Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Sustainable design


Buildings consume nearly 40% of primary energy production globally. Certified green buildings substantially reduce energy consumption on a per square foot basis and they also focus on indoor environmental quality. However, the co-benefits to health through reductions in energy and concomitant reductions in air pollution have not been examined.We calculated year by year LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification rates in six countries (the United States, China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey) and then used data from the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG) to estimate energy savings in each country each year. Of the green building rating schemes, LEED accounts for 32% of green-certified floor space and publically reports energy efficiency data. We employed Harvard’s Co-BE Calculator to determine pollutant emissions reductions by country accounting for transient energy mixes and baseline energy use intensities. Co-BE applies the social cost of carbon and the social cost of atmospheric release to translate these reductions into health benefits. Based on modeled energy use, LEED-certified buildings saved $7.5B in energy costs and averted 33MT of CO2, 51 kt of SO2, 38 kt of NOx, and 10 kt of PM2.5 from entering the atmosphere, which amounts to $5.8B (lower limit = $2.3B, upper limit = $9.1B) in climate and health co-benefits from 2000 to 2016 in the six countries investigated. The U.S. health benefits derive from avoiding an estimated 172-405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, 21,000 lost days of work, and 16,000 lost days of school. Because the climate and health benefits are nearly equivalent to the energy savings for green buildings in the United States, and up to 10 times higher in developing countries, they provide an important and previously unquantified societal value. Future analyses should consider these co-benefits when weighing policy decisions around energy-efficient buildings.

Concepts: Pollution, Air pollution, Energy development, Limit superior and limit inferior, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building



This study determines the magnitude of the market signaling effect arising from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for green buildings and explores the mechanisms behind the signaling effect. Previous studies have shown that signaling or marketability plays an important role in the pursuit for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and equivalent green-building certification. By analyzing all new construction projects receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from 2000 to 2012 in the US, this study estimates the relative importance of ‘green’ signaling. This broad perspective using project-level data enables an analysis of some drivers of signaling and the pursuit of marketing benefits. The roles of local competition and market conditions, as well as municipal regulations are examined, especially as they differ between types of building owners (e.g., for-profit firms, governments, nonprofits). The results indicate that the non-building performance value-value captured by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design signals above and beyond the specific building attributes that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifies-dominates the attainment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scores around certification tier thresholds. Further, strong evidence of spatial clustering of this non-building performance value for some owner types indicates that for-profit owners may be more responsive to local competition than non-profit owners. Local legislative mandates predict greater signaling intensity by government-owned buildings, as expected, but for-profit-owned projects tend to signal less, even after controls for local conditions. The results highlight the importance of local conditions, including peer effects and regulations, in driving non-building performance values across a wide range of green buildings.

Concepts: Signal, Ownership, Construction, Real estate, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Sustainable design, Natural building, Environmental planning


Art and architecture can be an obvious choice to pair with science though historically this has not always been the case. This paper is an attempt to interact across disciplines, define a new genre, bioarchitecture, and present opportunities for further research, collaboration and professional cooperation. Biomimetics, or the copying of living nature, is a field that is highly interdisciplinary, involving the understanding of biological functions, structures and principles of various objects found in nature by scientists. Biomimetics can lead to biologically inspired design, adaptation or derivation from living nature. As applied to engineering, bioinspiration is a more appropriate term, involving interpretation, rather than direct copying. Art involves the creation of discrete visual objects intended by their creators to be appreciated by others. Architecture is a design practice that makes a theoretical argument and contributes to the discourse of the discipline. Bioarchitecture is a blending of art/architecture and biomimetics/bioinspiration, and incorporates a bioinspired design from the outset in all parts of the work at all scales. Herein, we examine various attempts to date of art and architecture to incorporate bioinspired design into their practice, and provide an outlook and provocation to encourage collaboration among scientists and designers, with the aim of achieving bioarchitecture.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Bioinspired hierarchically structured surfaces for green science’.

Concepts: Mathematics, Life, Structure, Greek loanwords, Science, Engineering, Aesthetics, Sustainable design


Reduction in construction waste is a pressing need in many countries. The design of building elements is considered a pivotal process to achieve waste reduction at source, which enables an informed prediction of their wastage reduction levels. However the lack of quantitative methods linking design strategies to waste reduction hinders designing out waste practice in building projects. Therefore, this paper addresses this knowledge gap through the design and validation of a Building Design Waste Reduction Strategies (Waste ReSt) model that aims to investigate the relationships between design variables and their impact on onsite waste reduction. The Waste ReSt model was validated in a real-world case study involving 20 residential buildings in Spain. The validation process comprises three stages. Firstly, design waste causes were analyzed. Secondly, design strategies were applied leading to several alternative low waste building elements. Finally, their potential source reduction levels were quantified and discussed within the context of the literature. The Waste ReSt model could serve as an instrumental tool to simulate designing out strategies in building projects. The knowledge provided by the model could help project stakeholders to better understand the correlation between the design process and waste sources and subsequently implement design practices for low-waste buildings.

Concepts: Scientific method, Implementation, Design, Design management, Architectural engineering, Design strategy, Metadesign, Sustainable design


This intergroup case study compared users' mental models with an expert design model of a water management system in a green building. The system incorporates a constructed wetland component and a rainwater collection pond that together recycle water for re-use in the building and its surroundings. The sample consisted of five building occupants and the cleaner (6 users) and two experts who were involved with the design of the water management system. Users' mental model descriptions and the experts' design model were derived from in-depth interviews combined with self-constructed (and verified) diagrams. Findings from the study suggest that there is considerable variability in the user mental models that could impact the efficient functioning of the water management system. Recommendations for improvements are discussed.

Concepts: Water cycle, Wastewater, Recycling, Scientific modeling, Sustainable design, Natural building


A facile strategy of fabricating high-performance metal-organic framework (MOF)/polyimide (PI) mixed matrix membranes (MMMs) by designing the MOF/PI matrix interface via polydopamine coating is reported. The overall separation performance of the designed MMMs surpasses the state-of-the-art 2008 Robeson upper bound for the H2 /CH4 and H2 /N2 gas pairs and approaches the 2008 upper bound for the O2 /N2 gas pair.

Concepts: Typography, Design, Graphic design, Design management, Quark, Metadesign, Sustainable design, O2


The matter of environmental concern prioritization integrated into globally used green building rating systems is a fundamental issue since it determines how the performance of a structure or development is reflected. Certain nationally-developed certification systems are used globally without being subjected to adjustments with respect to local geographical, cultural, economic and social parameters. This may lead to a situation where the results of an evaluation may not reflect the reality of the region and/or the site of construction. The main objective of this paper is to examine and underline the problems regarding the issue of weighting environmental concerns in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system, which is a US-originated but globally used assessment tool. The methodology of this study consists of; (i) an analysis of the approach of LEED in the New Construction and Major Renovations scheme in version 3 (LEED NC, v.3) and the Building Design and Construction scheme in version 4 (LEED BD + C, v.4), (ii) case studies in which regional priority credits (RPCs) set by LEED for four countries (Canada, Turkey, China and Egypt) are criticized with respect to countries' own local conditions, and, (iii) an analysis of the approaches of major environmental assessment tools, namely; BREEAM, SBTool, CASBEE and Green Star, in comparison to the approach in LEED, regarding the main issue of this paper. This work shows that, even in its latest version (v.4) LEED still displays some inadequacies and inconsistencies from the aspect of environmental concern prioritization and has not yet managed to incorporate a system which is more sensitive to this issue. This paper further outlines the differences and similarities between the approaches of the aforementioned major environmental assessment tools with respect to the issue of concern and the factors that should be integrated into future versions of LEED.

Concepts: Environmentalism, Conservation movement, Environmental movement, Priority, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Building engineering


Improved indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the critical components of green building design. Green building tax credit (e.g., New York State Green Building Tax Credit (GBTC)) and certification programs (e.g., Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)) require indoor air quality measures and compliance with allowable maximum concentrations of common indoor air pollutants. It is not yet entirely clear whether compliance with these programs results in improved IAQ and ultimately human health. As a case in point, annual indoor air quality measurements were conducted in a residential green high-rise building for five consecutive years by an industrial hygiene contractor to comply with the building’s GBTC requirements. The implementation of green design measures resulted in better IAQ compared to data in references of conventional homes for some parameters, but could not be confirmed for others. Relative humidity and carbon dioxide were satisfactory according to existing standards. Formaldehyde levels during four out of five years were below the most recent proposed exposure limits found in the literature. To some degree, particulate matter (PM) levels were lower than that in studies from conventional residential buildings. Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) with known permissible exposure limits were below levels known to cause chronic health effects, but their concentrations were inconclusive regarding cancer health effects due to relatively high detection limits. Although measured indoor air parameters met all IAQ maximum allowable concentrations in GBTC and applicable LEED requirements at the time of sampling, we argue that these measurements were not sufficient to assess IAQ comprehensively because more sensitive sampling/analytical methods for PM and VOCs are needed; in addition, there is a need for a formal process to ensure rigor and adequacy of sampling and analysis methods. Also, we suggest that a comprehensive IAQ assessment should include mixed mode thermal comfort models, semi-volatile organic compounds, assessment of new chemicals, and permissible exposure levels of many known indoor VOCs and bioaerosols. Plus, the relationship between energy consumption and IAQ, and tenant education on health effects of indoor pollutants and their sources may need more attention in IAQ investigations in green buildings.

Concepts: Smog, Volatile organic compound, Indoor air quality, Air pollution, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Abstract Purpose: To respond to growing calls for a theoretical unpacking of Universal Design (UD), a disparate movement cohering around attempts to design spaces and technologies that seek to allow use by all people (to the fullest extent possible). The on-going embedding of UD into architectural practice and pedagogy represents an opportune juncture at which to draw learning from other distinct-but-related transformatory architectural movements. Methods: Sociological-theoretical commentary. Results: UD has to date, and necessarily, been dominated by the practice contexts from which it emerged. Appealing as a short-hand for description of “designing-for-all”, in most cases UD has come to stand in as a term to signal a general intent in this direction and as an umbrella term for the range of technical design resources that have been developed under these auspices. There remains a fundamental ambivalence vis-à-vis the question of users' power/capacity to influence decision-making in the design process in UD; technically-oriented typologies of bodies predominate in influential UD architectural accounts. Conclusions: UD represents rich technical and pedagogical resources for those architects committed to transforming the existing built environment so as to be less hostile to a wide range of users. However, within UD, unpacking the social role of the professional architect vis-à-vis a variety of publics is an important, but hitherto underdeveloped, challenge; issues concerning professional-citizen power relations continue to animate parallel architectural politics, and UD can both contribute and draw much from these on-going explorations. Implications for Rehabilitation Universal Design (UD) architecture shares a close affinity with rehabilitation practice, with the creation of built environments that allow use by individuals with a wide range of capacities a priority for both. While an effective communicative “bridge” between professions, UD’s deployment typically leaves unspoken the capacity of users to meaningfully affect decision-making in the design process. UD architecture has much to draw from, and contribute to, parallel movements in “participatory architectural design”; debates therein have illuminated much about the social practices underpinning designing for difference. UD could engage more fully with questions relating to the social and political role of the architect.

Concepts: Engineering, Design, Design management, Architecture, Architectural design, Architectural engineering, Architect, Sustainable design