Sustainable design of buildings: a technical report by the JRC

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The research project EFIResources: Resource Efficient Construction towards Sustainable Design supports European policies related to the efficient use of resources in construction. Its major goal is the development of a performance-based approach for sustainable design, enabling to assess the resource efficiency of buildings, throughout the complete life cycle.


The proposed approach aims at the harmonization between structural design and sustainability design of buildings, in order to enable an easier integration of structural and sustainability criteria in the design process, thus coping with the basic requirements for construction works of the Construction Products Regulation.


In the structural design of buildings, the effect of loads on a structural member is compared with a reference value, in terms of either ultimate resistance (ultimate limit state) or admissible deformation (serviceability limit state) and safety is ensured when the load effect is lower than the reference value.


Analogously, in the proposed approach for sustainable design, the life cycle environmental performance of a given building is compared with a reference value or benchmark, represented by the average value of the life cycle environmental performance of the stock of buildings, in a given area. In this case, the environmental performance of the building being assessed should be lower than the reference value to ensure a better environmental solution.


The proposed approach has a twofold achievement: (i) by providing a benchmark for the environmental performance of buildings, it enables an easier interpretation of the performance of any given building and the identification of best practices, thus motivating the pursuit of measures leading to an enhanced building performance; (ii) the introduction of benchmarks for the environmental performance of buildings, which should to be updated over time, strives towards an effective reduction of the use of resources and relative environmental impacts in the building sector, so that the targets foreseen by the EU may become tangible in a realistic horizon of time.


The performance based approach for sustainable design is fully described in this report, including the definition of a set of benchmarks for residential and office buildings. At the end of the report, the limit state of sustainability is introduced.