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17th Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines International Convention (17AIC)

May 28-30, 2015, Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig City, Philippines

Introducing Sustainability Concepts in the Design of Structures

(An Application to Low-Cost Residential Houses in the Philippines)

Andres W. C. ORETA Janelle Kathryn P. ONG Nicolas Ryan D. ARCILLA

Professor, D. Eng. Civil Engineer Civil Engineer
Department of Civil Engg BSCE, De La Salle University, BSCE, De La Salle University,
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines Manila, Philippines
Manila, Philippines

This paper assessed the environmental impact for manufacturing and disposal of the
structural systems of housing units in the Philippines using a Life Cycle Inventory. Based on
the assessment, a Structural Sustainability Index (SSI) was derived considering the various
environmental impact indicators. The SSI is a score derived from the weighted average of
five environmental impact categories Global warming potential, Ocean acidification,
Human toxicity, Abiotic material depletion and Energy use. A survey of experts on the
environment was conducted to derive the weights used for the SSI computation. The concept
was applied to low-cost housing units in the Philippines, specifically on four models with 60
sq.m. floor area. The SSI for the various housing units was compared and an analysis of the
critical indicators that affect the SSI were determined. The critical environmental impact
indicators may be used by structural designers to improve their designs and to make their
structures more environmental friendly.
Keywords: Life cycle assessment, green building, sustainability, environmental impact,
structural sustainability index, Low-cost house, Philippines

1. Introduction
In designing a house, or any structure, there are three things commonly considered by the
structural engineer. Namely: safety, serviceability and cost. Safety and serviceability ensure
that the structure can fulfil its intended purpose by satisfying code requirements on strength,
ductility and deflections. Addressing economy, on the other hand, requires value engineering
to produce an optimum design with reasonable cost. There is now an increasing concern
about the environmental impact of structures (Kang et al 2007). Sustainability is a concern
that must also be addressed by structural engineers. Structural engineers must be able to
discriminate as to which materials and processes would have a lesser impact to the
environment, and to coordinate with the other stakeholders of the structure. The concept of
the study is to enable the structural engineer to analyze the sustainability of structural systems
in a quantifiable manner. But what parameter may be used to guide structural designers to
make their structures greener?
This paper proposes the use of a Structural Sustainability Index or SSI, a single-score based
on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework. The SSI was derived from five
environmental impacts based on the manufacturing only of the structural materials, whose
respective weights were determined from a survey of professionals. The SSI can be used for
ranking houses based on environmental impact and can be used as a parameter to guide
structural engineers in comparing various design alternatives and selecting greener designs.
2. Environmental Impact Assessment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method of evaluating a product, in this case a house,
through its life cycle from cradle to grave. The life cycle of a building as specified in ISO
14040 throughout the implementation process follows five stages: (a) product stage - raw
material extraction and manufacturing of all its materials, (b) transport - refers to the raw
17th Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines International Convention (17AIC)
May 28-30, 2015, Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig City, Philippines

material extraction and manufacturing of all its materials, (c) construction process, (d) use
stage, (e) disposal - depending on circumstances and condition of the structure, it could either
be reused or demolished and recycled. Each stage has an impact on the environment. For this
paper, only the product stage or manufacturing and disposal of the materials is considered
since the choice of materials is one of the most important aspects for structural designer.
Hence, only the environmental impact of the materials in the production stage was assessed
using a life cycle inventory provided by Ecoinvent. Five environmental impacts and their
equivalent units are considered: (1) Human Toxicity (HT) in kg 1,4-DCB-Eq, (2) Ocean
Acidification (OA) in SO2-eq, (3) Global Warming Potential (GWP) in CO2-equivalent,
(4)Abiotic Material Depletion (AMD) in ELU units, and (5)Energy Use (EU) in points.

3. Structural Sustainability Index

An application of the SSI was done to four types of low-cost houses shown in Figure 1. The
houses denoted as (a) Full Modular, (b) I Beam, (c) Conventional and (d) Modified based on
their structural system. The floor areas of the houses are 68, 55, 60, 60 m2. respectively. For

(a) Full Modular (b) I Beam

(c (c) Convnetional (d) Modified


. Figure 1.Low-Cost Houses in the Study

comparison purposes, the masses were converted for a floor area of 60 m2 . The brief
descriptions of the houses are:
(a) Full Modular: No columns were used. Load bearing concrete hollow blocks were
used for exterior walls. Conventional pouring was used for loft beam while beam
blocks were used for roof beams. T-Joists were used for slabs. 4 bedrooms, 2 Toilet
and bath
(b) I Beam: Conventional concrete pouring and molding method for slabs. Hand packed
concrete was used for exterior walls. I-beams were used for beams and columns until
column footing. 3 bedroom, 1 Toilet and bath, Balcony, Carport
17th Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines International Convention (17AIC)
May 28-30, 2015, Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig City, Philippines

(c) Conventional: Conventional concrete pouring and moulding method for beams,
columns, slabs, and footings. Load bearing Concrete hollow blocks were used for
exterior walls. Beam blocks were used for the roof girder. 3 bedrooms, 1 Toilet and
(d) Modified: Vertical wall stiffener and Horizontal wall stiffener were used. One
column + footing was used. Non-load bearing concrete hollow blocks was used for
exterior walls. Prestressed T-joists were used for slabs. Beam blocks were used for the
roof girder. 3 bedrooms, 1 Toilet and bath

For each housing unit, the structural system was broken down into seven major parts, namely
the wall footing, wall, beam, slab, column footing, column, and roof. For each component,
the volumes of concrete and steel were estimated. The estimated component volumes (cubic
meters) were converted into mass (kg) of cement, sand, gravel, and steel. They were
computed based on the obtained or assumed material densities, mix percentages for concrete,
and details for precast and prestressed members. From the computed mass of the materials,
the impacts were assessed using the Ecoinvent inventory database.

Aggregating the five environmental impact values into one score is then derived as a
Structural Sustainability Index or SSI. The five impact values have different units and to
be able to combine them a normalisation method was done to transform them to a single unit
to enable comparison. The normalisation used relative comparison, assigning the greatest
impact value the highest reference value of 1. The impact values of each house for the five
parameters were then divided by the greatest impact value among the houses for each
parameter. The normalised values will be between 0 and 1.

A survey of experts from the academe, industry and, suppliers was conducted to determine
the relative importance of the environmental impacts using Analytic Hierarchy Process
(AHP). In the survey, each of the five environmental impacts was pitted against the one other,
resulting in a 10-questionnaire survey. The survey resulted to the following weight factors
(GWP = 0.36, EU=0.26, AMD = 0.155, HT = 0.122, OA = 0.103).

The normalized values were used in the SSI computation, in conjunction with the weights
from obtained from a survey of experts. To compute the SSI, we take the sum of the product
of the weight factors and the corresponding normalized impact values as shown in the

SSI = (weight factor) (normalized value of environmental impact)

17th Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines International Convention (17AIC)
May 28-30, 2015, Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig City, Philippines

Table 1 shows the summary of the structural sustainability indices of the four houses. The
SSI is an index between 0-1, with 1 being the most harmful to the environment. The index
is a relative value that compares houses against each other for ranking purposes. Table 1
shows the comparison of the SSI for the four houses. Applying the SSI to a study of four
houses, the I Beam structure was found to be have the smallest SSI (most environment-
friendly) while the Conventional structure has the largest SSI. The main difference is in the
use of material as shown in Figure 2. The I Beam model used the largest amount of steel, but
used the least in all other categories. On the other hand, the conventional house had the
highest use of cement, and second-highest of sand and gravel. The SSI scores of the houses
show that steel is preferable to concrete.

Table 1. SSI of Four Types of House

Normalized Full
I Beam Conventional Modified
Impact Modular
OA 0.756 0.679 1.000 0.899
GWP 0.754 0.561 1.000 0.897
EU 0.901 0.747 1.000 0.899
HT 0.705 0.496 1.000 0.893
AMD 0.875 1.000 0.908 0.838
SSI 0.805 0.682 0.986 0.888

Figure 2. Material Distribution (Mass converted to 60 m2 floor area)

Figure 3 shows the distribution of the normalized environmental impacts of the four models
in a radar chart. The closer a value to the center, the less harmful it is to the environment.
The greatest disparities can be observed in the Human Toxicity and Global Warming
categories, with the I Beam scoring significantly lower. These categories are related as CO2
emissions, which are the measure of GWP, which is toxic to humans. The I Beam, while
having the lowest SSI at 0.679, had the comparatively highest AMD value of 1 in a 0-1 scale.
This indicated that usage of steel as the primary structural reinforcement increased the
Abiotic Material Depletion greatly while lessening all other impacts. Processing steel
required extracting more non-renewable resources, specifically iron ore, than the limestone
17th Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines International Convention (17AIC)
May 28-30, 2015, Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig City, Philippines

and other minerals for cement. Based on the weighting of scores, steel is preferable. If AMD
were given greater priority however, this may not be the case.

Figure 3. Radar Chart

4. Conclusion
A Structural Sustainability Index or SSI was derived through a Life Cycle Analysis using five
weighted environmental parameters. These were Global Warming Potential, Abiotic Material
Depletion, Energy Use, Human Toxicity, and Ocean Acidification. The SSI was able to
present a single assessment of the sustainability of a house models structural system. The
proper weighting was determined through a survey of in the Philippines, and then processed
through AHP. The survey revealed that GWP was given the greatest significance, which
indicates a heightened awareness of the negative effects of global warming. These include
shifts in the weather patterns such as extreme heat and extreme rain. The SSI and LCA
framework were applied to Low-cost housing in the Philippines. Four model units with
different structural systems were considered. Their environmental impacts were analysed
through the manufacturing and disposal stages. Among the life cycle stages considered in the
study, the manufacturing stage contributed the most damage, especially in Global Warming
Potential and Human Toxicity. On weighted percentage, about 77.4% of the impacts were
incurred in this stage, so priority should be given in reducing Manufacturing impacts.

With the SSI and LCA framework, structural engineers would be able to quantify
sustainability concerns and incorporate sustainability as a factor in choosing among
alternative designs.

ISO 14040 (Environmental management - Life cycle assessment - Principles and framework)
Kang, G. S., Ap, L., Kren, A., Co-chairs, P., Cho, C., Corotis, B., Goodson, E., et al. (2007).
Structural Engineering Strategies Towards Sustainable Design.