The publication of the Brundtland Commission Report, popularly known as Our Common Future, was the precursor for what was to follow in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or the Earth Summit. Both these events played a fundamental role in the global initiatives towards sustainability. The adoption of Agenda 21, a blueprint for sustainable development for the 21st century was a crucial agreement of the Rio Summit, which marked the beginning of an era where the term Sustainable Development came to be associated with all human interventions on planet earth.

In this context, the building industry, which makes a significant impact on the social, environmental and economic well-being of the society, has a prime responsibility in meeting with sustainability requirements in all facets of the design, construction and operation of buildings. Currently efforts are being made by the building industry and the allied professions to adhere to sustainability norms by enhancing the current green building practices. The emergence of building environmental assessment (BEA) methods is such an attempt in addressing these issues, but is considered as insufficient to contend with the wider spectrum of sustainability.

A technique to address complex attributes of sustainable performance of building projects has not been attempted before, owing to the dynamic nature of the concept of sustainability. This paper attempts to develop a framework to enhance current BEA methods, as the next stage of development towards meeting global sustainability initiatives. The main objective is to evolve a set of indicators that will assist in determining sustainability of a building. Three widely used BEA methods and Agenda 21, are analyzed, along with a focus group, to derive sustainability indicators. A total of 62 indicators under 10 categories are identified, some of which are common to BEA methods, while several new indicators are introduced to address sustainability issues not previously accounted for in BEA methods. The final outcome is a framework that can be used to determine the extent of sustainability of building projects.

With the aid of the proposed framework of indicators, it is possible to develop a complete sustainability index by allocating values to each indicator, through a survey of professionals in the building industry. Such an index could be used as a tool in developing sustainable buildings, thus meeting with aspirations of building design teams and clientele who seek high quality sustainable solutions for their endeavours. This effort would also pave way for further research into the domain of building sustainability.

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