sustainable and resilient building design

approaches, methods and tools


Saja Kosanović (ed), Faculty of Technical Sciences, University in Kosovska Mitrovica; Tillmann Klein (ed), Delft Univeristy of Technology; Thaleia Konstantinou (ed), Delft University of Technology; Ana Radivojević (ed), University of Belgrade, Faculty of Architecture; Linda Hildebrand (ed), RWTH Aachen, Faculty of Architecture


book cover klabs series volume 5: sustainable and resilient building design


The challenges to which contemporary building design needs to respond grow steadily. They originate from the influence of changing environmental conditions on buildings, as well as from the need to reduce the impact of buildings on the environment. The increasing complexity requires the continual revision of design principles and their harmonisation with current scientific findings, technological development, and environmental, social, and economic factors. It is precisely these issues that form the backbone of the thematic book, Sustainable and Resilient Building Design: Approaches, Methods, and Tools.

The purpose of this book is to present ongoing research from the universities involved in the project Creating the Network of Knowledge Labs for Sustainable and Resilient Environments (KLABS). The book starts with the exploration of the origin, development, and the state-of-the-art notions of environmental design and resource efficiency. Subsequently, climate change complexity and dynamics are studied, and the design strategy for climate-proof buildings is articulated. The investigation into the resilience of buildings is further deepened by examining a case study of fire protection. The book then investigates interrelations between sustainable and resilient building design, compares their key postulates and objectives, and searches for the possibilities of their integration into an outreaching approach. The fifth article in the book deals with potentials and constraints in relation to the assessment of the sustainability (and resilience) of buildings. It critically analyses different existing building certification models, their development paths, systems, and processes, and compares them with the general objectives of building ratings. The subsequent paper outlines the basis and the meaning of the risk and its management system, and provides an overview of different visual, auxiliary, and statistical risk assessment methods and tools.

Following the studies of the meanings of sustainable and resilient buildings, the book focuses on the aspects of building components and materials. Here, the life cycle assessment (LCA) method for quantifying the environmental impact of building products is introduced and analysed in detail, followed by a comprehensive comparative overview of the LCA-based software and databases that enable both individual assessment and the comparison of different design alternatives. The impact of climate and pollution on the resilience of building materials is analysed using the examples of stone, wood, concrete, and ceramic materials. Accordingly, the contribution of traditional and alternative building materials to the reduction of negative environmental impact is discussed and depicted through different examples.

The book subsequently addresses existing building stock, in which environmental, social, and economic benefits of building refurbishment are outlined by different case studies. Further on, a method for the upgrade of existing buildings, described as ‘integrated rehabilitation’, is deliberated and supported by best practice examples of exoskeleton architectural prosthesis. The final paper reflects on the principles of regenerative design, reveals the significance of biological entities, and recognises the need to assign to buildings and their elements a more advanced role towards natural systems in human environments.


  • Origin and Development of Environmental Design
    Saja Kosanović, Tillmann Klein, Thaleia Konstantinou, Linda Hildebrand, Ulrich Knaack

    Buildings are characterised as some of the greatest consumers and pollutants of the planet. However, the genesis of environmental design, in the context of its modern meaning, as shown in this paper, is not so much based on initial requests to reduce the negative pressure on the environment, but more on the tendency to ensure the continuity of the supply of resources. Only when awareness of the state of environment and the negative anthropogenic contribution matured enough in the second half of the 20th century, the idea of environmental design started to grow and become more complex. Eventually, environmental design became a framework comprising various strategies and measures that aim to reduce the negative ecological impact of buildings by aligning conventional design requirements with their environmental significance. By connecting resource efficiency with the reduction of environmental impact of buildings, this paper reviews current trends and challenges in the utilisation of energy, materials, water, and land, and reflects the scenarios of possible resource-efficient futures in which wider social and economic schemes could become increasingly relevant for the successful outcomes of environmental design.


  • Approach to Design for Resilience to Climate Change
    Saja Kosanović, Branislav Folić, Ana Radivojević

    The occurrence of frequent shifts in weather conditions and extreme weather and climate events brings numerous direct and indirect consequences for the built environment, increases the possibility for disaster occurrence, and accordingly sets new challenges for contemporary architecture. The design focus on climate change mitigation, i.e. on sustainable and, above all, energy efficient buildings, therefore needs to be expanded to strengthen the capacity of such buildings to withstand climate change manifestations while remaining functional. To design for optimal climate change-related performance of buildings, now and in the future, a resilience scenario is needed. This work analyses climate change complexity and dynamics as key factors that articulate the design strategy for climate-resilient buildings. Based on the relevance of reviewed risks, variability, and uncertainty regarding climate change, this work maps a generic design framework, explains the meaning of ‘transposed regionalism’, and discusses the relationship between resilience and the adaptation of buildings in (un)predictable climate futures.


  • Understanding Fire and Protecting the Buildings
    Marijola Božović, Milan Mišić

    To achieve effective protection of a building, it is necessary to understand fire as a complex physical and chemical phenomenon. This work describes the aspect of the uncontrolled combustion process, the conditions and probability of combustion formation, the basic parameters of fire within certain development phases, and its dynamics in time and space. However, to understand the combustion process itself is not enough for successful fire control and thus for avoiding material damage and threats to human safety. In this regard, this work indicates what active and passive fire protection measures are necessary in the building planning process, and, using the example of the Republic of Serbia, reviews laws and regulations, thereby providing a basis for understanding the content and structure of the integral building fire protection project.


  • Sustainability and Resilience
    (In)Consistencies in Two Design Realms
    Saja Kosanović, Branislav Folić, Alenka Fikfak

    Sustainable design and design for resilience to climate change emerged independently from each other, but their acknowledged correlation gets an increasing importance. This chapter investigates interrelations between sustainable and resilient design realms by comparing their key postulates and analysing key objectives through the prism of mutual (in)consistencies. In this regard, the work presents both general observations and detailed considerations where specificity and complexity of relations between sustainable and resilient building design are found. Results demonstrate that sustainability and resilience display complementarity rather than inconsistency in relation to each other, which leads to the conclusion that their integration into an outreaching, systemic approach is highly possible. By integrating sustainability and resilience, a building advances from a socioecological, i.e. a socio-technical, to a socio-ecological-technical system.


  • Building Certification Systems and Processes
    Saja Kosanović, Linda Hildebrand, Maike Klein, Tanja Osterhage, Dirk Müller

    Multiple recognised benefits of sustainable buildings are effectively communicated through assessment models. In order to use existing certification models or to engage in the development of new schemes, it is necessary to build knowledge about their character, organisation, and procedures. Having regarded that the assessment methodology is undergoing a continuous process of development, this paper aims to discuss the core features and components of building certification, from the time of the emergence of initial models to the future horizons, thus drawing a holistic picture about this instrument that is relevant for the achievement of sustainability of buildings.

    The paper consists of five parts. The first part presents the background of building certification models. Furthermore, their key characteristics are discussed, from the assessment of environmental quality of buildings, to the typological variations, to territorial applicability, to the connection with the regulations, to the scope of economic and social issues encompassed by the assessment. The system of assessment models is analysed in the third section, and the comparison of hierarchical organisation of several well-known models is given. The fourth part of the paper presents different examples of the assessment process, from the registration for certification to the certificate awarding. Finally, the fifth section summarises the main observations regarding development trends, current status, and possible directions of future advancement of certification models in the function of their increased use.


  • Risk Management and Risk Assessment Methods
    Aleksandra Kokić Arsić, Milan Mišić

    This paper outlines the basis and the meaning of risk, as well as the risk management system. The aim is to present facts, which allow the identification of potential risks, the anticipation of their occurrence, and the implementation of appropriate measures to mitigate or eliminate risks. As a part of the management, key activities of the risk management process, as well as their main phases, are given. Different visual, auxiliary, and statistical risk assessment methods and tools are reviewed and emphasised using examples of fire risks in the workplace. These same methods and tools are nonetheless applicable to various other risk assessment domains in the fields of architecture and engineering.


  • Methodology for Assessing Environmental Quality of Materials and Construction
    Linda Hildebrand, Alexander Hollberg

    As architects and engineers work at different scales, the ecological impact generated within the scope of their professional activities can be differentiated between material, component, building, and city levels. By focusing on the material and component levels, this chapter introduces and gives a detailed analysis of the structure of the life cycle assessment (LCA) method used for quantifying environmental impact. The review encompasses the following issues: LCA goal and scope, life cycle inventory analysis (LCI), life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), and results interpretation. Subsequently, the scope of LCA data is discussed and the criteria to be sought when working with LCA data are proposed and described. Finally, the chapter considers the application of the LCA data, especially in formats such as Environmental Product Declaration (EPDs) and LCA databases, provides relevant examples, and thus concludes the presentation of the facts necessary for the application of life cycle assessment methodology in different design and engineering contexts.


  • A Comparative Overview of Tools for Environmental Assessment of Materials, Components and Buildings
    Linda Hildebrand, Rebecca Bach

    Tools for the assessment of environmental performance of materials, components, and buildings are found in the form of software programs and databases. This chapter deals with the identification and analysis of assessment tools on an international level. The work is structured in four parts. The first part provides background information and introduces the topic. In the second, the categories that determine the character of software products are introduced and described. Accordingly, 26 software products are identified and listed, and ten of these are analysed in more detail. The third part of the work focuses on databases for the environmental assessment of materials, components, and buildings. Similarly to the software comparison, the categories of database features are firstly derived. Out of 21 identified and listed databases, six are subsequently analysed in more detail. The conclusions outline the life cycle assessment potentials and limitations in the architectural planning process.

    The aim of this chapter is to provide the knowledge necessary for understanding the scope of tools for ecological evaluation. Derived categories can be used to characterise any software or database product. Furthermore, the work demonstrates that presented software programs and databases can be used to assess the environmental impact of construction alternatives. Thus, the work builds the relevant facts that apply to the choice of appropriate programs and suitable databases, helps the integration of ecological aspects in the architectural planning process, and, by doing so, assists in reducing the impact of the built environment on the natural environment.


  • Impact of Climate and Pollution on Resilience of Some Conventional Building Materials
    Merima Šahinagić – Isović, Marko Ćećez, Rada Radulović

    The influence of climatic conditions on building materials represents an important field of study, having regarded that it is directly linked to the properties and behaviour of the overall built structures. Since the beginning of the 21st century, when climate change became widely accepted as a source of impact on the built environment, research dealing with material resilience is gaining additional importance.

    Construction design and utilisation of materials have traditionally been based on the inputs related to environmental conditions, among others. Most of the materials used for construction are environmentally sensitive; their properties change depending on climate conditions. Resilience is defined as the ability of a material to absorb and withstand changes and external influences without destruction. It is clear that the resilience of materials is closely related to their durability, and considering one without the other is ineffective. Depending on the character and level of aggression for each structure, the measures should be foreseen to ensure durability of constructions.

    The most significant impacts of climate and pollution are observed in this chapter through the effects of temperature changes, moisture, and air pollution. Resilience of several commonly used building materials: stone, concrete, wood, and ceramic, subjected to the listed effects, will be studied and presented.


  • Natural and Regionally Available Materials for a Sustainable Future
    Reviving Tradition in Contemporary Construction
    Maja Popovac, Manja Kitek Kuzman, Ljubomir Miščević

    Energy issues, environmental impact and circularity are key words in the building industry today. Recent practice introduced many artificial materials, regardless of their origin, impact on health, local economy, or life cycle characteristics. Increased resource consumption and carbon dioxide emission, on the one hand, and waste generation on the other hand, have caused significant environmental problems. The globalisation of the building materials market, the huge amounts of energy used for their mass production and transportation, and the inclination away from traditional materials and crafts caused the building industry to become a major environmental polluter.

    There is great potential for renewable, natural and locally grown, and extracted and manufactured materials all over Europe. Before the wars of the 1990s, the building industry in ex-Yugoslav countries relied on “Krivaja”, “Šipad”, “Marles” and other manufacturing companies that fully based their programmes on renewable materials from local sources, and on know-hows about traditional crafts. Nowadays, by focusing on the performance of building materials, new environmentally friendly technologies, and new approaches to traditional buildings and settlements, architects, designers, and engineers are challenged to create a new sustainable and resilient environment.

    This chapter will introduce traditional, natural, locally produced and recyclable materials – wood, stone, clay, and alternative natural and regionally available materials – sheep wool and straw, as potentials to develop new building practices, keep old crafts alive, boost local economy, improve health, and decrease negative impacts on the living environment.


  • Sustainable Refurbishment for an Adaptable Built Environment
    Thaleia Konstantinou, Branka Dimitrijević

    The reconsideration of the existing building stock is motivated by society’s efforts towards sustainability and resilience. The building sector has a considerable role to play in doing so. The process of refurbishment is complex, since aspects such as design decisions, existing construction, energy efficiency, and user behaviour need to be considered. The motivation for refurbishing existing buildings is related to environmental, social, and economic aspects of their use or reuse, which are the three core aspects of sustainability. The key environmental motivation is to reduce energy consumption from fossil fuels and related greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, and to include energy generation from renewables; the key economic motivation is to lessen the cost of energy used for heating, and the key social motivation is to reduce fuel poverty and improve the quality of life and wellbeing of the occupants.

    This chapter aims to explain the role of refurbishment of the building stock for sustainability and resilience. Firstly, definitions of the levels of building upgrades are given, and the motivations for refurbishment are discussed. Furthermore, the ecological, economic, and social aspects of refurbishment are deliberated on, together with the importance of the building stock for resilience. Finally, case studies of refurbishment projects are presented, providing insights into different aspects of refurbishment for sustainability and resilience.


  • Adaptive Socio-Technical Devices
    Social Inclusion as a Rehabilitation Tool
    Francesca Guidolin

    The complexity of the contemporary city is determined by socio-economic and demographic changes and by new energy standards that bring us to consider the rehabilitation of the building stock as a crucial and complex issue. The concept of sustainability requires an adaptive “integrated rehabilitation”, in order to upgrade buildings not only from a structural, energetic, and architectural point of view, but also from a functional and social one. The research considers one of the most outdated sectors: residential multifamily buildings of the post-war years, which are today at the centre of a debate on their functional, security, and typological obsolescence. The need for urgent refurbishment, while avoiding demolition, brings us to consider the importance of additive strategies for regeneration, which include social, management, and financial feasibility. Some of those strategies are recognisable as “socio-technical devices”: artefacts in which technical issues are strictly related to social ones, for the efficiency of the whole system. Socio-technical devices in building technologies for refurbishment allow us to manage the complexity of a construction site au milieu habité, facing the problems related to residential functions in the rehabilitation of multi-storey buildings. Starting from the definition of this concept, the research investigates, through the analysis of European case studies, new scenarios for renewal processes to prevent the breaking point of the city as a system, for a more resilient, adaptive, and bottom-up intervention strategy.


  • Biological Entities and Regeneration by Design
    Saja Kosanović, Marija Stamenković, Carmelo Zappulla

    Regenerative design aims to reverse environmental degradation and generate net positive impact by developing systems that are mutually beneficial and co-evolving for natural and social components of the living environment. As a regenerative approach is not only related to design but also to humans and their activities, this chapter reveals the necessity to establish a new interconnectedness between design principles of environmental regeneration and a tendency to intensify positive environmental effects on humans. This paper identifies biological entities as significant agents in bringing the human perspective closer to the regenerative approach and accordingly explores their application in design by analysing characteristics and benefits of utilisation, and by providing different experimental examples developed by scientists, designers, and the members of academic community. In particular, this work studies design solutions based on the biological principles of growth and finally focuses on how building-integrated plant systems contribute to regeneration.



  • adaptation
  • climate change
  • component
  • energy
  • fire
  • life cycle
  • material
  • pollution
  • refurbishment
  • resilience
  • risk
  • site
  • sustainability
  • water
  • wood
  • Published

    1 September 2018


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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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