Self Sustaining Building
Self Sustaining Building

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Why Self Sustaining Building?

The Problems

Afforability, performance and environmental impacts both external and internal to buildings are the challenges.

The construction and use of modern buildings causes substantial environmental damage, creating a range of toxic emissions. Buildings create 50% of greenhouse gas emissions and considerable ecosystem degradation. Buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions.[1]

Some of the causes and effects of the environmental damage and health impacts from construction and across the whole life-cycle of buildings are summarised below:

Aspects of Built Environment:

Siting, Design, Construction, Operation, Maintenance, Renovation and Deconstruction



Energy, Water, Materials and Natural resources


Environmental Effects:

Waste, Air pollution, Water pollution, Indoor pollution, Heat islands, Storm water run-off and noise


Ultimate Effects: Harm to Human Health, Environment Degradation Loss and destruction of Resources
The environmental damage can also be summarised as:
  • Ecosystem and biodiversity loss and impacts from the global consumption of natural resources for building through the depletion of vital ecosystem services. Essentially a reduction in the environment's capacity to maintain our current lifestyle or to improve the lifestyle of the disadvantaged.
  • Climate Change and impact of pollutants - from the greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants associated with buildings

The overuse of modern design rather than sensible use of traditional architecture or materials with recognised Environmental Product Declarations creates risks with toxic health implications.  For example ‘modern’ houses over heat in sunny weather/climates and demand air conditioning, whilst the more traditional buildings have evolved over centuries a comfortable level of living with no need for energy intensive cooling. Product selection is another key issue, eg., choice of inappropiate insulation that causes environmental damage through resource depletion and/or toxic emissions.

The reduced use of locally available resources increases environmental impact through transportation of materials from afar.

The health of people and communities and the quality of the environment are closely linked.


By consideration of the isssues above and more and building in a self-sustaining manner, the quality of the environment can be improved immeasurably with an increase in both the well-being of people and nature.  Key to health is consideration of building biology factors and Environmemental Product Declarations and certification from recognized bodies.

Slow government action

Governments worldwide agree the need for action to address unsustainable environmental and health damage. However, Governments/large organisations suffer from political conflicts, competing needs and a lack of knowledge/coherent information plus an unwillingness to change. National governments and International groups have demonstrated the problem very clearly with an absence of unified plans of action to address speedily the climate change agenda as well as the wider impacts from pollution (esp. poor air quailty) and biodioversity loss.

SSB practices 'joins-up the challenging dots' of afforability, performance and environmental impacts both external and internal to buildings to help address these challenges.

The Solution

Whilst the practices and technologies for Self-Sustaining Building (SSB) are available now, their adoption is slow. SSB practices enable prompt practical action towards a sustainable future.

The adoption of the best SSB practices will not only address the environmental impacts of buildings but will also help to reduce location vulnerabilities as well improved security, affordability, life-style comfort and health.

Towards Solutions

To accelerate world-wide adoption of SSB practice for both new build and retrofit , the SSB Programme offers the following opportunities:

  • research into SSB best practice
  • demonstration of best SSB practices for building
  • promotion of self-sustaining building practice worldwide
  • the support of self-sustaining building practice worldwide by any means, including:
    • Global challenge competitions
    • establishing Self Sustaining Building & Environmental Centres
    • networks and forums
    • promoting SSB projects
    • influencing institutional infrastructure support

Scope of Activity

The focus of activities will be as follows:

Developed nationsReducing the environmental damage of buildings in advanced economies and improving energy security with significant contributions to climate change targets and agendas
Developing nationsImproving health standards through better building design, structure and material use including water and energy supply, waste management; mitigating environmental damage and climate vulnerabilities
Structures:Homes - single or multiple
Workplaces & Communities
Condition:New build or Retrofit
Sites:Rural, Peri-urban and Urban

The emphasis of activities will include:  circular economy. eco-efficiency and resource demand, climate or specific risks, such as earthquake zones or flood.


With thanks to US EPA for some of this information   This url may no longer be available following the election of President Trump and his anti-sustainability thinking. But the Obama-era EPA website survives on EPA servers at,

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