Decision support system for the integration of sustainable parameters in single-family housing project delivery

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Tijo, Silvia Juliana
Castro-Lacouture, Daniel
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The implementation of sustainable practices in building construction has a direct impact on the financial, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainable development. Powering and heating buildings consumes enormous amounts of energy, and the residential and commercial building sector remains the largest end-use sector for energy in the U.S. The fact that actual energy consumption of this sector is two-fifths of the total energy consumption in the United States represents a significant economic opportunity for the country. In spite of the progress in performance and affordability of sustainable technologies, materials, and systems, the residential sector is behind in adopting these in single-family homes. Several building aspects must undergo evaluation under a holistic approach to achieving the technical and economic success of the project, but the fragmentation of the industry and the required expertise level for using existing simulating tools represent a barrier for this purpose. In residential projects, the selection of design and construction parameters occurs mostly during the early stages of the pre-construction process, while the majority of the building simulation tools require information from late stages of the process. During the early stages, the designer cannot easily predict the impact of decisions on building performance and cost. Furthermore, existing methodologies do not integrate project goals in early stages (i.e., pre-design, conceptual design, and schematic design) of the pre-construction process. Without these methodologies, selecting sustainable parameters for housing delivery and implementing sustainable principles is difficult, and consequently jeopardizes reaching sustainable goals for the building. The result of this research is a decision support system (DSS) that uses the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and system dynamics (SD) to assist decision makers in the selection of construction parameters for sustainable housing. The proposed DSS integrates a set of project goals in the process of selecting alternatives, allowing a balance between the preferences of the decision maker and the solution that better fits those preferences. The approach focuses more on using DSS to support design exploration rather than finding optimal solutions. Given the iterative nature of the design process and the fragmentation of the construction industry, the proposed DSS provides information about costs, duration, and environmental impact of the alternatives at early stages of the project development. Therefore, an objective comparison of different design alternatives under identical conditions can take place, and the decision maker can learn from the effects of new decisions over other parameters that are interrelated. The outcomes of the research can help developers, architects, and home-owners to define sustainable parameters at early stages of the project delivery when the impact of their decisions is higher, and the cost of implementing changes is lower than in the later stages.
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