Sustainability is the need of the time with we having no other option as for living and continuing the human things on this planet. With the advancement in technology and steps to make human lives more comfortable, we have forgotten to take care of our environment and surroundings. The construction sector on average produces as much waste equal to being able to build a habitable small dwelling unit if recycled and reused properly. On the other hand, if sustainable products are used then we can lower the carbon footprint and thus help in the rejuvenation of the planet. Scientists, over the years, have been experimenting to come up with the possible other options for materials.

How to check if the materials you are using are sustainable?
Sustainability of materials ©Architecture & Design

The construction sector operates a huge number of test methods. Some of them are used to reveal the truth (in a technical sense) about a material, element, or building, while others are simple conformity assessments of products placed on the market. Single laboratory tests may give the impression of an irrelevant issue against the complexity of civil engineering. This makes it hard to consider test result uncertainty in this context. However, taking into account all activities related to construction from the moment of its design through all its life cycle, the tests are present at all stages. when developing test methods, it is not always appropriate to combine the purpose of revealing the truth with the purpose of conformity assessment. Test methods that simulate real conditions may have too many non-controllable parameters that increase the variability of results. This can lead to irrational decisions.

Test method development, both the initial material assessment in the design phase as well as the assessment routine, is based on the balance between economy (research costs) and safety (error risk). Both aspects relate to energy, raw materials consumption, waste generation, and environmental and social costs in the event of an accident. Sustainable test methods ensure a balance between widely defined tests and evaluation costs and the material’s or building’s safety, reliability, and stability.

One should consider probability and effects (economic, environmental, social, and other costs) associated with unnecessary spending on the development of a well-validated assessment method: the increase of the number of samples and equipment accuracy on the one hand and risk failure as a result of incorrect assessment (product of the failure probability and failure effects) on the other. Such comparison differs among material types and applications. This explains the high expenditure and great attention paid to construction materials load capacity assessment methods and the limited attention paid to test methods of finishing materials. In the first case, the failure effects impact human safety.

If we consider the effects associated with building durability, raw materials, energy consumption, and repair costs, however, well-justified and validated testing and assessment methods should also be applied from a sustainability point of view in relation to materials which are less important.

Test method optimization to ensure their ‘sustainability’, can be obtained by separating test models designed to learn about material or element behavior in actual conditions from method precision problems. Thus, test methods should be divided into initial and routine.

Among the huge number of research and test methods employed in the construction sector, two groups can be distinguished: methods used to reveal the technical truth about materials, elements or buildings, and methods used to simple conformity assessments of products placed on the market. Combining these two purposes (which is often found in standard tests) does not always give the desired results.

Conformity test methods that do not ensure adequate results precision would be able to increase the assessment risk area so much that the assessment becomes irrational. The use of such methods can also generate undesirable economic, environmental, and social effects because of incorrect assessments. Sustainability in the context of test methods means minimizing such effects.

The development of test methods should be preceded by the determination of the aim. The initial material test should be a model of reality while a routine test should only be a model of a particular aspect of reality simple enough to deliver predictable results.

The trueness of the test results in the context of the actual conditions of the building working life does not go hand in hand with the precision of the tests, so these two aspects should be split between the initial (trueness) and routine (precision) tests.

In the construction sector, there is a number of test methods aimed at construction product performance assessment; however, there is a limited number of methods which meet the conditions described above, although the method development costs (largely the costs of validation experiments) may be incomparably smaller compared to the adverse effects resulting from incorrect assessment. Development in this area should include better characterization (model improvement) of traditionally used test methods, as well as the development of new ones.


Pratiksha Mahakulkar is a third-year student pursuing architecture. An old school voracious reader and now explores her inner desire in writing out her mind and architecture. An impatient soul who can work efficiently when under pressure and approaching deadlines.