CIFE 2009-2010 Seed Project:
Social Networking for Sustainable Building Practices

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Current Building Practices are not Sustainable

Today, commercial and residential buildings consume approximately 40% of U.S. energy each year; this creates major sustainability issues with energy production generating carbon dioxide emissions and thus contributing to global climate change. Energy insecurity and rising prices of conventional energy sources are major threats to economic and political stability in the United States and the world. This research will help reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil as well as reduce carbon emissions that act as greenhouse gases.

The lifecycle of a building is constituted by design, construction, use, and end of life (including remodels) phases with many stakeholders. Much attention has been paid to the design phase with programs like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), but the use phase, when the majority of environmental impacts occur, has been largely ignored. The decisions that govern a building's sustainability throughout its life cycle are made by a team of stakeholders distributed spatially and temporally. Responsibility is passed from one to the next, and ultimately borne by no one.

Current Process
Existing Building Construction and Management System

The need for integration and understanding between these groups makes them an ideal user of social networking tools to help synthesize conflicting values, archive decisionmaking processes, and interact with each other to maximize building sustainability.

Proposed Process
Proposed Building Lifecycle Management System

The proposed solution involves three technologies for the sustainable built environment. First, a database for users (of varying skill) throughout the building life to access and interact with building data. This database will enable the development of novel data mining techniques and take advantage of the inherent structure of sensors within a building. Second, life cycle assessment (LCA) tools that use Bayesian updating to capture changes in building sustainability resulting from actual design, construction, and operation choices and allow for system optimization. The life cycle will be measured through indicators including energy consumption, global warming potential, and water consumption. Finally, new visualization tools that rely on 4 D building models to demonstrate the local to global impacts of design choices throughout the lifecycle. For, the initial case study, Stanford's Yang and Yamazaki Energy and Environment Building (Y2E2) will be used.

Y2E2 (photo from

This research should lead to a greater stakeholder understanding of the global impacts of local decisions; as a result, the building becomes a living laboratory in which designers, users, and managers are able to see the effects of personal choices on long-term sustainability. Further, it has the potential to increase knowledge of how humans interact with complex systems. It will bring together a diverse group including architects, tenants, engineers, etc. and take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and managing the complex impacts of buildings on the environment. In addition, it will lead to the development of an innovative central lifecycle dataset illustrating the role of each stakeholder on overall building impacts and may thus significantly influence stakeholder behavior.

The proposed framework provides scientists, engineers, industry, etc. with tools to develop a more complete picture of the opportunity and methods for social networking to produce sustainable building practices using life cycle assessment approaches. It has the potential to transform the building infrastructure construction and the future of the building industry. Results will be shared through community programs, industry workshops, technical conference presentations, and academic publications. The research is interdisciplinary and requires expertise from departments across the Stanford community, thus strengthening the diversity of the project.

Funding Agency:

Stanford University Center for Integrated Facility Engineering

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©2010 M. Lepech

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