TC Architects - News


In the last issue, we identified the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED™ program as the foremost sustainable design model in the United States.  In addition to LEED there are several standards and design models that influence and work hand-in-glove with it.
The standards ASTM E 2114 “Standard Terminology for Sustainability Relative to the Performance of Buildings” and ASTM E 2129 “Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products” establish the terminology and essential methods for sustainable design practice.
ASTM E 2114 establishes "meanings and explanations of terms applicable to sustainable development."  The scope statement states, "In the interest of common understanding and standardization, consistent word usage is encouraged to help eliminate the major barrier to effective technical communication." These documents are available for a fee from ASTM International (
When it began attracting national attention in the 1980s, the manufacturing sector quickly recognized the marketing potential sustainable design presented and was eager to provide products to fulfill the expectations of consumers and architects pursuing it.  The ASTM Standards cited here were conceived to help the design sector sort out real information from less-than-substantial marketing claims that followed the initial flush of sustainability excitement.
ASTM E 2129, first issued in 2001, consists of the following categories[1]:

Figure 1 ASTM E 2129

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 20-page 16 CFR Part 260, Guide for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, identifies the problems associated with exploitation of sustainable design concepts in marketing products to consumers and to the design sector.  According to its scope statement, "These guides apply to environmental claims included in labeling, advertising, promotional materials and all other forms of marketing, whether asserted directly or by implication through words, symbols, emblems, logos, depictions, product brand names, or through any other means... ."

For example, the document points out the difference between the terms “recyclable” and “recycled” and how easily they might be misunderstood by an architect designing a project or a building owner making a business decision.

This document is available free from the Federal Trade Commission (

National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST):  The Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES)™ program is designed to "develop and implement a systematic methodology for selecting building products that achieve the most appropriate balance between environmental and economic performance based on the decision maker's  values."  These documents are available for free from NIST (  Figure 2 illustrates the BEES sustainability model.

BEES™ Environmental Performance Factors 

Figure 2 In the BEES sustainability model, a project's environmental performance depends on several contributing factors.  The percentages are Relative Importance Weights as determined by a 1990 study performed by the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board.
For more about BEES™, read the free download publication Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability Technical Manual and User Guide.
In the next issue, we will review Green Globes, an alternative sustainable design program and how it differs from USGBC’s LEED program.
[1]. Source: David J. Wyatt and Hans W. Meier, Construction Specifications: Principles and Applications, Cengage Learning, 2008.