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Safety risk quantification for high performance sustainable building construction.

Dewlaney KS; Hallowell MR; Fortunato BR III
J Constr Eng Manage 2012 Aug; 138(8):964-971
A recent study found that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings have a recordable injury rate that is 9% higher than traditional, non-LEED buildings. A follow-up study showed that there are distinct aspects of the design elements and means and methods of construction used to achieve LEED certification that have negative impacts on worker safety. The research described in this paper builds on previous knowledge by quantifying the percent increase in base-level safety risk resulting from the design strategies and construction methods implemented to earn specific LEED credits. A total of 26 interviews and 11 validation interviews were conducted with designers and contractors who had completed an average of four LEED projects, 100 traditional projects, in their average of 18 years of experience in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. The results indicate that design elements and means and methods of construction implemented to achieve 12 of the 49 LEED credits increase the frequency of injuries or exposure to known, high risk environments. The most significant impacts are a 36% increase in lacerations, strains, and sprains from recycling construction materials; a 24% increase in falls to lower level during roof work because of the installation of on-site renewable energy (e.g., PV panels); a 19% increase in eye strain when installing reflective roof membranes; and a 14% increase in exposure to harmful substances when installing innovative wastewater technologies. These results can be used to understand the safety impacts of sustainable building design, will enhance designer awareness, and help contractors to better prioritize safety resources.
Construction; Construction-workers; Construction-industry; Construction-materials; Industrial-design; Environmental-engineering; Environmental-technology; Engineering; Injuries; Safety-monitoring; Workplace-monitoring; Equipment-design
Katherine S. Dewlaney, S.M.ASCE, Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0428
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-009762; B20130124
Issue of Publication
Priority Area
Source Name
Journal of Construction Engineering and Management
Performing Organization
CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training, Silver Spring, Maryland
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division