limited in that it ignores the interaction of the technologies within the physical facility itself as expressed through life cycle costs, the impact on the surrounding environment, design objectives of the project and its stakeholders whose value systems may conflict. The primary goal of this work is to improve the understanding and decision making capabilities of the building industry and government when faced with decisions regarding investment and policy regarding sustainable building technologies. A secondary goal is to identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of sustainable technologies. The thesis explores the unique characteristics of the building sector in terms of the stakeholders involved, the construction process, and the operation and maintenance of a building. The unique characteristics of the building sector influence the industry motivation towards sustainable construction, and thus sustainable construction, the characteristics of sustainable buildings and selected sustainable technologies are also described. The main barriers to improving the environmental performance of the building sector and incentives for the adoption of sustainable construction practices are introduced, and the value systems of various stakeholders involved in a construction project and the motivation for the adoption of sustainable technologies are discussed. An analytical framework is developed herein for the selection of appropriate sustainable technologies in buildings and for assisting policy makers develop meaningful sustainable technology regulation, policy and incentives. Rooftop garden technology is used to demonstrate the application of the framework in hypothetical building examples. Benefits of the framework include a means to promote dialogue among stakeholders to reflect the diverse value systems involved in a building project and a logical structure for applying sustainability concepts and for assessing the relevance of technology to the project context, construction process and final product.

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