Development of Risk-Based Measurements and Metrics for Sustainability Quantification of Manufactured and Constructed Systems

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Sustainability has been an important topic of study for several decades; however, its importance has escalated with the signing of the Paris Agreement. One issue that has always hindered implementing sustainability research in practice has been the difficulty in measuring performance. While methods such as life-cycle assessment are available to enable a comparison with alternatives, sustainable performance cannot be related to larger environmental goals. Additionally, such methods often omit uncertainty considerations. The proposed research herein provides foundational measurement science and metrics to bridge the gap between the theories of sustainability and the application. The metrics enable tracking of measurable progress in all aspects of sustainability within a risk-based framework.

This dissertation opens by reviewing and analyzing the literature on sustainability definitions and existing metrics in order to determine the current state of the practice, and to inform the development of the proposed metrics. Next, in order to demonstrate the capacity of risk-based approaches in measuring sustainability performance, a methodology is proposed to calculate the probability of a structure or product meeting sustainability requirements.

Last, the methodology is validated using the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability. The validation procedure demonstrated that the methodology was capable of reproducing results from a well-vetted database. The proposed methodology serves as the first step in a “sustainability reliability” metric that is practical, accurate and comprehensive in its coverage.