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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Comparison of Sustainable Home Building Rating Systems: An intra and inter gap analysis

JJ Meek

Comparison of Sustainable Home Building Rating Systems: An intra and inter gap analysis

Originally established in 1921, the UK's Building Research Establishment (BRE) was founded to help standardize and improve the quality of buildings. The organization has continued this mission and with the creation of the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) in 1990, a foundation was laid for building rating systems. While this was a great victory for the natural environmental and human healthy, since the original release of BREEAM a plethora of rating systems have emerged worldwide. Though each of these systems' general intent is to foster stewardship of the natural environment and improve the standards of human health and wellbeing in the built environment, it can prove difficult to decipher the difference between many sustainable home rating systems available. In the United States alone there are over eighty local and regional sustainable home building rating systems. With such a variety it is hard for both the construction industry and the general public to identify which system is truly 'the best'.

In order to more fully understand the scope, trends, and limitations of existing sustainable home rating systems, three of the leading national systems were selected for analysis as well as a leading regional system:

  • Code for Sustainable Homes (UK)
  • National Green Building Standard (USA)
  • LEED for Homes (USA)
  • Scottsdale Green Building Program (Scottsdale, Arizona, USA)

While there are a wide range of complex issues associated with each of these sustainable home rating systems, the focus of this dissertation was to identify gaps within each system and identify gaps common to all the systems. Over 460 sustainable home building strategies from these leading systems were compiled into a comparison matrix and categorized in order to identify and analyze the gaps.

In addition to the comparative analysis within and between the selected rating systems, an analysis was conducted based on a case study home. The Beaulieu Hydrogen House (BHH) proved ideal for this exercise because it was designed with best practice in mind rather than being designed and built to a building rating system. By analyzing the BHH, further gaps within the mainstream sustainable home rating systems were identified.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.