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Special Issue "The Environmental and Economic Sustainability in Building Construction"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020) | Viewed by 19242

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Elena Fregonara
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy
Interests: evaluation of project economic sustainability; life cycle costing; real estate market analysis
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Roberto Giordano
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Associate Professor, Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino, 10125 Turin, Italy
Interests: whole life carbon assessment; circular economy; embodied impacts; life cycle assessment; green building ratings
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Recently, theoretical and empirical research on economic–environmental sustainability has experienced a great expansion, with the proposal of methodologies for supporting decision making since the early design stages, in cases of new building construction projects or retrofitting of existing heritage.

As the literature demonstrates, multidisciplinary approaches are frequently adopted involving disciplines such as real estate appraisal and economic evaluation of projects as well as building environmental design, materials ecology, building physics, and environmental building assessment. The principles of the circular economy are taken as a central theoretical approach, based on the concept of a self-generating economic system, in full harmony with the theory of life cycle thinking, a theory that conceives the project as a sequence of stages that characterize the building’s life cycle, taking into account the environmental impacts of both the building materials and the whole building.

In the life-cycle perspective, the initial investment decisions depend on the design solutions since the early stages, related to the whole building life cycle, considering conjointly the construction–management phases and the end-of-life stage.

Despite the great attention given to this by the scientific communities, there is still wide space for research, aimed at harmonizing the economic and environmental viewpoints—for example, studies addressed to investigating approaches for quantifying conjointly the environmental and economic effects of different project options, including uncertainty and riskiness components.

With these premises, the Special Issue is focused at developing and disseminating knowledge related to economic–environmental sustainability evaluation methodologies, investigated in the architectural and engineering sectors.

Suitable works include studies on the economic valuation of real estate investment projects, the economic effects of building transformation projects on the environment, econometric models, cost analysis, risk analysis, project management, financial analysis, real estate market analysis, and asset price determinants.

At the same time, contributions are accepted regarding the environmental assessment of the building over its life cycle, studies that investigate the relationships between environmental impacts and life cycle stages (e.g., operational vs. embodied) and between environmental impacts and economic costs (e.g., monetization of carbon dioxide emissions).

Dr. Elena Fregonara
Dr. Roberto Giordano
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sustainability
  • real estate appraisal
  • economic evaluation of projects
  • life cycle cost
  • risk analysis
  • asset price determinants
  • life cycle assessment
  • building’s life cycle
  • building environmental assessment
  • environmental product labeling and rating
  • embodied energy and carbon
  • operational energy and carbon

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
Analysis and Assessment of the Building Life Cycle. Indicators and Tools for the Early Design Stage
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 6467; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116467 - 07 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2927
Abstract
Construction is a crucial sector in terms of worldwide environmental impacts. Building material production along with transport and demolition are no exception, because in the last decades, they have constantly increased their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Actions and initiatives are therefore [...] Read more.
Construction is a crucial sector in terms of worldwide environmental impacts. Building material production along with transport and demolition are no exception, because in the last decades, they have constantly increased their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Actions and initiatives are therefore important to tackle the relationship between buildings and climate change. Particularly, it is necessary to develop Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools useful to calculate the environmental impact of buildings and to make them accessible to designers and stakeholders acting in the building sector. The article aims to contribute to the international debate about environmental assessment indicators for buildings and the simplified LCA based tools. The Embodied Energy (EE) and the Embodied Carbon (EC) have been investigated. The former, related to primary energy content; the latter, associated with the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions. EE and EC have been used as indicators for the development of a calculation tool named EURECA, for assessing the environmental impact of the building over its life cycle, as defined by the EN 15978:2011 standard. The Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean’s house designed and built by an international academic team has been an opportunity to check the indicators and the tool’s effectiveness. Full article
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Article
EPC Labels and Building Features: Spatial Implications over Housing Prices
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2838; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052838 - 05 Mar 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1704
Abstract
The influence of building or dwelling energy performance on the real estate market dynamics and pricing processes is deeply explored, due to the fact that energy efficiency improvement is one of the fundamental reasons for retrofitting the existing housing stock. Nevertheless, the joint [...] Read more.
The influence of building or dwelling energy performance on the real estate market dynamics and pricing processes is deeply explored, due to the fact that energy efficiency improvement is one of the fundamental reasons for retrofitting the existing housing stock. Nevertheless, the joint effect produced by the building energy performance and the architectural, typological, and physical-technical attributes seems poorly studied. Thus, the aim of this work is to investigate the influence of both energy performance and diverse features on property prices, by performing spatial analyses on a sample of housing properties listed on Turin’s real estate market and on different sub-samples. In particular, Exploratory Spatial Data Analyses (ESDA) statistics, standard hedonic price models (Ordinary Least Squares—OLS) and Spatial Error Models (SEM) are firstly applied on the whole data sample, and then on three different sub-samples: two territorial clusters and a sub-sample representative of the most energy inefficient buildings constructed between 1946 and 1990. Results demonstrate that Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) labels are gaining power in influencing price variations, contrary to the empirical evidence that emerged in some previous studies. Furthermore, the presence of the spatial effects reveals that the impact of energy attributes changes in different sub-markets and thus has to be spatially analysed. Full article
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Article
From Textile Waste to Resource: A Methodological Approach of Research and Experimentation
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10667; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410667 - 21 Dec 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3352
Abstract
The transition to a circular economy shifts the focus onto reusing, renewing and recycling existing materials and products, considering waste as a resource. In this context, this article aims to describe the life cycle approach’s potential for the development of new building products [...] Read more.
The transition to a circular economy shifts the focus onto reusing, renewing and recycling existing materials and products, considering waste as a resource. In this context, this article aims to describe the life cycle approach’s potential for the development of new building products from textile waste, one of the most environmentally impacting activities at a global level, both in relation to the processes that characterise the supply chain and in relation to pre- and post-consumption waste. This article outlines the research methodology adopted by the cluster “From textile waste to resource” of the Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino, through the description of research projects carried out in partnership with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). In particular, it highlights the methodological approach adopted in a “grave to cradle” logic, in which the waste from one process becomes a new resource for another. This article highlights some open issues related to the limits and potential of the use of the life cycle approach as a “tool” to compare different options in a preliminary experimental research phase, to verify the environmental impacts of new materials and products made from recycled materials, and to compare new options with similar solutions available on the market. Full article
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Article
Identifying Spatial Relationships between Built Heritage Resources and Short-Term Rentals before the Covid-19 Pandemic: Exploratory Perspectives on Sustainability Issues
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4533; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114533 - 03 Jun 2020
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 3566
Abstract
Built heritage resources (BHRs) are multidimensional assets that need to be conceived under a sustainability and circular economy framework. Whereas it is essential that their conservation, management, and enjoyment are sustainable, it is also necessary that the environmental, cultural, and socio-economic contexts in [...] Read more.
Built heritage resources (BHRs) are multidimensional assets that need to be conceived under a sustainability and circular economy framework. Whereas it is essential that their conservation, management, and enjoyment are sustainable, it is also necessary that the environmental, cultural, and socio-economic contexts in which they are integrated are sustainable too. Like other amenities, BHRs can improve the quality of the urban environment and generate externalities; additionally, they may influence sectors such as real estate, hospitality, and tourism. In this framework, this contribution aims to identify spatial relationships occurring between BHRs and short-term rentals (STRs), i.e., a recent economic phenomenon facilitated by platforms such as Airbnb. Through the application of Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis techniques and taking Turin (Italy) as a case study, this article provides evidence that spatial correlation patterns between BHRs and STRs exist, and that the areas most affected by STRs are the residential neighborhoods located in the proximity of the historic center of the city. Relations with other sets of socio-economic variables are highlighted too, and conclusions suggest that future studies are essential not only to monitor sustainability issues and reflect on new housing models and sustainable uses of buildings, but also to understand the evolution of the phenomenon in light of the pandemic Covid-19. Full article
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Article
The Stochastic Annuity Method for Supporting Maintenance Costs Planning and Durability in the Construction Sector: A Simulation on a Building Component
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2909; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072909 - 06 Apr 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1724
Abstract
Service life estimate is crucial for evaluating the economic and environmental sustainability of projects, by means—adopting a life cycle perspective—of the Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA). Service life, in turn, is strictly correlated to maintenance investment and planning activities, in view of building/building [...] Read more.
Service life estimate is crucial for evaluating the economic and environmental sustainability of projects, by means—adopting a life cycle perspective—of the Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA). Service life, in turn, is strictly correlated to maintenance investment and planning activities, in view of building/building component/system/infrastructure products’ durability requirements, and in line with the environmental-energy policies, transposed into EU guidelines and regulations. Focusing on the use-maintenance-adaptation stage in the constructions’ life cycle, the aim of this work is to propose a methodology for supporting the “optimal maintenance planning” in function of life cycle costs, assuming the presence of financial constraints. A first research step is proposed for testing the economic sustainability of different project options, at the component scale, which imply different cost items and different maintenance-replacement interventions over time. The methodology is based on the Annuity Method, or Equivalent Annual Cost approach, as defined by the norm EN 15459-1:2017. The method, poorly explored in the literature, is proposed here as an alternative to the Global Cost approach (illustrated in the norm as well). Due to the presence of uncertainty correlated to deterioration processes and market variability, the stochastic Annuity Method is modeled by introducing flexibility in input data. Thus, with the support of Probability Analysis and the Monte Carlo Method (MCM), the stochastic LCCA, solved through the stochastic Equivalent Annual Cost, is used for the economic assessment of different maintenance scenarios. Two different components of an office building project (a timber and an aluminum frame), are assumed as a case for the simulation. The methodology intends to support decisions not only in the design phases, but also in the post-construction ones. Furthermore, it opens to potential applications in reinforced concrete infrastructures’ stock, which is approaching, as a considerable portion of the building stock, its end-of-life stage. Full article
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Article
Enhanced Cash Flow Valuation in Real Estate Management by Integrating Innovative Materials and Risk Assessment
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2201; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062201 - 12 Mar 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3380
Abstract
Environmental criteria have become a critical issue for the evaluation of projects and products, particularly for businesses with extensive life cycles. Sustainability criteria and project risk management are underexplored in real estate development, and thus endanger business survival. The aim of this article [...] Read more.
Environmental criteria have become a critical issue for the evaluation of projects and products, particularly for businesses with extensive life cycles. Sustainability criteria and project risk management are underexplored in real estate development, and thus endanger business survival. The aim of this article is to improve the understanding of uncertainties in the real estate industry by using a stochastic risk assessment approach and to broaden the risk assessment methodology. Thus, this article investigates the importance of material selection regarding external and project risk for real estate development. Aside from conventional projects, risks are analyzed for projects with high-quality materials (HQMs) that are characterized by environmental benefits. In following a mixed method approach, we began by conducting interviews with developers about the most important risks, and later incorporating these factors into a stochastic cash-flow model. Finally, we illustrated our findings in a case study. Overall, the highest risks were shown from resource prices and changing regulations, while the rankings of the two materials differ slightly; HQMs rank higher on the created risk index than conventional materials. The cash-flow model shows that conventional materials perform slightly better than HQMs, although uncertainties within the calculations are similar. The article contributes to risk management and decision-making for real estate projects by providing insights into the discussion and analysis of the financial performance of sustainable construction material and design that might be crucial for disruptive innovations. We present a model that integrates environmental and long-term effects in the cash-flow evaluation of real estate projects, thereby increasing managerial flexibility. Full article
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Article
Contextualized Property Market Models vs. Generalized Mass Appraisals: An Innovative Approach
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4896; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184896 - 06 Sep 2019
Cited by 25 | Viewed by 1907
Abstract
The present research takes into account the current and widespread need for rational valuation methodologies, able to correctly interpret the available market data. An innovative automated valuation model has been simultaneously implemented to three Italian study samples, each one constituted by two-hundred residential [...] Read more.
The present research takes into account the current and widespread need for rational valuation methodologies, able to correctly interpret the available market data. An innovative automated valuation model has been simultaneously implemented to three Italian study samples, each one constituted by two-hundred residential units sold in the years 2016–2017. The ability to generate a “unique” functional form for the three different territorial contexts considered, in which the relationships between the influencing factors and the selling prices are specified by different multiplicative coefficients that appropriately represent the market phenomena of each case study analyzed, is the main contribution of the proposed methodology. The method can provide support for private operators in the assessment of the territorial investment conveniences and for the public entities in the decisional phases regarding future tax and urban planning policies. Full article
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