Science and Technology Resources on the Internet
Sustainable Building Design
Sustainability Studies Librarian
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Rebekkah Smith Aldrich
Coordinator for Library Sustainability
Mid-Hudson Library System
Poughkeepsie, New York
Our built environment has a tremendous impact on the human experience and the natural world. From the indoor air we breathe to the natural resources utilized to create the places in which we live, learn, work, and play - the health, well-being, and future of humans and the natural world are greatly impacted by the choices made when selecting a site and constructing facilities.
Sustainability speaks to the capacity to endure. Society's recognition of climate change leads to the stark awakening of the grave effects on the human race. The Earth has been irrevocably affected by the deleterious choices of the past few generations. Future generations will need to adapt, adjust, and be resilient in order to survive. Sustainable building design will become increasingly imperative as resources dwindle and erratic changes in our natural world occur. In addition, the public health risk and endangerment of other life forms will continue to capture attention and drive market demand.
While there is no singular definition, as used here "sustainable building design" or "green building" refers to, "the planning, design, construction, and operations of buildings with several central, foremost considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material section and the building's effects on its site" (U.S. Green Building Council 2014, para. 3).
More pragmatically, sustainable buildings are structures that are highly energy efficient, utilize materials that respect our natural resources, result in good indoor air quality, and conserve water. A truly sustainable building would be "holistic" and do all of the above, not just one aspect of the description.
Scope and Methods
The intended audience for this webliography is librarians, both in the sciences and in other disciplines, and others that are new to the field such as students and members of the general public who are interested in this topic. Sustainable building practitioners may find parts useful as well.
The general resources provide a starting point for researching the sustainable building movement, while the remaining resources cover specific subtopics: building techniques; design processes; indoor environmental quality; water use; directories; forums; professional associations; and certification programs, standards, and codes. This resource is applicable to researching industrial, commercial, residential, and community-based buildings.
This webliography is not intended to be exhaustive; rather, it is offered as a portal through which to discover useful information. While sustainable construction is growing on international fronts, this webliography focuses primarily on the United States, with a few state-focused and international examples with universal applications.
Resources were identified through the authors' scholarly, professional, and personal knowledge; participation in conferences and workshops; and hands-on experiences. Web searches turned up relevant content using search terms that included: sustainable building, green building, ecological building, and alternative building. Content was assessed for relevance, quality, ease of use, authority, and currency. All resources are freely available on the open web.
- Ecological Building Network
- The Ecological Building Network is an open group of engineers, builders, and architects who develop and disseminate best technologies for the built environment. The information provided is geared toward reducing negative impacts of buildings on the environment, while preserving health and safety. The site also offers extensive research on straw bale structures as well as tests that assess performance and safety of the structures. The group sponsors the annual BuildWell conference which is a high-level symposium focused on innovative materials for a greener planet.
- ENERGY STAR: Buildings & Plants [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
- ENERGY STAR® is a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that works to improve energy efficiency. They provide resources for building an energy program so that business, industry, and government leaders can demonstrate the financial value and greenhouse gas reductions through strategic energy management.
- Green Building, Remodeling and Development
- This web site was created by the National Association of Home Builders, an organization that promotes viable, credible, market-driven, and voluntary green building initiatives at the federal level, both in legislative and regulatory arenas. They also assist state and local home building associations through advocacy efforts. The web site includes articles, reports, and standards that support sustainable, high-performance new home construction and remodeling. Type a term such as sustainability into the search box to access relevant materials.
- Buckminster Fuller Institute
- Named for Buckminster Fuller, a 20th century inventor, architect and global systems visionary, the Institute offers current information based on Fuller's revolutionary influence on buildings. Exhibitions, lectures, seminars, workshops and hands-on training combine global trends and local needs with a comprehensive approach to design across the disciplines of art, science, design, and technology. The web site offers access to the Trimtab newsletter, the Dymaxion Forum with updates and news from the visionary building world, and calls for proposals, including the prestigious Fuller Challenge.
- Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building
- The Geiger Research Institute offers training and research workshops, a straw bale certification program, articles and publications on many aspects of sustainable building, and house plans, including a free emergency shelter plan. The site also includes links to related information on low-impact living, appropriate technology, image galleries, and free publications on topics such as energy efficiency upgrades, net zero housing, building with straw bales and cob, and more.
- Green Building Methods
- These detailed resource pages from the Green Building Alliance describe various methods which may be incorporated into building projects. Each method has a drop down menu revealing sub-categories: Exterior (e.g., cool roofs), Interior (e.g., composting toilets), Energy (e.g., thermal storage), Processes (e.g., green leasing), and Site solutions (e.g., permeable pavement).
- Highest Good Housing
- Highest Good Housing, a sustainability think tank, encourages low-impact development housing that is cost effective, long lasting, and built from resources that are readily available. The web site offers seven different communal living mini-village models (15-100 residences) as prototypes for self-sufficient and duplicable teacher/demonstration communities, villages, and cities. Each model represents an ecobuild methodology that incorporates food production, sustainable energy, and ultra-affordable and eco-friendly living.
- Natural Homes
- Natural Homes is a non-profit organization that provides a platform for natural builders, craftspeople, and environmental organizations to find articles, videos, and a gallery of images. Online group forums also offer opportunities for networking, sharing experience, and learning from others about working with cob, straw bales, stone, timber, and other natural materials.
- Yestermorrow Design Build School
- Yestermorrow's motto is: "Think with your hands." The school's 100+ intensive workshops in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft-on courses are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. Visitors to their web site can subscribe to their free publication, Yestermorrow News, and access a jobs directory and a list of community projects. Yesternet, their alumni portal, is a free service which allows any professional to connect with a question. Job seekers may also request informational interviews with alumni in others similar industry.
- Designing & Remodeling a Home [U.S. Department of Energy]
- This site offers information on energy efficiency when designing a new home or remodeling an existing one. Information on Sunrooms & Sunspaces; Incentives & Financing for Energy Efficient Homes; Cool Roofs; Energy Efficient Manufactured Homes among other topics is provided. An Energy Saver Guide is downloadable as a PDF document.
- Energy Design Resources
- This site offers decision-making tools and resources for designing, building, and operating more energy-efficient buildings. Architects, engineers, lighting designers, and developers can learn about current techniques and technologies that increase efficiency of commercial and industrial workplaces. This site is useful for its links to federal research, programs and national competitions, design briefs, and technology overviews.
- International Living Future Institute
- The International Living Future Institute aims to transform communities into socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative systems. Shaped by leading green building experts and thought-leaders, the Institute runs the Living Building Challenge, Living Community Challenge, Living Product Challenge, Net Zero Energy Certification, the Cascadia Green Building Council, Ecotone Publishing, and other programs. The site offers an online research library comprised of reports on water, energy, building reuse, and other topics.
- Life Cycle Initiative
- The Life Cycle Initiative is a joint program of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), and supports buildings in making sustainable choices. By understanding the life cycle stages, a builder can reduce resource consumption and improve the performance of products. The Initiative contributes to the 10-Year Framework of Programmes to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, as requested at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It aims to promote life cycle thinking globally and facilitate the exchange of knowledge across continents. The web site offers free reports, articles, videos, interviews, training materials for water and carbon footprint reduction, and other resources.
- The Resilient Design Institute
- The Resilient Design Institute is a think tank focused on the built environment, energy, food, infrastructure, and economic systems, as well as on the organizations and institutions that manage and support these systems. The web site offers builders and designers a multifaceted lens to inform solutions to disruptions in the built environment. A list of Resilient Design Principles supports builders thinking regarding the viability of buildings. Case studies and blog posts feature specific projects and issues informed by these principles.
- Smart Growth [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
- This Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site offers Smart Growth resources, technical assistance, tools, webinars, videos, podcasts, awards, publications, and case studies pertaining to sustainable site selection for all types of facilities.
- Whole Building Design Guide
- This resource was developed by the National Institute of Building Sciences and provides a "whole systems" look at construction, project management, operations, and maintenance towards the goal of building more sustainable facilities. The web site offers a list of tools, including energy analysis and life-cycle costing software, that builders can review for possible acquisition. The Documents & Reference section connects to case studies, a product guide, and the Construction Criteria Base, an electronic library of construction guide specification, manuals and standards.
Indoor Environmental Quality
- Indoor Air Quality [U.S. Department of Labor]
- This site, created by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), offers extensive examples of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) symptoms, causes, and solutions. The target audience is workers and employers who need useful, up-to-date information to identify, correct, and prevent IAQ problems. Access to 28 OSHA-approved State Plans is offered as well as a section on employer responsibilities and workers' rights. Related links provide information on asbestos, carbon monoxide, diesel exhaust, mold, second hand smoke, and Legionnaires' disease.
- Indoor Environmental Quality [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
- Written from a workplace safety perspective, this resource, created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, provides information about the sources of indoor environmental contaminants and tips for controlling them in order to help prevent or resolve building-related worker symptoms.
- Sustainable Facilities Tool
- The Sustainable Facilities Tool provides a comprehensive overview of potential areas of impact to indoor environmental quality (IEQ). The quality of a building's environment has a direct relationship to the health and wellbeing of those who occupy a space. This site provides basic information about IEQ as well as solutions and strategies to improve or create good IEQ in new and existing buildings. The site offers multiple layers of free, useful information under the categories Plan a Project, Explore a Building, and Buy Green.
- Best Management Practices for Water Efficiency [U.S. Department of Energy]
- The Federal Energy Management Program offers 14 best management practices to increase water efficiency, improve operations and maintenance, retrofit and replace equipment, reduce water use, and increase water efficiency. Examples include water-efficient irrigation, steam boiler systems, commercial kitchen equipment, and laboratory and medical equipment. The site also features case studies and an EPA online booklet entitled Water Sense at Work.
- Water Management Best Practices [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
- This site offers EPA's best management practices related to water management. Each of the topic areas -- Water Conservation, Landscaping, and Stormwater Management -- lead to selected water-related case studies as well as information on federal requirements and permitting. The stormwater section leads to definitionss -- with some examples -- of Green Roofs, Rain Barrels and Cisterns, Permeable Pavements, Bioretention Areas, Vegetated Swales/Dry Swales, Curb and Gutter Elimination, Vegetated Filter Strips, Sand and Organic Filters, Constructed Wetlands, and Riparian Buffers.
- WaterSense at Work [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
- WaterSense is a voluntary partnership and labeling program launched by the EPA in 2006 and consists of more than 2,600 partners. This 308-page government report was published in 2012 and provides highly detailed best management practices for water conservation in commercial and institutional buildings.
- Urban Runoff: Low Impact Development [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
- The low-impact approach to land development (or re-development) works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. This site offers a series of detailed fact sheets covering topics such as natural landscaping, site drainage, bioretention, rain gardens, vegetated rooftops, rain barrels, and permeable pavements.
- Building Energy Software Tools Directory [IBPSA-USA]
- This directory, formerly hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, offers a database of more than 417 building software tools for evaluating energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability in buildings. Filters on the database lead the user to specific tools for Energy Conservation Measures, Building Energy Auditing, Indoor Air Quality Simulation, Solar & Photovoltaic Analysis, Water Use Analysis, and other areas. Descriptions of each tool include expertise required, users, strengths, weaknesses, and technical support contacts.
- Passipedia A-Z
- This site, from the Passivhaus Institute in Denmark, offers a vast array of articles relevant to the "passive house," a building standard in energy efficient design that uses design and construction methods, rather than applied technologies, to reduce energy needs. The web site offers information for municipalities, training, and built examples.
- Tiny House Directory
- The tiny house movement is an architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes. This site contains resources and information about tiny houses including blogs, videos, house plans, conferences, and a directory of tiny house builders.
- Green Building Talk
- Green Building Talk is an active forum on green building. Users can browse the site as a guest; posting requires registration. The site can be searched by keyword, subject, topic, and user. Forum topics include: Commercial; Residential; Efficient Design and Planning; Efficient Building and Construction; and Green Building Technologies (e.g., radiant heating, geothermal heat pumps).
- Sustainable Sources
- This mailing list for the green building community is used for sharing information about green building and related fields. Topics of discussion include environmentally-preferable design, construction, and building elements.
- Tiny House Blog
- This blog is produced by Kent Griswold, an expert builder with a passion for small spaces. Different types of construction are covered, from logs to yurts to the unusual. The site includes book reviews and ideas for alternative energy for heat and electricity. Readers contribute stories and photos about their own experiences living simply and small.
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- The AIA serves as a primary voice of the architecture profession and a resource for their members. A key in conjunction with the Department of Energy, which allows firms to evaluate their feature is the online reporting tool, developed portfolio and compare individual projects to other projects aiming for high-performance building by 2030. The AIA KnowledgeNet, a social networking web site, allows for sharing professional advice and information. A raft of social media links fosters further professional connections. The Architect Finder directory connects users to more than 20,000 architecture firms in the U.S. and abroad.
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
- This organization is dedicated to advancing the art and science of heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigerating to promote a sustainable world. The web site provides access to industry news, research articles on standards and guidelines, an advocacy toolkit, and a job board among other offerings.
- Architecture 2030
- This non-profit organization's web site is navigated via three areas: Problem, Solution, Design. A free online platform, 2030 Palette, supports the design of low-carbon/carbon neutral resilient structures, communities, and cities. The organization is also the creator of the 2030 Challenge, which works to ensure that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations are carbon-neutral by 2030. An online education portal offers a series of ten one-hour courses that support participants' high-performance building knowledge necessary to meet the 2030 Challenge targets. The site is useful for professional and non-profit organizations, universities, businesses, and individuals.
- The Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB)
- This network of builders, architects, designers, manufacturers, students, educators, housing associations, and local authorities develop, share, and promote best practices in environmentally sustainable building. The site includes an extensive online library of focused publications such as Building Fabric -- Why Engineers Should Be Involved, conference presentations, case studies, annual reports, and the AECB Newsletter.
- Green Resource Council
- As part of the National Association of Realtors, this web site offers education, marketing tools and information on energy-efficient technology, green ratings, green design, green incentives, and green living. Tools such as Find Your Carbon Footprint can be found under the Green Resources link. This site is a useful site for between potential homeowners and real estate agents who are invested in and advocate for the green philosophy and act as a positive force for creating sustainable communities.
Certification Programs, Standards & Codes
Net Zero Energy Building Certification/Living Building Challenge
The International Living Future Institute provides two certification programs, Living Building Challenge and Net Zero Energy Building Certification, that use holistic design considerations to build highly sustainable facilities. The Living Building Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories called Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. The Net Zero Energy Building Certification provides assurance that a building design utilizes energy conservation and on-site renewable generation to meet all of its heating, cooling, and electricity needs.
Passive House Institute (PHIUS)
This non-profit organization is committed to making high-performance passive building principles the mainstream best building practice and the mainstream market energy performance standard. The web site allows users to access WUFI Passive, a free energy software modeling tool and a directory of PHIUS certified builder, raters and verifiers.
- Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM)
- This environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings sets the standard for best practices in sustainable building design, construction, and operation. The Resources section of the web site offers briefing papers and videos about the system. The News section can be filtered by information on communities, infrastructure, new construction, and refurbishment.
- Green Building Codes [U.S. Department of Energy]
- This DOE web site includes information, resources, technical assistance, publications, model adoption policies, compliance software and tools, and training modules based on best practices. Building energy codes experts are available to answer specific questions submitted through the web-based help desk.
- Green Globes Certification
- This tool is used for a wide range of commercial, institutional, and multi-residential building types including offices, schools, hospitals, hotels, academic and industrial facilities, warehouses, laboratories, sports facilities, and multi-residential buildings. The web site offers a Green Resource Library with articles on topics such as energy assessment, selection of green materials, and a comparison between LEED rating systems and Green Globes.
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), U.S. Green Building Council
- The U.S. Green Building Council oversees LEED, a certification program that guides in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings, homes, and communities. Users may enter through a series of portals related to building design, interior design, building operations, neighborhood development or homes. Each allows access to the relevant rating systems and score cards. A link at the top of the web site leads to the LEEDS Credit Library. There is a directory of organizations, people, and projects, as well as information on credentialing, advocacy, and policy.
U.S. Green Building Council. 2014. What is Green Building? [Updated 2016 Aug 3]. http://www.usgbc.org/articles/what-green-building
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