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ABSTRACTThe growing  awareness of sustainability goals and environmental issues pushes even more the ongoing process of transformation and increasingly complexity of building  sector, bringing out new pressure and more radical changing, involving all the firms’ inner  resources. The change  management process has been disruptive to the extent that while until a short time ago  environmental targets were seen as constraints, today they are even more  considered as a way to improve performance and increase competitiveness. The  result is that nowadays more or less every design firms claim to be  environmentally friendly to take advantage for their business.definiIn this  context, the research project aims to understand and depict how Architecture, Engineering  and Construction (AEC) firms are equipping and reorganizing themselves in order  to address and meet environmental issues. In particular, the effort is to  identify all the tangible and intangible resources invested by design companies  to achieve environmental goals and their role in decision-making process. In  this direction, the attention is focused on the relationships and the  information’s flow among i) the team of actors and experts involved in the  design process; ii) the set of tools and assets adopted; iii) and the collection  of data required both by experts and tools to work and design. The mapping of  design process is fulfilled conducting, in relation to the phase of the  project, two different models of interviews within AEC firms: the submission of  a questionnaire survey and the examination of case studies. Moreover,  consistently with current trends that lead to consider artefacts as small part  of a larger networks, systems and environment, life cycle approach is taken  during the entire work, to take a broadening of perspective and to avoid  shifting problems from one stage to another.Analysing and deepening current practice, the challenge is to develop a  framework able to orient and streamline the design process in line with  environmental targets and life cycle perspective. The goal is achieved  combining the theoretical level, represented by Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and  Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and the practical level, represented by AEC firms.  Life cycle approach is therefore matched and implemented in design process,  according to the different phases of the process and identifying the actors  engaged and tools used. To face the complexity of the system and to handle the  large amount of data, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is identified as the most suitable  tool to embed the proposed framework. The application of the framework allows  to enforce  life cycle perspective in AEC practice starting from the early stage of the  project and to  truly orient decision-making process in line with environmental targets.KeywordsEnvironmental issues; AEC firm; change management; design process;  competences; tools; information’s flow; decision-making; optimization; Life  Cycle Thinking (LCT); Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); Building Information  Modelling (BIM).INTRODUCTIONAll over the world, the awareness of sustainability and environmental issues  is raised over time to the extent that, after creating a heated debate in the academic community and obtaining consensus among politicians and practitioners,  they become part of many agenda and standards. In particular, the first of  January 2016 represents a turning point since the 17 Sustainable Development  Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, previously adopted in September 2015, officially came into force. Indeed, over the next fifteen years, the 193 world leaders committed their respective countries to achieve the  shared goals with the connected targets, mobilizing efforts not only to tackle climate change, but also to end all forms of poverty and fight inequalities, ensuring that no one is left behind. For this purpose, it is required a joined action at local, national and international level through a strong commitment  of governments but also involving and empowering the private sector, the  society and all individuals.In this context, Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) becomes a crucial prerequisite to gain, at different scales, a global and holistic view of the ongoing  processes and to help actors to think and operate in a sustainable perspective.  Indeed, thinking in terms of life cycle allows to deal with problems avoiding  to approach reality in a reductionist way, since too restrictive and obsolete to comply with the prescribed SDGs. Two are the key factors of LCT in promoting  sustainable and innovative models, lifestyles and business. First, the chance to  consider and evaluate in advance the possible reverberation that and action can have over time at environmental, economic and social level. Secondly, the  chance to avoid shifting problems and so their transposition from one side to  another, concerning not only the time frame but also the geographical location.  All these factors are pivotal in sustainability, especially if it is expected  to reach it at global scale as required by Agenda 2030.Focusing on environmental issues, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)  methodology is currently the most well-established scientific method to assess  the environmental impacts of products, processes and services throughout their entire  life cycle. In particular, its application is decisive for achieving the  following goals: number 12 “Responsible consumption and production” and, since  different impact indicators fall into other goals, the number 3 “Good-health  and well-being”, 6 “Clean water and sanitation”, 13 “Climate action”, 14 “Life  below water” and 15 “Life on land”. This method is adopted in a more or less  systematic way in the most various fields, on one hand, to monitor resources  and environmental impacts and, on the other, to optimize processes. Despite LCA  still have some critical aspects not yet solved, such as the methodology itself,  data availability and comparability of results, it is important to foster its  widespread dissemination in order to activate the virtuous mechanisms able to  meet the environmental sustainability demanded by SDGs.To this end, construction sector is certainly a strategic field of action to address sustainable and environmental goals, as it is esteem as one of the most incisive and impacting sector at a global scale,  due to the high consumption of soil, natural resources and energy and the high  emission in air, water and ground. Just to give some numbers, from the  environmental point of view, it consumes each year about 3 billion tons of raw  materials to manufacture building products worldwide and it is responsible for  40% of solid waste derived from construction and demolition and for 25-40% of  the total energy use at global level. Furthermore, it must not forget the economical point of view, since the construction industry collects total annual revenues of almost $10 trillion, accounting for about 5% of global GDP and employing more than 100 million people worldwide. In addition, with regards to  social point of view, it is well known that construction continues to shape our daily life in unique ways, with a high impact on the health and well-being of  its occupants \citep{WEF2016}.The growing awareness of sustainability goals and environmental issues led many governments to provide regulations and requirements with the aim to control the impacts generated by building sector. In this way, environmental  targets spread in design and construction firms, boosting the ongoing process of transformation and increasingly complexity of building industry and bringing  out new pressure and more radical changing. The integration process has been disruptive to the point that while until a short time ago  environmental targets were seen as constraints (just think about energy  efficiency directive), today they are even more considered as a way to improve  performance and increase competitiveness. The result is that nowadays more or  less every design firms claim to be environmentally friendly to take advantage  for their business.Over time, several studies dealt with sustainability and environmental  aspects in construction sector, on one hand, analysing advancement, key  factors, weakness points, barriers and all the related topics to clarify the  current state and, on the other, exploring new methodologies, framework,  instruments and tools to support design tasks. The problem is that while we  have a wide knowledge from the theoretical point of view, there is no literature about what happens in design practice. In this regard, many are yet the open questions to be solved, just to name a few: the environmental issues taken into consideration, the way of practice to address them, their role within the  decision-making process, the kind of tools and software used for that purpose, the skills and competences involved in the process and the related information’s  flow. Since this field remains until now fuzzy, the research project seeks to fill the gap with the aim to understand how AEC firms are equipping and reorganizing themselves in order to address and meet environmental issues.The subject engaged are thus both Architecture and Engineering firms but  also Construction companies, since they represent the key actors and  practitioners responsible for the built environment development. Indeed, in a simplified and synthetic way, artefacts are essentially conceived and designed by  architectural and engineering studios and they are physically realized and  built by construction companies. Nevertheless, today the boundaries between AEC  firms are blurred, since for several reasons they are even more characterized  by an “hybrid” nature to interplay and collaborate in an integrated way. On account of this, the research deals with the whole AEC industry to identify shared strategies but also individual practice and decision-making process in relation to the type of company. In addition, with regards to firms’  dimensions, the attention is focused on big and medium-size firms, since they  are strongly involved in the process of transformation, rather that small firms  where inner changes are limited and less visible.In this direction, the effort is to identify all the tangible and  intangible resources invested by AEC firms to achieve environmental goals and  their influence in the decision-making process. In particular, the attention is  focused on the relationships and the information’s flow among i) the team of  actors and experts involved in the design process; ii) the set of tools and  assets adopted; iii) and the collection of data required both by experts and  tools to work and design. Moreover, consistently with current trends that lead  to consider artefacts as small part of a larger networks, systems and  environment, life cycle approach is taken during the entire work, to take a  broadening of perspective and to avoid shifting problems from one stage to  another.The research project analyses current practice with the aim to orient  and streamline the design process in line with environmental targets and life  cycle perspective and thus to decrease, as demanded, the high impacts of building  sector. To this end, the implementation of Life Cycle Thinking, as first, and  then, in the next future, the application of Life Cycle Assessment within AEC  practice are considered the key challenges to allow practitioners to make aware  decisions, to gain long-term perspective, to optimize design process, to lead  decision-making and to truly decrease construction impacts.STATE-OF-THE-ARTThe research project involves a broad spectrum of topics of growing  interest in the international panorama such as, just to mention a few,  sustainability, life cycle, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Information and  Communication Technology (ICT), Building Information Modelling (BIM) and change  management. To face the complexity of the matter and the wide background  available, the state-of-the-art is structured in three main sections: i) change  management in AEC practice; ii) environmental issues and tools in AEC practice;  and iii) AEC firms sustainable practice. For each section a comprehensive  literature was developed based on two different type of sources: on one hand,  through the Web of Science to identify the scientific and academic paper and,  on the other, through the Web to locate other researches, documents, reports  and supporting materials on the topics. Indeed, dealing with design practice, it  is important to examine not only the publication of the academic community but  also internet browser, since only here are visible all the assets developed by  the same AEC firms.In the first section, the keywords used in the starting literature review  included “AEC change management” and “design building practice change  management” for ISI search and “AEC firms change management” for Web search. In  the second section, the keywords are “sustainable building design practice”, “green  BIM”, “interoperability BIM LCA”, “LCA software”, “LCA software building”, “Life  Cycle design building practice” for ISI search and “sustainable design practice”  and “tools sustainable building practice” for Web search. In the third section,  the only source adopted is the Web and the keywords used are “AEC firm’s name  sustainable practice” (considering the name of the first ten AEC firms listed in  ENR’s ranking of 2015) and a randomly research. In relation to scientific  publications, a cross-reference activity was carried out for the latest papers  (considering the ones developed until 2014) to avoid losing documents, while  were surfed the web checking the first twenty pages.Given the topicality of the subject, the articles and papers collected refer  mainly to the timespan between 2010 and 2017, with a strong concentration in  recent years even though there are scattered references related to previous  years. In this regard, it is possible to notice that the documents concerning change  management are the most dated, since the topic in question emerged earlier than  environmental issues that, on the contrary, are gaining more importance  especially in recent years. Some of the top journals included in literature  search were including, but not limited to: Automation in Construction, Building  and Environment, Energy and Buildings, International Journal of Life Cycle  Assessment, Journal of Cleaner Production and Renewable and Sustainable Energy  Reviews. The documents and papers gathered during this process are then categorized  according to specific sub-topics for each section.The following paragraphs depict the three main sections of the  state-of-the-art, explaining in a synthetic way the sub-clustering and the main  findings to offer a quick overview of the phenomenon in progress (WP1 –  cognitive phase at theoretical level).Change management  in AEC practiceThe first section, related to change management in AEC practice, is  split in the listed four main sub-topics: “increasingly complexity”, “tangible  resources”, “intangible resources” and “decision-making process”.Indeed, over the recent decades, building sector has expanded and become  increasingly complex (Browning, 2016), as  direct consequence of the globalization of the market (Bond  and O’Byrne, 2014) and the demand of a wide range of requirement (Yu and Chan, n.d.), like the ones related to  sustainable development and environmental issues (Štefaňák,  2011; Woods, n.d.). To face these pressures, construction field is  changing step by step (Deamer and Bernstein, 2010; Renz  et al., 2016; Weippert and Kajewski, 2004; Witthoeft et al., 2017), even  if it is considered resistant to change (Davis,  2008; Smollan, 2011). The transformation process involves all the firms’  inner resources (Chinowsky and Byrd, 2001):  tangible resources, such as materials, buildings, plant, equipment, tools,  money; and intangible resources, such as knowledge, organization and  intelligence of people (Norsa, 2005; Sinopoli,  1997). Regarding tangible resources, it is important to stress the relevance  of technology in AEC practice, with tools able to meet any design issues (Boddy et al., 2007; Fox, n.d.; Rezgui et al., 2011; Riese,  2012), and the so-called digital revolution of BIM (Autodesk, 2011b; Babič et al., 2010; BCG et al., 2016; Becerik-Gerber  and Kensek, 2010; Harris, 2010; Reinhardt et al., 2013; Succar and Kassem, 2015).  By contrast, intangible resources deal with the specialization of competences (Cerovšek et al., 2010; Hoffman and Lintern, 2006),  knowledge and know-how (Mills et al., 2003),  conceiving design process as an integrated practice where autonomous units of  work turn into systems (Tiwari and Howard, 1994).  In this context, a key ingredient is the ability of the companies to manage  decision-making process and thus to achieve collaboration, cooperation and  coordination (AberdeenGroup, 2007; Shen et al.,  2010; Susman et al., 2006), handling at best information’s flow and  workflows (Carson and Baker, 2006; Sakhare et al.,  2014). Due to the dynamic and fragmented nature of construction sector,  the problem of data integration throughout the projects’ life cycle still  remains a challenge (Chinowsky and Carrillo, n.d.; Mokhtar  et al., 1998; Rezgui et al., 2010).Environmental  issues and tools in AEC practiceThe second section, related to environmental issues in AEC practice, is  a little more complex and articulated. It is split in four main sub-topics: “approaches  life cycle”, “drivers”, “practice” and “tools”, which are in turn divided  according to other themes. The sub-topic “approaches life cycle” is divided in:  “life cycle approaches”, “Life Cycle Assessment” and “LCA case studies”. The  sub-topic “drivers” is divided in: “clients” and “environmental policies”. And  finally, the sub-topic “tools” is divided in: “environmental tools”, “LCA  building tools”, “green BIM”, “BIM – Rating Systems”, “BIM – LCA”.Environmental issues are gaining even more attention in the construction  field, fostered by the concept of sustainable development and circular economy (Accenture, 2014; Arup, 2016; Carra and Magdani, 2017; Ellen  MacArthur Foundation, 2015, 2016) and becoming part of many  international agenda and standards. In this context, many approaches and  methodologies arose in order to promote new business models, while reducing  dependence on primary materials and energy. One of the most affirmed purpose is  that whole-system thinking is required to reduce environmental impacts within  construction sector and drive both sustainability and innovation (Faludi, 2015), starting at small scale with  building level (Annex31, 2004d) to end at  large scale with supply chain (Antink et al., 2014).  In this direction, LCA is considered as the most scientific method and it is  growing of importance (Annex31, 2004b; Bayer et al.,  2010; Zabalza Bribián et al, 2009), not only to meet customer demands  for environmental friendly products/projects, but also to improve environmental  processes and services and thus increase competitiveness (Cassidy, 2005; Khasreen et al., 2009; Ortiz et al., 2009).  The main drivers are, on one hand, clients, which have a key role in creating  and stimulating the right conditions for construction innovation, understanding  and sharing the needs of both end-users and stakeholders (Häkkinen and Belloni, 2011; Hartmann et al., 2006;  Kilinc et al., 2015); and, on the other, regulation, policies and  planning in encouraging and facilitating facilities that meet high  environmental standards (Fischer and Guy, 2009; Shaw  and Ozaki, 2016). Due to sustainability and environmental targets, the  shared belief is that probably in the next future every company will need to  transform itself and change management to survive and succeed (Farmer, 2013; Hedstrom, 2015; Kaatz et al., 2006;  Mendler et al., 2006; Pan and Ning, 2015), facing the several barriers that  today occur in construction sector and sustainable practice (Robichaud and Anantatmula, 2011). This challenge  is not only addressed by AEC firms but also by software corporations (Autodesk, 2015), describing through reports their  efforts and progress in sustainability during the last years. In this way, the  set of tools available on the market is even more broader, allowing AEC  practice to potentially meet any design issues concerning environmental issues (Forsberg and von Malmborg, 2004; Haapio and Viitaniemi,  2008a; Reijnders and Van Roekel, 1999; Zhai and McNeill, 2014) but also  LCA (Gantner et al., 2012; Han and Srebric, n.d.; Hitchcock  et al., 2011; Lehtinen et al., 2011; Peuportier et al., 2005, n.d.).  Moreover, given the potentialities of BIM (Autodesk,  2011a), it is possible to streamline the design process, exchanging data  and models between different software and creating great opportunity to achieve  sustainability targets (Azhar et al., 2008; BLP and  Miller, 2011; Cidik et al., 2014; Koppinen and Morrin, n.d., Levring and  Nielsen, 2011; Rajendran et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2015; Wong and Zhou, 2015;  Zhang et al., 2013), Rating System certification (Azhar et al., 2011; Biswas et al, 2013; Jalaei and Jrade, 2015;  Nguyen et al., 2010; Wu and Issa, 2015) and LCA analysis (Anton and Diaz, 2014; Basbagill et al., 2013; Kovacic,  2016; Lee et al., 2015).AEC firms sustainable practiceThe third section collects AEC firms sustainable practice, without any  sub-division in sub-topics.    AEC firms (AECOM, 2012, 2013, 2016; AMEC,  2014, 2015a, 2015b; ARCADIS, 2015; Arup, 2015, n.d.a, n.d.b; CH2M, 2015; Fluor,  2014; Foster&Partners, 2005; Jacobs, 2015; MottMacDonald, 2016; SOM, 2013a,  2013b, 2014; WorleyParsons, 2015; WSP-Parsons Brinckerhoff, 2014a, 2014b)  as well as other institutions, organizations, associations, companies and  corporations (BusinessRoundtable, 2015; McKinsey,  2014; RobecoSAM, 2015a, 2015b) disseminate several documents, reports  and supporting materials concerning environmental issues and in general  sustainability. The problem is that looking into AEC publications, more or less  every big and medium-size company claim to be environmentally-friendly, not  allowing to really understand by the documentations available how they work,  act, design and process in practice.SoA in detailIn addition to the above reported overview, an in deep analysis was  conducted in relation to the key issues of the research project.With the aim to look into AEC firms’ perspective, the state-of-the-art was  examined pointing out the literature studies based on questionnaire surveys  inputs from design and construction company and concerning the following  topics: BIM, Green BIM, LCA.Regarding BIM, some questionnaires spread with the aim of exploring the  users and business value of BIM to provide an overview of the trends in action \citep{construction2010businessc,construction2010businesse}or focusing  on its implementation in specific countries, for instance UK \citep{khosrowshahi2012roadmap}. Moreover, some  others broaden the perspective examining the degree of adoption and impact of  BIM in relation to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Integrated Design Process  (IDP) and Building Energy Simulation (BES)\citep{becerik2009building,stipo2015standard}.With regards to Green BIM, various surveys were developed to investigate  the current state in which BIM operates and functions with respect to  sustainable design practice as well as the potential of Green BIM in the future \citep{azhar2009bim,bynum2012building,construction2010businessf}. Concerning LCA, some authors explored the point of view of building  designers on BES and LCA but enclosed to US context \citep{han2015comparison} and some others deepened the status of LCA application  and challenges limited to Nordic countries \citep{schlanbusch2016experiences}.The attention was furthermore focused on the application of LCA  methodology in construction sector, analyzing the LCA tools now available on  the market and developed to support practitioners for their environmental choices.  In fact, several authors identified the existing stand-alone LCA tools for  buildings, presenting their main characteristics \citep{young2009businessb,bayer2010aia,lasvaux2012requirements,han2011life,han2011lifea,han2011lifeb,presco2005,han2011lifed,quinones2011}, while others analyzed the possible  integration of LCA in BIM. Indeed, some authors report a critical review of  BIM-based LCA method to buildings \citep{spiegelhalter2012achieving,anton2014integration,Soust-Verdaguer2017} and some others  present environmental assessment tools to provide fully integrated approach  applying LCA directly in BIM \citep{tucker2003lcadesign,kulahcioglu20123d}. Some studies focus on the evaluation of  buildings’ carbon emissions and embodied energy in a BIM-driven design process \citep{li2012research,shadram2016integrated} and some  others restrict the field of application to commercial buildings \citep{means2015framework} or structural systems \citep{eleftheriadis2017life}. In addition, some  case studies shown and explore the potentialities of BIM as supporting tool for  LCA starting from the early stage of design decision-making process \citep{basbagill2013application,lee2015green,kovacic2016}. Lastly, few case studies display models that link BIM and  LCA with other functionalities such as energy analysis, lighting simulation and  green building certification systems \citep{jalaei2014automated}, or Life Cycle Costing \citep{shin2015bim}, or scheduling, costing and sustainability dimensions \citep{yung20146d}.Finally, the search explored  the developed LCA studies, finding in literature a lot of single LCA studies carried  out at building level but also some literature reviews on collected LCA  analysis \citep{buyle2013life,cabeza2014life,chastas2016embodied,soust2016simplification}.METHODS  FINDINGS AND ARGUMENTWith the aim to understand how environmental issues are addressed in AEC practice and their role within the decision-making process, during the entire  work, the adopted methodology combines the search conducted at theoretical level  with the search conducted at practical level. In particular, the theoretical research  is developed exploring and upgrading the studies and findings available in literature,  while the practical research is developed conducting interviews to design and  construction firms. In the last case, the working method elected is strictly  related not only to the subject in question that requires itself a close investigation  into AEC firms and their workability, but it also calls to mind the field of  qualitative research methodologies: the ethnography approach. Indeed, as stated  in literature \citep{pink2013introducing}, ethnography is now emerging as part of the set of  techniques used to understand the construction industry, a sector considered  extremely complex and influential but that despite this remains mostly  unexplored and under-theorised. In this way, the research project embraces the  ideas that construction ethnography, involving the main actors engaged in the  process, can offer new routes to knowledge about and in the construction  sector. Ethnography become thus the methodology adopted to deal with the practical search, applying two different models of interviews in relation to the level of  detail to be achieved according to the phase of the project.The following paragraphs shown the structure of the research project,  briefly presenting the Work Packages (WP) and describing for each phase the associated  specific targets and the results expected.The cognitive phase at theoretical level (WP1), previously depicted, aims  to define the state-of-the-art of the research project, identifying through the  Web of Science the related scientific and academic paper and through the Web  other researches, documents, reports and supporting materials on the topic. The  outcome is the identification at theoretical level of current trends in the  field of change management ongoing in AEC practice and specifically focusing on  environmental issues.The descriptive phase (WP3) aims to develop, at conceptual level, the  supporting materials necessary to the following research’s phases. The  challenge is to match, integrate and interconnect life cycle approach (theoretical  level) and design process (practical level). The outcome is a framework able to  figure out LCA data and choices according to the different phases of the process,  as well as the connected actors engaged and tools used. In this way, the  research proposes a new way to orient the change management of design process  in line with environmental targets and life cycle perspective.The partnership phase (WP4) aims to establish agreements with some  national and international AEC firms in order to encompass their practices in  the analysis. This is a crucial point since from the companies’ point of view  the partnership can represents an effort but at the same time an opportunity  for their workability. The call is turn to AEC firms considered environmentally  friendly, selecting from their portfolio a case study, built with the  accomplishment of high environmental targets and possible equipped with an LCA  study. The outcome is a list of design and construction firms available to  actively contribute to the research goals.The analytic phase (WP5) aims to understand how AEC firms deal in  practice with environmental issues and how environmental issues are integrated  in the design process and the connected information’s flow. To this end, the  second model of interview is applied by means of a personal involvement within  the joined practice. It involves punctual partnerships, focusing on specific  environmental-friendly projects and using direct means of communication, such  as face to face questions, not structured since they vary in relation to the  firms’ practice. The outcome is a mapping of AEC design process stressing  environmental issues and their role in decision-making.The synthetic phase (WP6) aims to get the meaning of the different AEC  design processes examined and of the possible application of the suggested  framework within their practice. The outcome is a validated framework able to  orient and streamline the design process in line with environmental targets and  life cycle perspective, optimizing the decision-making process and thus the  connected tangible and intangible resources and maybe introducing new  competences and new organizational models.The cognitive phase at practical level (WP2) aims to start gain insight  on the AEC perspective in order to understand if the theoretical data are  confirmed by real practice and to provide an overview of the transformation  process and trends in environmental topics. To this end, the first model of  interview is applied by means of the spread of a questionnaire survey. It  involves a large target audience, focusing on general design practice and using  indirect means of communication, such as mail or telephone interviews,  structured with open-ended questions. The outcome is the identification at  practical level of current trends within AEC practices, since design and  construction firms are analysed as groups rather than as individuals.The levelsynthetic phase (WP6) aims to get the meaning of the different AEC  design processes examined and of the possible application of the suggested  framework within their practice. The outcome is a validated framework able to  orient and streamline the design process in line with environmental targets and  life cycle perspective, optimizing the decision-making process and thus the  connected tangible and intangible resources and maybe introducing new  competences and new organizational models.The following  paragraphs look into the Work Packages of the research explaining, on one hand,  the methods and the main findings of the WP addressed and still now underway  (WP2 and WP3) and, on the other, the plan of action for the WP started but not  yet yet concluded (WP4) and in the forthcoming agenda (WP5).Starting gain insight on AEC firmsFrom the first steps of the research, a  questionnaire survey was conducted to start gain insight on AEC perspectives, analyzing  current design practice in order to provide a general overview of the  transformation process and determine trends in environmental topics (WP2  – cognitive phase at practical level).The target audience was architectural and engineering firms but also  construction companies established both at national and international level and  restricted to big and medium-size firms. Indeed, as just mentioned, with regards  to environmental issues the transformation process gets involved especially the  big and medium-size firms rather than the small ones which are for this reason  excluded from the study. In addition, since today a variety of design firms  operate worldwide and that the sample population can affect significantly the  outcome of the study, it was adopted an as unbiased as possible criterion for  the selection. AEC firms were thus identified through published ranking,  considering for the medium-size firms the Italian list named “Top  100 national design firms” developed by Edilizia e Territorio in 2013 \citep{edilizia2013} and for  the big-sized firms the “Top 150 global design firms” developed by ENR  according to revenue for design services performed in 2015 . Right now, it is possible to point out that  seven of the ten global AEC firms are tagged environmentally friendly by ENR,  stressing the assumption that design business are taking advantage by the  integration of environmental topics and goals. Participants were recruited  through email invitations to the selected ranking lists and were later widen  through the direct contacts gained during the study. Moreover, to meet as much  as possible firms’ demand, AEC companies can choose if reply independently to  the survey, if set a phone/skype call or fix a meeting according to their preference  and availability.The questionnaire is structured with open-ended questions split in three  main sections: i) general info; ii) structure and organization; and iii)  environmental issues. The first section provides an overview of the firm  interviewed, explaining the type, the network in relation to the number of  offices, the size in relation to the number of employees, the competences  required and the projects/tasks developed. The second section deals with the  structure and the organization of the firms, depicting the operational units  and the sub-specialized units, if necessary the support of external partners, the  different ways to manage and tackle the design process, the potential use of  BIM tools and the information’s flow between the different actors involved. The  third and last section is focused on environmental issues, pointing out the  main drivers of such topics, the main goals addressed, the main experts  engaged, the main environmental consultants if any and the use of Life Cycle  Assessment as supporting tool in the decision-making process. Before the  widespread dissemination of the survey, the questionnaire was validated inviting  one national and one international company to respond in advance to the survey  in order to understand if questions were clear and comprehensible form  practitioners’ point of view, testing and if required adjusting the queries.The questionnaire survey was lunched on November 2015 and submitted to forty-six  international and national AEC firms. Until now, despite the countless  reminders, only nine firms completed the survey: four medium-size firms,  involving Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genova (ranked at the first place in  Italy), Progetto CMR of Milano (eleventh place in Italy), PiuArch of Milano  (sixteenth place in Italy) and Cucinella of Bologna (thirty-second place in  Italy); and five big-size firms, including HDR of Chicago (ranked at the  twenty-first place in the world), Arup of Berlino (twenty-fourth place in the  world), HOK of Washington (seventy-eight place in the world), Foster and  Partners of London and Skanska Finland and UK (not located in the raking). In  this way, the survey response rate is 20% which is a little low but, given the  diversity of firms, good enough to identify general current practice and  trends. Among the survey respondents, the majority are architectural firms  (45%) or integrated firms (33%), followed by engineering firms (11%) and  construction companies (11%).The survey was thus presented in the different AEC firms demanding for  the responses the involvement of the environmental experts. Indeed, also the  expertise, the background and the employment of the individuals engaged in the  questionnaire going to strongly affect the outcome of the study. For this  reason, it is important to underline that, in relation to firm’s availability,  in some case the informants are environmental experts while in others are  workers of different hierarchical levels and positions. When possible, multiple  participants were interviewed simultaneously to provide different point of  views and improve the reliability of data. In this way, the wealth and the  accuracy of the replies gained depends not only to the type and dimension of  the firms but also to the willingness to participate which was not equal across  the officesAfter the interview,  for each firm the information gathered are summarized and schematized in a  graphic way, as shown on Figure \ref{803566}. At the base, it is specified the name of the  company under study, followed by its location, the type of firm identifying  with “A” architecture, “E” engineering and “C” construction, the position in  the ranking explaining if at Italian level or in the world. Moreover, the base  colour indicates whether the company belongs to big or medium-size firms. Afterwards,  data are explained in eight columns: the first three columns provide “general  info” related to the firm and the last five columns refer to “environmental  issues”. In this way, “general info” are grouped in “dimensions”, “structure”  and “experts”; while “environmental issues” in “drivers”, “topics”, “tools”,  “simulations” and “development”. The column “dimensions” explains the number of  country where is set the firm and the related number of offices and employees.  The column “structure” explains the operational units, including  administration, commercial and technical-operative areas, and if specified the  tools used to share and manage the information’s flow within the firm. The  column “experts” explains the specific competences in-house, representing with  the symbol if it is a single expert or a group, and eventually the external  partners. With regards to “environmental issues”, the column “drivers” explains  the motivation items, such as regulations, clients or philosophy, that push in  that direction the design practice. The column “topics” explains the  environmental issues mostly considered, such as energy, water, pollution,  health and wellness. The column “tools” explains the assets used by the firms  during the design process, in particular simulation software, BIM, LCA study,  environmental information and if it relies on external partners for some  aspects. The column “simulations” explains the name of tools and software used  by the firm to address environmental issues. Finally, the column “development”  explains if these tools are available on the market or are homemade.