Although an explosion of new building materials are being introduced into today's market, adequate up-front research into their chemical and physical properties as well as their potential health and environmental consequences is lacking. History has provided us with several examples where building materials were broadly deployed into society only to find that health and environmental problems resulted in unintended sustainability consequences. In the following paper, we use lead and asbestos as legacy building materials to show their similar historical trends and sustainability consequences. Our research findings show unintended consequences such as: increased remediation and litigation costs; adverse health effects; offshoring of related industries; and impediments to urban revitalization. As numerous new building materials enter today's market, another building material may have already been deployed, representing the next “asbestos.” This paper also proposes an alternative methodology that can be applied in a cost-effective way into existing and upcoming building materials, to minimize and prevent potential unintended consequences and create a pathway for sustainable communities. For instance, our findings show that this proposed methodology could have prevented the unintended incurred sustainability costs of approximately $272-$359 billion by investing roughly $24 million in constant 2014 U.S. dollars on up-front research into lead and asbestos.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Dec 15, 2017
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