Structural Engineering and Sustainable Development

By Wil V. Srubar III.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Global climate change is fueled by the continual, unsequestered proliferation of greenhouse gases in the environment. Methane, nitrous oxide, and other halogenated compounds are second only to carbon dioxide in the list of greatest contributors to global warming. The construction and operation of buildings contribute to over 38% of the United States’ carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions; worldwide production of cement alone is responsible for approximately 8% of all CO₂ being released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, waste from the construction, renovation, and demolition of buildings occupies 40% of all landfill volumes in the United States. The modern green building movement seeks to counter the environmental concerns of building and construction. Though prescriptive design standards and rating systems (e.g., LEED®, Green Globes, SBTool 07) have affected positive change in the construction and operation of buildings, the responsibilities and decisions of sustainable building design have been imparted to architectural professionals, building managers, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) engineers. Despite being an essential member of the building design team, the structural engineer’s responsibilities are not often viewed as valuable to green building goals, which are predominantly HVAC energy-driven. Significant strides can be made, however, if the structural perspective were integrated into, not separated from, the holistic sustainable design of buildings. In this paper, creative opportunities for structural engineers to help advance green building objectives are identified and discussed. Strategies include ensuring the sustainability, durability, and long-term health of structural systems, namely, recycled material specification, lifecycle analyses (LCA) and embodied-energy assessments, design for renovation, reuse, deconstruction, and novel bio-based material development. The essential inclusion of structural engineers during preliminary building design phases is also discussed.

Keywords: Green Building, Architecture, Structural Engineering, Rating Systems, Lifecycle Analysis

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.11-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 204.956KB).

Wil V. Srubar III

Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

Wil V. Srubar III is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He received his B.S. degree in civil engineering from Texas A & M University with a concentration in structural engineering and architectural history in 2006. He received his M.S. degree in 2008 from The University of Texas at Austin where he studied structural engineering, sustainable architecture, and the durability of cement-based materials. Currently at Stanford, his research focuses on the development and durability of sustainable construction materials with particular emphasis on the mechanisms, mitigation, and modeling of hygrothermal effects on natural fiber-reinforced biopolymeric composite materials.