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Beermann, K. Sustainable Construction Projects. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 03 December 2023).
Beermann K. Sustainable Construction Projects. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 03, 2023.
Beermann, Kimberly. "Sustainable Construction Projects" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 03, 2023).
Beermann, K.(2021, December 13). Sustainable Construction Projects. In Encyclopedia.
Beermann, Kimberly. "Sustainable Construction Projects." Encyclopedia. Web. 13 December, 2021.
Sustainable Construction Projects

There are several definitions of "sustainable construction", but it is positioned as a relevant contemporary issue aligned with the efforts needed to achieve sustainability and development. Sometimes its focus is limited to the environmental dimension, but it must encompass all three pillars: environmental, social, and economic aspects in its scope to be considered sustainable: 

Environment: Focusing on the protection of the environment through the reduction of ecological impacts, resource utilization, and waste production.

Social: Integrating health and safety aspects in construction and the area of influence, as well as conflict resolution for all stakeholders. 

Economic: Integrating efficiency and savings, quality assurance, and profitability.

Complemented by the result of the application of biomimetic methodology: the biocircular model.  In this model, it is established that construction processes must be efficient and dynamic, considering the human dimension, management, and technical knowledge to achieve objectives.  In addition, the circular economy approach focused on reuse, recycling, durability, and optimization. 

sustainable construction project management sustainability circular economy biomimicry road map life cycle phases

1. Introduction

This integration of sustainability must occur in all the processes of the life cycle of construction projects and their management, such as initiation, execution, monitoring, control and shutdown [1]. The link of project management with the sustainable environment is an opportunity to explore and identify components, structure and defined integration processes. As found in [2], Silvius, G. supports the management of sustainable projects such as “the management of change-oriented to the project in policies, assets or organizations, taking into account the economic, social and environmental impact of the project, its result and its effect, for the present and future generations”. Therefore, determining the management factors and processes in the framework of sustainable construction, in addition to having multiple benefits in terms of achieving prosperity without compromising the lives and resources of future generations, will respond to raising awareness of the feasibility of application and notion of both costs and risks [1][3].

Considering previous studies and the diversity of frameworks and taxonomies found to integrate sustainability in construction and project management, the objective is to define a road map that includes the triple bottom line and extends through the concept of circular economy, which works with biological processes that emulate nature, for the transition from a linear to a circular economy [4][5]. In the articles here reviewed, the circular economy is considered to be a tool to be adopted in order to perform a successful transition to sustainable construction [6], since it is a restorative or regenerative industrial system by intention and design [7], thus complementing the triple factor balance or result approach.

The relevance of the topic is currently recognized, but the approaches researchers have employed over the years are diverse and the scope of sustainability is also debatable. Studies have been developed in different directions, such as the quality of planning, process schematization and international standards, as well as green building rating systems (LEED and BREAM, among others). That is why this research study aims to propose and evaluate a road map with a definition of phases, practices and indicators in terms of the triple bottom line (profit, people and planet), circular economy and biomimicry, to unify definitions, considerations and challenges for sustainable construction taking inspiration from nature for problem solving.

This document is divided into three parts. It starts by presenting a review of different frameworks regarding the methodologies used to design sustainable construction projects. This is followed by a presentation of the biomimicry methodology, linked to the circular economy concept, to address the challenge of unifying the diversity in the approaches relative to sustainable construction projects and process definition. Here, a road map based on a named “Biocircular Model” is proposed, with the biomimicry-based strategies’ influence on the sustainable construction process and definition being highlighted. Finally, the “Biocircular Model” is applied to each phase in the construction project and evaluated by experts in the local field via a survey together with a SWOT analysis to support the proposed model and road map.

2. Inspection of the Methodologies Used for the Design of Sustainable Construction Projects

The inclusion of sustainability in construction is a topic of interest and great opportunities for the future in the face of global environmental challenges, but directions of its processes, indicators and factors have not been formally defined within the project management framework. For this reason, in order to define the road map, it is necessary to know the barriers and opportunities already identified in the field. How does the literary review define sustainability in construction? Is the process of its inclusion by stages analyzed? Are there metrics for its evaluation? These are the main questions that guided our the literary review, with the ojective of establishing the transition to sustainable construction, complemented with the biomimetic approach and circular economy.

In this way, we began by understanding how sustainability is defined in construction, analyzing a selection of 20 articles with phases and metrics ( Table 1 ). There was no more than 80% agreement among the elements identified, which illustrates the variation in the orientation of sustainable construction. Occurrence from 55% to 75% was found for the following: the minimization of construction’s impact on the environment [8], decision making considering green factors in all phases of a project [9] and the three pillars or “triple result” of sustainability—environment, economy and society. These are determining factors for construction activities to achieve sustainable development and minimize environmental degradation.

Table 1. Elements for defining sustainability in construction.

Elements Occurrence * (%) References
Impact minimization 75 [8][10][11][12][3][5][7][9][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]
Resources efficiency 50 [8][10][12][5][7][15][17][18][20][21]
Green aspects in each phase 75 [11][12][3][5][7][9][13][14][15][17][19][20][22]
Environment 75 [8][11][12][3][15][16][17][18][21][22][23][24]
Economy 75 [10][11][12][3][14][15][16][17][21][22][23][24]
Health 25 [11][3][14][16][17]
Energy 50 [11][3][7][14][15][16][21]
Safety 25 [11][3][16]
Social aspect 75 [10][11][12][14][15][16][17][21][22][23][24]
Waste 50 [11][12][5][14][15][18][19]
Triple Bottom Line 50 [10][11][12][15][16][17][21][22][23][24]

In the literary review, few documents focused on the stages of the process. Therefore, it was considered necessary to analyze the phases involved, their quantity and definitions (Figure 1) in those studies which did so in the form of a proposal and to find patterns. In the 14 papers selected, there were only mentions of the phases involved, since the authors’ focus was on factors or indicators.

Figure 1. Comparison of phase inclusion for the process and product’s life cycle process.

The need to integrate sustainability in the construction sector is clearly defined, but there are no defined reference frameworks for its implementation in project management, life cycle and objectives beyond certifications for evaluation.

To apply the methodology, the problem of diversity in the approaches to sustainable construction and the definition of its processes are presented. Therefore, “the three pillars of sustainability” or “triple result” are presented as challenges; environment, economy and society are oriented, in order, to protection, harmonization and well-being, to ensure that construction has a sustainable scope.

The new emerging technology of “Building Information Modeling (BIM)” has been promising for architecture, engineering and construction. This tool allows stakeholders to make decisions regarding sustainability in the early design and pre-construction phases by its concept of collaborative design of a universal computational model, which handles multidisciplinary information to be integrated into a model and motivates the analysis of environmental performance and sustainability metrics with a life cycle approach in these areas [21]: Construction orientation; Shape of construction; Natural lighting analysis; Water supply; Sustainable materials; Site and logistics management.

The success factors for any project, traditionally, include the final result, costs and time. Nevertheless, our route with the biomimetic and circular economy approach integrates sustainability challenges as another success factor in construction [25][26].

Then, the first section, regarding consulting with professionals for knowledge in sustainable construction, biomimicry and circular economy, was presented for control. This included eight questions consulting the phases they identified for a construction project; the measurement by scale, from null to very high, of the knowledge of construction, biomimicry and circular economy; the most important attributes required to define sustainability in construction among those suggested; and the selection of the aspects considered the most important for the challenge to achieve sustainability in construction.

3. Discussion

The following section presents the analysis of the results of the biocircular model implementation in each of the life cycle phases in sustainable construction projects, along with a brief discussion regarding the acceptance of such biocircular approach by experts in the field.

To achieve the defined, a solid understanding of the project specifications, factors and green benefits must be provided to the work team, since a critical green capability must be developed for the selection of sustainable materials, which is based on durability, costs, maintenance, local and recycled components— where sourcing locally would mean to reduce emissions from transportation and the promotion of reuse and recycling [3][5][9][27]. Social aspects include occupational health and safety programs for implementation and collaboration with suppliers to achieve environmental objectives [22].

This phase contains the use of best practices to maximize the design results of the construction project, the evaluation of the costs of sustainable strategies for environmental benefits and the accuracy of combinations of design strategies [9]. Among its categories for reducing environmental impact there were variations according to the type of construction project, but the following stood out: materials and resources, waste reduction, energy efficiency, water savings, comfort, site management, recycling and reuse—with a view of adaptive and environmentally friendly designs [11][9][13][21]. Design considering the most efficient use of natural light and ventilation, safety in case of environmental accidents and the legal requirements that apply are among the most prominent [11][3][21]. Thus, the integration of qualified contractors and subcontractors is essential to reach a common design vision and avoid future problems [3].

As depicted in Figure 2, the phase with the best reception was the initiation phase (a), with 93% agreeing, including high, low and medium knowledge in sustainable construction. Only one professional stated that he disagreed and, by his own consideration, his knowledge in sustainable construction was low. This means that the importance of establishing early on the objectives and reaching a common vision among the stakeholders is of great interest for the approval of the professionals.

Figure 2. Results of phase acceptance based on the level of knowledge about sustainable construction: (a) initiation, (b) planning, (c) design, (d) construction, (e) monitoring and control and (f) delivery.


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