Over their life cycle, buildings absorb considerable resources and contribute to the transformation of the environment. As a result, they can have considerable consequences and impacts on the environment. In order to measure and understand this impact, methods of assessment are used to determine the environmental performance of buildings and their related external works.

But what exactly do these methods include and how can the building sector accurately ensure that the assessment will be consistent?

The framework elaborated in ISO 21931-1:2010, Sustainability in building construction – Framework for methods of assessment of the environmental performance of construction works – Part 1: Buildings, identifies and describes issues to be taken into account in the development and use of methods in assessing the environmental performance of buildings, both new and existing. Such assessments can be used for benchmarking performance and monitoring progress towards improvement and sustainable development.

"The building construction sector accounts for about 40 % of global carbon emissions, 40 % of natural resources consumed and 40 % of waste generated worldwide," said Jacques Lair, Chair of the subcommittee that developed the standard. "ISO 21931-1 is another important step towards reducing the impact of buildings on the environment and achieving true sustainability in building construction."

The new standard aims to bridge the gap between regional and national methods by providing a common framework for their expression. It applies to all stages of a construction project, from design through to construction, operation, maintenance, refurbishment and deconstruction, to ensure that the finished product is an eco-friendly building.

ISO 21931-1:2010 is one in a suite of International Standards dealing with sustainability in building construction. It is intended be used in conjunction with, and following the principles set out in, the ISO 14020 family of International Standards on environmental labelling, as well as ISO 14040 on life cycle assessment and ISO 15392 on general principles of sustainability in building construction.

The first edition of ISO 21931-1 cancels and replaces the ISO technical specification ISO/TS 21031-1:2006.

ISO 21931-1:2010, Sustainability in building construction – Framework for methods of assessment of the environmental performance of construction works – Part 1: Buildings, was prepared by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 59, Building construction, subcommittee SC 17, Sustainability in building construction. It costs 112 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing & Communication department (see right-hand column).