Sustainability indicators and certification schemes for the built environment

Authored by: Catalina Turcu

Routledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138674769
eBook ISBN: 9781315561103
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on the role that SIs play in measuring sustainability in the built environment and is structured under three main sections. First, the chapter reflects on whether one can actually measure sustainability and briefly discusses various definitions of sustainability and why it is important to measure sustainability. The second part focuses entirely on sustainability indicators. It looks at their role and characteristics, and pauses on the main methodological models for their development: expert-led (or top-down) and citizen-led (or bottom-up). It also introduces a third and alternative methodological model, the hybrid model. The third section looks at certification schemes for sustainable built environments, such as BREEAM and LEED, which aggregate indicators into indices and are deployed to assess the sustainability performance of buildings and/or built areas. The chapter concludes by discussing some of the problems associated with the use of sustainability indicators and certification schemes in the built environment such as ‘one size doesn’t fit all’, expert-biased processes and unequal consideration of sustainability pillars; but also their merits including raising awareness, dissemination of sustainability knowledge and evidence-based support in the decision-making process.

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