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SUSTAINABLE

HABITAT AND
SOCIO-CULTURAL
ENVIRONMENT
TERM PAPER
TOPIC- EMBODIED ENERGY
OF BUILDING MATERIALS

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SUBMITTED BY:SHUBHANI AGARWAL


M.SC. RMDA (P)
CONTENTS
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

Introduction
What is embodied energy?
Why is embodied energy important?
Re- and recycling of building materials
How would the study of embodied energy help to
lower the energy consumption in the building

industry?
6) Primary consumption of energy
7) Low embodied energy materials
8) Life cycle assessment
9) Embodied energy examples
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10)
11)

Conclusion
Case study

INTRDOUCTION
Think about the wide range of materials and products used in constructing our buildings today.
They are made by extraction of raw materials, processed, manufactured, transported to site, and
constructed as the finished building the energy associated with all these steps and processes is
what makes up the embodied energy of the building and its materials. This can also be
expressed in terms of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with this embodied energy,
defining the term embodied carbon.
The other energy usage associated with our buildings is that used in running the building services
and other equipment in the building over its lifetime this is known as the operational energy
consumption for the building. The associated operational carbon emissions from the building
services are the basis of Building Regulations Part L (see TBN 19). The embodied energy, and
the operational energy for the building over its whole life, can be added together to create a
whole-life carbon footprint for the building, perhaps the most comprehensive way to look at the
environmental impact of the energy and carbon associated with our buildings.

WHAT IS EMBODIED ENREGY?


Embodied energy is defined as the total energy inputs consumed throughout a products lifecycle. Initial embodied energy represents energy used for the extraction of raw materials,
transportation to factory, processing and manufacturing, transportation to site, and construction.

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Once the material is installed, recurring embodied energy represents the energy used to maintain,
replace, and recycle materials and components of a building throughout its life.
Embodied energy is typically expressed in MJ/kg, where a mega joule (MJ) is equal to 0.948
kBtu or 0.278 kWh. The embodied energy values in Material LIFE have been converted to MJ
per construction unit (i.e. ft2 for flooring, LF for studs, etc.) and are listed for the cradle-to-gate
portion of the products life cycle, as highlighted in green in the diagram below

CRADLE-TO -GAT E

Raw material extraction


Energy used to operate machinery
Transportation of raw material to factory
Type of vehicle used and distance traveled
affect embodied energy
Product manufacturing
Using raw materials and recycled materials

Transportation of finished product to site


Type of vehicle used and distance traveled affect embodied energy

Building construction
Energy used to operate machinery
Building life-cycle
Energy associated with maintaining and cleaning materials

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Material disposal
Removal and disposal at end of material life-cycle


Assessments of embodied energy levels for common building materials have to also take into
account other factors including the energy used in transporting materials from production point
to construction site and, as energy savings with recycling can be significant, whether source
materials are raw or recycled. Materials with the lowest embodied energy levels such as
concrete, bricks and timber, are usually consumed in large quantities, whereas those with higher
embodied energy content levels such as stainless steel are often used in much smaller amounts.
Embodied energy has been researched for decades and its main goal is to define the connection
between construction materials, the process of building and after coming impact on the
environment. The embodied energy itself can be separated in two categories:

Initial embodied energy


Recurring embodied energy

Where the initial embodied energy represents the energy used in extracting raw materials, their
manufacturing and their processing. On the other hand a big part of the initial embodied energy
is consumed due to transportation to site and constructing the building. Therefore, the initial
embodied energy could be divided in two sub chapters, which would be Direct and Indirect
energy. The direct energy is used for transportation and the indirect energy is used to acquire
process and manufacture the building materials. The recurring embodied energy is actually the
energy used during the life cycle of the building, used to maintain, repair and restore or replace
materials. A building becomes more energy efficient, when the embodied energy of the building
is decreasing due to the long lifespan.

WHY IS EMBODIED ENERGY IMPORTANT?


With much tighter Building Regulations, and improvements in construction standards such as
air-tightness and increased insulation, new buildings are becoming more and more energy
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efficient. Use of low and zero carbon energy supply on-site, such as PV panels and solar thermal
hot water systems, further reduces the operational carbon emissions associated with new
buildings. This means that, in terms of the total whole-life carbon footprint of our buildings, the
embodied energy and carbon emissions are becoming much more important in relative terms.
The graphs below shows typical data for the embodied and operational energy for two different
levels of typical construction for new homes over a lifetime of 60 years.

Diagram 1: Energy Consumption for a Typical Three-Bed house

Total energy

Energy
consumption

Energy in use

Embodied energy

5 10 15 20 25 30 40 45 50 55 60 years

Diagram 2: Energy Consumption for a Low Energy house

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Total energy

Energy
consumption

Energy in use
Embodied energy

5 10 15 20 25 30 40 45 50 55 60 years
For the typical house embodied energy is ~10% of the total over its life, whereas for the low
energy house the embodied energy is 30-40% of the total. For non-domestic buildings is has
been estimated that the embodied carbon in a distribution warehouse was 60% of its total
lifetime carbon footprint, whereas a supermarket, which uses a lot more energy, has an embodied
carbon content of 20% 2.

RE-USE AND RECYCLING OF BUILDING MATERIALS


Re-use of building materials commonly saves about 95 per cent of embodied energy that would
otherwise be wasted. There are significant energy savings to be made by recycling of materials,
though this is variable for example, recycling of aluminum can save up to 95 per cent of energy
used in full production but only 5 per cent of energy can be saved in recycling glass due to the
energy used in its reprocessing.
Potential energy savings of some recycled materials
Material

Energy required to produce

Energy saved by using

from virgin

recycled

Aluminum
Plastics
Newsprint
Corrugated

250
98
29.8

95
88
34

Cardboard
Glass

26.5
15.6

24
5

Source: (Home Energy 2010)


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WHAT CAN WE DO TO REDUCE EMBODIED ENERGY?


Source: Cole and Kernan study (1996)
Architects, interior designers, and engineers need to be conscious of the embodied energy of the
materials specified on projects so that they can select products that help reduce the overall energy
footprint of buildings.
Given that the envelope and structure alone account for approximately 50% of a buildings total
embodied energy, we can reduce the footprint of our designs by selecting existing buildings for
interior build-outs, renovations, or adaptive reuse projects.
Interior finishes account for approximately 13% of a buildings embodied energy, so adaptive
reuse or interior build-out projects have an overall smaller energy footprint that new
construction.
A study conducted by Preservation Green Lab examined the impacts on climate, resource,
human, and ecosystem associated with renovation and reuse projects. The study found that a
building that is 30% more efficient than an average-performing existing building will take 10-80
years to overcome the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process.
However, selecting a renovation/reuse project is not enough; the quantity and type of materials
used in the project is also important. For the most positive impact, we need to select materials
with lower embodied energy, higher durability, lower levels of toxicity, and overall favorable
life-cycle impacts.

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SALES
ENVELOPE
STRUCTURE
FINISHES
CONSTRUCTION
SERVICE
SITEWORK

Average initial embodied energy of an office building

HOW WOULD THE STUDY OF EMBODIED ENERGY HELP TO LOWER


THE ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN THE BUILDING INDUSTRY?
The most common problem of the world and the most recently discussed topic is how to save
energy. There are many researches done on providing new sources of energy such as wind, water
or solar power. If we lower the energy consumption for domestic purposes it would be only a
small part of worlds in total. Therefore, we have to think globally. We have to think of new
solutions to lower the energy consumption in the industry zone.
Low embodied energy analysis would be a great solution to the world known problem and the
construction sector. A big part of the energy consumption can be reduced by planning and
predicting the process of constructing a building and all the activities in connection with that. For
example, a research on where would it be most appropriate to get the materials for the
construction can lead us to lowering the embodied energy of the building in means of
transportation.

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Another efficient way to drastically lower the energy consumption is by using raw materials
located on the site instead of using manufactured materials from a factory located away from the
area of building. For example, a great choice of material will be using stones found on the site
while digging the foundation of a building and manufacture them on the site by hand or by the
usage of very low-consuming energy equipment. Canadian scientists calculated that the
embodied energy of stones is 0.79 MJ/kg, which is three times less the embodied energy of
bricks (2.5 MJ/kg).
The great amounts of construction waste in the world are reaching a disturbing level and many
manufacturers are starting to use the waste into producing new materials that could be as
efficient as the ones manufactured from raw materials. This process could be defined as
recycling materials and it allows us to lower the energy consumption in the construction industry
drastically.
A big part of the waste is also reinforcement used in concrete and is extremely easy to recycle or
reuse into new buildings. In this way we could save energy and lower the embodied energy of a
lot of buildings and also prolong the life span of raw material resources. A great example of
recycling materials is the recycling of bricks. Scientists say that seven recycled bricks are equal
to 1l of oil.
Metals such as steel have a rather high embodied energy, but if recycled we can save from 40 up
to 90 per cent of the energy used for extracting ore.
Recycling also has its disadvantages; it has to be done in a local facility or in other words a
factory close to the demolished building, if the construction waste has to be transported to distant
location the consumption of energy for oil changes everything.

PRIMARY CONSUMPTION OF ENERGY


The primary consumption of energy in producing materials is actually the energy needed to
manufacture the building product. When calculating the primary energy consumption the most
important factor is the combustion value, which is the amount of energy produced by the certain
material if burned as fuel and it is mainly included in the primary energy source. If we dont

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include the combustion value this can lead to wrong results. The primary energy consumption is
around 80% of the total energy input in a material and is separated as it follows:

The energy used in the extraction of raw materials and the production process are defined
as the direct energy consumption. Of course this depends on the type of machinery used

during the process of extraction and the machinerys energy consumption.


During the process of manufacturing the energy consumed is called secondary energy
consumption, which refers to the energy used for heating, ventilating or maintenance of

the given factory.


Last but not the least is the energy consumed for transportation.

LOW EMBODIED ENERGY MATERIALS


There are many factors that need to be considered when we are defining low embodied energy
materials. Mainly in consideration is taken the energy used to produce the certain material, the
energy used to deliver it and build with it on site and the energy used to maintain it after words.
In the past many of the products used into a construction were found and manufactured on site.
Such materials as stone, timber and mud have been the most common to be used in building
structure. Nowadays these materials are to be replaced by concrete, steel and bricks. The newly
developed techniques of building, consume greater amounts of energy due to the usage of heavy
machinery. In the past most of the construction materials were manufactured by hand or used in a
raw form, which means no energy was used to build a house. A material with low embodied
energy can be defined by the following factors:

How far the materials have to travel (local materials are better).
The amount of raw materials used.
How difficult it is to actually manufacture the product (the more complex the processes is

the more energy is being used).


The size of the building should be connected with the needs it has to fulfill, the waste of

space leads to higher usage of energy due to extra materials needed.


How much waste do you have during production and if the waste could be reused.
Recycling possibilities of the given material
Efficiently design the building so the use of energy and materials is lowered.

The most common types of low embodied energy building materials are:
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Mud bricks
Stabilized earth
Air dried timber
Concrete blocks
Precast concrete
Recycled materials that dont require the usage of raw materials as they are already
manufactured once.

FOUNDATIONS, BASIC STRUCTURE AND CLADDING:


The lowest embodied energy can be achieved through timber frame housing, provided that
timber has not travelled too far - and in fact this can also give low energy in use. In addition, it
can be built off shallow, excavated pile foundations, which are the least energy-intensive
foundation type.
As far as possible, avoid the use of aluminum and high-tech claddings, which often have very
high embodied energy.

ROOFS:
Traditional pitched timber roofs with tile or slate covering have relatively low embodied energy.
Steel framed roofs are not so good and flat concrete and asphalt roofs should be avoided.

WINDOWS:
Timber framed single-glazed windows have the lowest embodied energy, but double-glazed units
have a short energy payback - probably about one year.

INTERNAL PARTITIONS:
Traditional studwork and plasterboard partitions have low embodied energy, although if noise
insulation is taken into account they may not be much better than a block wall. Avoid high-tech
plastic and/or aluminum partitioning, not only in new housing, but also when fitting out your
Associations office.

INSULATION:
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In terms of embodied energy, and indeed many other environmental measures, insulation made
from recycled newsprint is excellent. However, there is still relatively little experience of using
this and it is not suitable for cavity insulation in masonry buildings (although it can be used in
the walls of timber buildings, where transmission of damp is not a problem and sections of
insulation can be relatively easily replaced if necessary).
The next choice would be glass or mineral fibers, provided these are of low density, followed
finally by foam-based products.

FINISHES AND FIT OUTS:


Generally, products based on natural materials will have lower embodied energy - and will be
less likely to have harmful health effects than their synthetic counterparts. Here are some
examples:

DO USE:
Linoleum
Wool/hessian
Paints with natural pigments
Wood

DONT USE:
Vinyl floor covering
Synthetic carpets
Synthetic pigments
Formica, plastics

Once again, it is generally true that the more processed and artificial a product is, the more
embodied energy it is likely to have. Use of alternatives with a high content of natural materials
also brings benefits in terms of reduced pollution and a healthier indoor environment.

HEATING:
Gas-fired heating systems have much higher embodied energy than electric ones, due to the extra
equipment required but this will be recovered in about one year as a result of greater efficiency
in use. Condensing boilers also have slightly higher embodied energy than traditional types, but
this is also soon recovered.

LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT

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A life-cycle assessment is defined as a technique to assess environmental impacts associated


with all the stages of a products life from cradle to grave (i.e. from raw material extraction
through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and
disposal or recycling).
Sustainability in building involves more than just energy efficiency. Although energy in use is a
critical consideration, there are certainly other environmental impacts that may be of greater
importance than embodied energy.

LIFE-CYCLE STAGE

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EXAMPLES OF ENVIRONMENTAL
IMPACT

PRE-PRODUCTION
(eg. mineral extraction)

water pollution
air pollution
Damage to ecology and landscape
Transport
Social impacts
Waste

PRODUCTION
(eg. manufacturing of components)

Water pollution
Pollution
Waste

CONSTRUCTION

water pollution
air pollution
Damage to ecology and landscape
Transport
Social impacts
Waste

IN USE AND MAINTENANCE

water pollution
Local air pollution
Traffic generation
Indoor environment/health
considerations
Environmental aspects of paint
removal and
Repainting

END OF LIFE
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ecological and landscape


implications
Water pollution
air pollution from incineration
Scope for recycling/amount
actually recycled
Disposal of demolition waste
EMBODIED ENERGY EXAMPLES
The following examples show how the embodied energy of alternative materials compares for
some typical construction alternatives, based on an LCA which covers cradlegate processes
which excludes transportation and construction process impacts.

MASONRY WALLS EXPRESSED IN MASS TERMS

MATERIAL

EMBODIED ENERGY (Mj/Kg)

Bricks (common)

3.00

Concrete block(150mm medium

0.71

weight)
Aerated block

3.50

Rammed earth

0.45

TIMBER PRODUCTS - EXPRESSED IN MASS TERMS


MATERIAL

EMBODIED ENERGY (Mj/Kg)

Timber (general)

8.5

Glue laminated timber

12.00

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Sawn hardwood

7.4

Plywood

15.00

STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS EXPRESSED IN VOLUME TERMS

MATERIAL

EMBODIED ENERGY (Mj/Kg)

Glue laminated timber

9600

Steel

190320

Concrete(1:1:5:3 eg in-situ floor

2664

slab, structure)
CONCLUSION
We can conclude the following points:
Keep embodied energy down - but without compromising efficiency in use or overall
environmental impact.
Minimize energy in use through high standards of insulation and any other practical

means.
Design for long life (at least 60 years and preferably more).
If possible, specify a high proportion of recycled or recyclable materials.
Purchase locally produced materials to minimize transport energy.
Do not install ultra-high-tech equipment that offers only marginal energy savings in use.
Avoid systems with high maintenance requirements or which need frequent replacement.
Avoid systems which rely heavily on user regulation to achieve energy savings (e.g. use

intelligent, self-regulating passive stack ventilation rather than user-controlled systems).


Minimize embodied energy costs by including features from the outset rather than
retrofitting.
Use natural materials, as these tend to have lower embodied energy and fewer
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Environmental impacts than heavily processed ones.

CASE STUDY
Cole and Kernan studied the embodied energy of a typical Canadian office building constructed
from three different structural systems: wood, steel, and concrete. The case study building was a
4620m2, three-storey office building located in Canada. The following figures were produced
from the findings.
In Figure 1, the distribution of the total initial embodied energy for the building averaged over
steel, wood, and concrete construction. It was found that the building services, envelope, and
structure each account for roughly one quarter of the initial embodied energy in the average
Canadian office building.

Total Initial Embodied Energy of a Typical Canadian Office Building Averaged Over
Steel, Wood, and Concrete Construction (Cole & Kernan, 1996).

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In Figure 2, a comparison was made between the initial embodied energy and the
recurring embodied energy for the case study building over 100 years. The results for
the wood building type were plotted; however, the results for the steel and concrete
buildings would exhibit a similar overall trend.
The results show that over any significant life-cycle, the recurring embodied energy
associated with the building outweighs the initial embodied energy. Also, there is no
recurring embodied energy associated with the structural system. Therefore, after the
structure of the building is erected at time zero, its assumed no major maintenance or
repair has to be done to the structural system over the buildings life span. Thus, any
differences in embodied energy between a wood, steel, or concrete structural system
occur initially. The initial embodied energy of the structural system varies depending on
whether wood, steel, or concrete are used, plus there is no recurring embodied energy
associated with the structural system.
Results of this study show that beyond 50+ years the recurring embodied energy
associated with the finishes, envelope, and services completely dominate the embodied
energy of the overall building. Therefore, the focus should be on reducing the recurring
embodied energy of these three components as a first step in reducing the embodied
energy of the overall building.

Initial Embodied Energy vs. Recurring Embodied Energy of a Typical Canadian Office
Building Constructed from Wood over a 100-Year Lifespan (Cole & Kernan, 1996).

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Figure 3 compares the total initial embodied energy of a typical Canadian office building vs.
material type. Cole and Kernan found there to be a difference in the initial embodied energy of
the three structural systems: wood, steel, and concrete.
The initial embodied energy for the wood structural system was found to be about 55% of the
initial embodied energy of steel structural system and about 72% of the initial embodied energy
of the concrete structural system. Cole and Kernan found very little difference in the initial
embodied energy for the other parameters: site work, construction, finishes, envelope, and
services depending on which structural system was chosen. Also, the initial embodied energy
thats associated with the choice in structural system is a fraction of the total initial embodied
energy for the entire building. It was found that the combined effect of the non-structural
components such as: building finishes, envelope, services, etc. outweigh the initial embodied
energy of the structural system. Thus, although there is a difference in the initial embodied
energy of the structural system depending on which material is chosen, these discrepancies are
minor in the greater picture.
Things such as the building envelope, services, finishes, etc., which are common across all
structural systems, often contain greater proportions of materials with very high embodied
energies like copper and plastic, which tend to dominate from the standpoint of embodied energy.
Justification for using one structural system over another cannot be made based on initial
embodied energy figures alone, rather it must be based on a holistic life-cycle assessment of the
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greater goals. Further, examining the typical operational energy for a building, the embodied
energy in a typical building is less than 15% of the overall energy consumption in a building.
Claims of using one material over another based on initial embodied energy arguments should be
made in consideration of the fact that embodied energy is a relatively small component of the
overall energy use in a typical building.

Total Initial Embodied Energy of a Typical Canadian Office Building vs. Material Type
(Cole & Kernan, 1996).

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REFERENCES
http://media.cannondesign.com/uploads/files/MaterialLif
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http://www.willmottdixongroup.co.uk/assets/b/r/briefingnote-14-embodied-energy.pdf
https://www.ucviden.dk/studentportal/files/10399766/Low_embodied_energy_materials
_in_sustainable_design_by_Lazar_Petrov.pdf
http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/ar2012-14011411_Sattary_Thorpe.pdf
http://media.cannondesign.com/uploads/files/MaterialLif
e-9-6.pdf
http://www.sustainablehomes.co.uk/Portals/63188/docs/

Embodied%20Energy.pdf
http://cn-sbs.cssbi.ca/embodied-energy-case-study

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