Ecosystem services impact as part of building materials selection criteria

Maibritt Pedersen Zari

The built environment is responsible for large negative ecological impacts due in part to the vast amount of materials used in construction. Concurrently, construction and demolition activities result in vast amounts of materials being buried, burnt, and dumped. It is essential therefore to analyze the impact of building materials acquisition, use, and transformation on the ecosystems people inhabit and rely upon for well-being. Typically, this is examined in terms of material use, energy use, and emission of pollutants including greenhouse gases. The impacts various materials have on complex and interconnected networks of ecosystem services are rarely considered. In light of this, this article introduces the concept of ecosystem services in relation to selecting materials for the construction of the built environment. A methodology for applying ecosystem services analysis to building materials specification is presented, and a series of example matrices that examine a selection of materials that are grown, extracted, or made are provided. The article concludes that the potential for positive change in terms of the ecological impact related to building materials across their lifecycles and in how built environments and the materials within them are designed, specified, valued, built, and used is apparent if an understanding of ecosystem services is integrated into built environment materials selection.

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