How Technology can make Green Greener – A Closer Look at Curriculum in Construction Management

Boyd Fife


The building industry in the United States has a tremendous impact on the environment, human health, and economy of the country. Buildings consume 38- 40% of total U.S. energy, 71% of the electricity, and 12% of the water . Building demolition, remodeling, and construction generate over 35% of non-industrial waste . Air pollution in buildings can cause health problems with pollutant concentrations between two and five times greater and sometimes more than 100 times greater than those of outdoor air . Most Americans spent more than 90% of their time in buildings yet indoor environments in some buildings have been associated with human health impacts that range from asthma and respiratory tract irritation to Legionnaires’ disease and cancer .

When considering carbon dioxide the country’s operation of buildings produces 38% of all U.S. emissions. One of the foremost efforts to curtail global warming is through the efforts of Architecture 2030 created by world renowned architect Edward Mazria AIA. Architecture 2030 states “Our goal is straightforward: to achieve a dramatic reduction in the global-warming-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the Building Sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed”. Architect 2030 reports that “there are hundreds of coal-fired power plants currently on the drawing boards in the U.S. Seventy-six percent (76%) of the energy produced by these plants will go to the operate buildings” .

The building industry is the largest economic sector in the U.S. and the second largest manufacturing sector. It is evident by the recent economic recession that only one sector of the industry that of the residential building trade plays a substantial role in the economy of the U.S. Traditionally in the U.S. developers, architects, and builders have considered the immediate costs of constructing a building and have largely ignored the long term energy consumption of buildings.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization composed of corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other non profit organizations working together to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work . Their research concludes that construction funding for research and development for green buildings is inadequate. Quoting from the USGBC report: “Only about 0.2% (two-tenths of one percent) of all federally funded research form 2002-2004 an average of $193 million per year. These amounts are miniscule compared not only with the environmental impact of the building industry, but also with its economic impact (at $1.1 trillion, it is more than 14% of the U.S. gross domestic product)”. The National Science Foundation reported that construction related research stood at 1.2% of sales . This is well below other industries such as nanotechnology which receives $1.9 billion from private industry and $1.4 billion from public sources in the U.S. This nanotechnology research may even be harmful rather than beneficial to humans and the environment where as green building research would give almost immediate positive results by reducing green house gases, enhancing energy security and preserving resources such as water.

Given the huge impact that the building industry has on the environment, human well- being and the economy of the United States the obvious disconnect between what is needed in the nation and what is actually happening raises serious ethical issues.

This paper is based on an ongoing research where different processes of instruction are being examined in the context of design and construction decisions for “safer” and “greener: buildings. Given the discussions so far, the main research question addressed here is: “Are construction students being taught correct ethical building science principles and is related energy saving software being introduced in the classroom?”

In addressing the research question above, interviews designed for data collection will be directed towards examines of curriculums in construction management including issues linked with energy efficient building practices, and related construction software. Questions will specifically include issues about solar heat gain to reduce the need for electricity and fossil fuels for comfort heating of buildings as well as other high efficiency-climate responsive designs. In addition questions regarding the use of computer programs such as but not limited to Elite Software ix for Heat Vent and Air Conditioning design efficiency, REM/Rate home energy rating software and 3-D Computer Aided Drafting software for Building Information Modeling xi (BIM). Findings of this research will not only enhance awareness of traditional building efficiency, communication using BIM and other energy modeling software but also help in training construction management students and faculty in making buildings that take into account both regulations and social and ethical issues. Fox definition of ethics in the context of buildings is particularly useful. He points out that ethics can be viewed as concepts that we test, qualify, and reconstruct through an on-going, dynamic process of design innovation.

In light of this, this proposed research will significantly contribute to teach green building energy efficient building practices with computer applications within construction programs in the state of Utah. The first step in this teaching process will be the reporting of findings from this proposed research to the Utah State Department of Education’s annual construction conference. The conference will be held June 2010 at Southern Utah University. The proposed research will be shared with construction teachers throughout the state and will determine energy efficient workshops for Utah teachers. The workshops will be designed to train teachers in energy efficient building practices that are found to be weak based on the proposed research.


i. See Annual Energy Review 2005. DOE/EIA=0384 (2005) Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. July 06 and Estimated Water Use in the United States in 1995. U.S. Geological Survey.

ii. Office of Solid Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Characterization of Building-Related Construction and Demolition Cebris in the United States. EPA 530-R- 98-010; June 1998.

iii. The Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study. EPA 600/S6-87/002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987.

iv. statistics from sources cited in: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Buildings and Environment: A Statistical Summary, December 20,2004,

v. See

vi. See Available on line at the U.S. Green Building council at

vii. Source: Department of Energy. 2006 DOE Buildings energy Data Book. 19 February 2007.

viii. See Lux research Inc., The nanotech report, 4th Edition, 2006

ix. See REM/Rate on line at

x. See Elite Software on line at

xi. See one companies concept of Building Information Modeling at:

xii. See Fox, “Ethics and the Built Environment”