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An adaptable tool for assessing building sustainability


Credit: sbtool.cz

Construction companies have a growing body of environmentally sustainable building codes and standards to choose from. The best-known international standards are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which was developed in the United States but is used globally, and BREEAM, the United Kingdom's Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

Another standard is the SBTool, established by the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment, a non-profit organisation based in Ottawa, Canada. Rather than being an overarching standard, the SBTool is designed to be adaptable to local situations, and it has influenced the development of a number of national standards in the Czech Republic (SBToolCZ), Italy (Protocollo ITACA), Portugal (SBToolPT) and Spain (Verde).

In the Czech Republic, the development of a version of the tool adapted to Czech conditions and requirements has been done by the Czech Technical University in Prague. Martin Vonka of the University's Faculty of Civil Engineering says that work to develop a Czech version of the tool started in 2005, and the tool has been available on the market since 2010.

In a paper on the SBToolCZ, which has been prepared for the Central Europe Towards Sustainable Building (CESB) conference (Prague, June 2013), it is noted that the tool is not just an assessment methodology, but can influence building design, so that it takes into account a wide range of factors. The tool allows assessment of a building beyond standard measures of energy and water performance. SBToolCZ evaluations include, for example, climate conditions, geomorphology in the construction zone, materials including the availability of local materials, the use of sustainable technologies in the building, and even local traditions and cultural aspects that might affect a building's construction.

The tool can be used to score a building project according to a number of indicators and benchmarks. Various weightings are applied and buildings are assessed according to their environmental, social and economic characteristics. In addition, an evaluation can be done for “locality” - taking into account the building site and its surroundings. The final output can be a certificate that rates the building project as “certified” (meaning that it meets minimum standards), or as bronze, silver or gold.

According to the paper prepared for the CESB conference, the fact that SBToolCZ takes into account local conditions can make it more relevant in the Czech Republic than LEED or BREEAM, though these are still preferred by some developers. Martin Vonka says that SBToolCZ has so far been used for about 20 residential buildings, and that two office developments based on the tool are underway.

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