Background: Sustainable buildings play a pivotal role in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). However, the criteria and process for certification associated with sustainable building rating systems have been seen by many as either cumbersome or too expensive. As a result, some buildings are constructed following sustainable building guidelines without necessarily pursuing external certification. This paper takes a critical look at sustainable building without certification in the US and addresses 3 questions: (1) What is the rationale behind not pursuing certification? (2) When certification is not part of the objective, how are particular sustainability criteria selected? (3) To what extent do sustainable building projects that undergo certification differ from those that do not, and what are the potential implications for building performance?

Methods: The study is based on a survey of thirty-two professionals in the building, engineering, and construction industries, followed by semistructured interviews with nine participants about their experience with sustainable building certification.

Results: The main rationale for not pursuing certification was associated with cost. The results also suggest that while buildings that have been formally certified may have higher capital costs, they are perceived more favorably with regard to brand reputation, marketability, credibility, meeting sustainability goals, building performance, and value to occupants than buildings without certification.

Conclusions: This study provides insights into the implications of assessment-related decisions in building design and construction as we look to transform our societies into more sustainable, healthier, and livable places, and support global goals for sustainable development.

Creative Commons License

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

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Civil Engineering Technology Environmental Management and Safety (CET)


RIT – Main Campus