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Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

Embodied energy of common and alternative building


materials and technologies
B.V. Venkatarama Reddy*, K.S. Jagadish
Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, India
Received 22 May 2001; accepted 25 November 2001

Abstract
Considerable amount of energy is spent in the manufacturing processes and transportation of various building materials. Conservation of
energy becomes important in the context of limiting of green house gases emission into the atmosphere and reducing costs of materials. The
paper is focused around some issues pertaining to embodied energy in buildings particularly in the Indian context. Energy consumption in the
production of basic building materials (such as cement, steel, etc.) and different types of materials used for construction has been discussed.
Energy spent in transportation of various building materials is presented. A comparison of energy in different types of masonry has been made.
Energy in different types of alternative roofing systems has been discussed and compared with the energy of conventional reinforced concrete
(RC) slab roof. Total embodied energy of a multi-storeyed building, a load bearing brickwork building and a soilcement block building using
alternative building materials has been compared. It has been shown that total embodied energy of load bearing masonry buildings can be
reduced by 50% when energy efficient/alternative building materials are used.
# 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Energy and building materials; Embodied energy; Energy efficient materials

1. Introduction
Selection of materials and technologies for the building
construction should satisfy the felt needs of the user as well
as the development needs of the society, without causing any
adverse impact on environment. In recent years, awareness
of environmental aspects has grown in the building and
construction sector. Manufacturing processes of building
materials contribute greenhouse gases like CO2 to the atmosphere. There is a great concern and emphasis in reducing the
greenhouse gases emission into the atmosphere in order to
control adverse environmental impacts. Energy requirements
for production and processing of different building materials
and the CO2 emissions and the implications on environment
have been studied by Buchanan and Honey [1], Suzki et al. [2],
Oka et al. [3], and Debnath et al. [4] among others. These
studies pertain to New Zealand, Japan and India.
Indian construction industry is one of the largest in terms
of employing manpower and volume of materials produced
(cement, brick, steel and other materials). Construction
sector in India is responsible for major input of energy
resulting in the largest share of CO2 emissions (22%) into
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: 91-80-309-2327; fax: 91-80-360-0404.
E-mail address: venkat@civil.iisc.ernet.in (B.V. Venkatarama Reddy).

the atmosphere [5]. Apart from the office, commercial and


industrial buildings, >2  106 residential buildings are built
annually, in India. Demand and supply gap for residential
buildings is increasing every year (20 million units in 1980
to 40 million units in 2000 [6]. Cement (>75 million tonnes
per annum), steel (>10 million tonnes per annum) and bricks
(>70 billion per annum) are the largest and bulk consumption items in the Indian construction industry. Minimising
the consumption of the conventional materials by using
alternative materials, methods and techniques can result
in scope for considerable energy savings as well as reduction
of CO2 emission. This paper presents a detailed account
of embodied energy in alternative building materials and
techniques and comparison of embodied energy in buildings
built with conventional and the new building methods.

2. Earlier studies
Energy and CO2 implications of building construction in
New Zealand has been examined by Buchanan and Honey
[1]. A detailed analysis of nett carbon emissions resulting
from construction of buildings (in New Zealand) using
different structural materials has been made. The study
concludes that significant decrease in CO2 emissions would

0378-7788/02/$ see front matter # 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 3 7 8 - 7 7 8 8 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 1 4 1 - 4

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B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

result from a shift in construction from steel, concrete and


aluminium to greater use of wood (renewable and sustainable) in construction. Study of Suzuki et al. [2] throw more
light on energy consumption and CO2 emission due to
housing construction in Japan. Total energy required and
CO2 emissions/m2 of area of different types of constructions
have been compared. Energy consumption for the construction of steel and reinforced concrete (RC) multi-storeyed
family houses is 810 GJ/m2, whereas, for wooden singlefamily houses it is 3 GJ/m2. They conclude that wooden
houses score over other types of constructions in terms of
energy requirements and CO2 emissions.
Debnath et al. [4] have attempted to estimate the energy
requirements for different types of residential buildings in
India. Three types of buildings: single, double and multistoreyed buildings have been examined. Energy consumption/m2 of built-up area has been estimated as 35 GJ/m2 of
built-up area. Major conclusion of the study is that bricks,
cement and steel are the three major contributors to the
energy cost of building construction. In order to reduce
indirect energy use in a building, either alternative for
bricks, steel and cement have to be found or vigorous energy
conservation measures in these segments of industry have to
be initiated. Majumdar [7] reports some conceptual ideas in
reducing the energy use in buildings especially for heating,
cooling, ventilation and lighting in different climatic zones
of India. This study presents 41 case studies of buildings
designed by various architects incorporating energy saving
features in the design, without quantifying the energy savings/consumption in these buildings.

3. Scope of the present study


Energy in buildings can be categorised into two types: (1)
energy for the maintenance/servicing of a building during its
useful life, and (2) energy capital that goes into production
of a building (embodied energy) using various building
materials. Study of both the types of energy consumption
is required for complete understanding of building energy
needs. Embodied energy of buildings can vary over wide
limits depending upon the choice of building materials and
building techniques. RC frames, RC slabs, burnt clay brick
masonry, concrete block masonry, tile roofs represent common conventional systems forming the main structure of
buildings in India. Similar building systems can be found in
many other developed and developing countries. Alternative
building technologies such as stabilised mud blocks
(SMBs), prefabricated roofing systems, masonry vaults,
filler slab roofs, lime-pozzolana (LP) cements, etc. can be
used for minimising the embodied energy of buildings.
Examples of buildings using alternative building technologies can be found in India and elsewhere [814].
Embodied energy can be split into: (1) energy consumed
in the production of basic building materials, (2) energy
needed for transportation of the building materials, and (3)

energy required for assembling the various materials to form


the building. This paper deals with the following aspects of
embodied energy.
1. Energy consumption in building materials.
2. Energy in transportation of building materials.
3. Energy in different types of buildings and building
systems.
It is hoped that the information provided in this paper
could help in selecting energy efficient building technologies and building systems based on embodied energy
thereby reducing cost of materials as well as CO2 emission
into atmosphere.

4. Energy in building materials


4.1. Basic building materials
Energy consumed during production of basic building
materials is given in Table 1. These energy values pertain to
production systems employed by the material manufacturers
in India. Total energy values of various basic materials given
in Table 1 have been used in the computations of energy in
building materials/systems and buildings.
Portland cement represents one of the major materials
consumed in bulk quantities for building construction.
Energy of cement arises from the use of coal in the rotary
kilns and energy needed for crushing and grinding the
clinker. In India, cement is manufactured by employing
both the wet (old cement plants) and dry (new plants)
process. Wet process used in earlier cement plants leads
to an energy consumption of 7.5 MJ/kg of cement, whereas
modern plants employing precalcination and dry process
consume 4.2 MJ/kg of cement. The value of 5.85 MJ/kg of
cement given in Table 1 represents the average value of 7.5
and 4.2 MJ. The average value of 5.85 MJ/kg of cement has
been used in the computation of energy in various components and systems. A report on energy in buildings compiled
by Development Alternatives [15] gives a value of 5.75 MJ/
kg for cement manufacture.
Hydrated lime consumes 5.63 MJ of thermal energy/kg,
which is about the same as that for cement. High-energy
consumption for lime can be attributed to low thermal
efficiency of small-scale kilns employed for lime burning
in India.
Table 1
Energy in basic building materials
Type of material

Thermal energy (MJ/kg)

Cement
Lime
LP
Steel
Aluminium
Glass

5.85
5.63
2.33
42.0
236.8
25.8

B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

LP cements can provide very effective alternative to


Portland cement, mainly for secondary applications such
as masonry mortar, plastering, base/sub-base for flooring,
etc. A typical LP cement will consists of 30% lime, 60%
pozzolana and 10% calcined gypsum, all three being interground in a ball-mill. Such cement will have an energy
content of 2.33 MJ/kg.
Aluminium and steel are the two high-energy metals
commonly used in building construction. Even though
aluminium is much lighter than steel, consumes six times
more than the energy of steel per unit weight. The modern
tendency to use aluminium doors and windows can contribute significantly to the energy input into a building.
Consumption of these metals should be kept to a minimum,
in order to keep the energy in a building low.
Glass is another energy intensive material used in buildings. Its energy consumption is next to steel, but its density is
much lower than steel.
4.2. Masonry materials
Masonry walls constitute one of the major energy consuming components of the building, especially in case of
load bearing masonry structures. Varieties of materials are
used for the construction of masonry walls. Five types of
building blocks viz. stone, burnt clay brick, soilcement
block, hollow concrete block and steam cured mud block
have been considered for the analysis.
4.2.1. Stone block
Natural building stones have been extensively used for the
building construction in India and elsewhere. In India, stone
blocks are generally produced by splitting the hard natural
stone into convenient sizes. Stone blocks of size approximately about 180 mm  180 mm  180 mm are generally
termed as size stones in the Indian construction practices.
Only manual labour is employed in bulk of the sizing
operations. Occasionally, very hard and big stones are
reduced to smaller sizes (for the convenience of handling
for further sizing by manual process) using detonators.
Hence, hardly any thermal energy goes into the production
of size stones. However, some energy is spent for transporting stone to the construction site.
4.2.2. Burnt clay bricks
These are very commonly used for building construction.
It is estimated that about 70 billion bricks are produced
in India annually. The common brick size is 230 mm 
110 mm  6075 mm. They require considerable amount
of thermal energy during the burning process. Coal, coal
cinder and firewood are the most commonly used fuels for
brick burning in India. In general, each brick needs either
0.20 kg of coal or 0.250.30 kg of firewood for the burning
process. This translates into a thermal energy of 3.75
4.75 MJ per brick. An average value of 4.25 MJ per brick
(size: 230 mm  110 mm  70 mm) has been considered

131

for the comparison and computation of energy content of


buildings and masonry.
4.2.3. Hollow concrete blocks
These are light weight/low density blocks very commonly
used for the construction of non-load bearing filler walls
in multi-storeyed buildings in India. They are also used for
the construction of load bearing masonry walls to a limited
extent. The basic composition of the blocks consists of
cement, sand and coarse aggregates (6 mm size). The
energy content of the block will mainly depend upon the
cement percentage. Energy spent for crushing of coarse
aggregate will also contribute to the block energy. The
cement percentage generally varies between 7 and 10%
by weight. Quality of the block, particularly compressive
strength is the deciding factor for cement percentage. Energy
content of the hollow concrete block of size 400 mm 
200 mm  200 mm will be in the range of 12.315.0 MJ.
4.2.4. Soilcement blocks
These are produced by pressing a wetted soilcement
mixture into a solid block using a machine (manually
operated or mechanised) and then cured. Soilcement blocks
produced by employing manually operated machines in a
highly decentralised fashion have become increasingly popular in India and elsewhere [8,14,16]. Detailed information
on the production, properties and masonry using soil
cement blocks can be obtained from the studies of Venkatarama Reddy and Jagadish [17,18], Venkatarama Reddy [9]
and Srinivasa Rao et al. [22]. Energy content of the blocks
is mainly dependent upon the cement content. Soilcement
blocks used for the load bearing masonry buildings will
have cement content of about 68%. Such blocks will have
an energy content of 2.753.75 MJ per block of size
230 mm  190 mm  100 mm.
4.2.5. Steam cured mud blocks
These are lime stabilised blocks using expansive and high
clay soils. They are produced by mixing suitable proportion
of lime, clayey soil and sand and then pressing into a block
of convenient size. The blocks produced in this manner are
cured in a steam chamber at about 80 8C for 1012 h. The
steaming process accelerates limeclay reactions and the
block is ready for construction within 2 days after moulding. Studies of Venkatarama Reddy and Lokras [20] give
more details on the production and properties of steam
cured blocks. Steam curing operations involve extra energy
expenditure. Total energy required will be about 6.70 MJ
per block of size 230 mm  190 mm  100 mm using 10%
lime.
Energy content of different types of blocks used for
masonry construction is given in Table 2. The table gives
details of block type, size, energy content, energy per brick
equivalent and percentage of energy with respect to brick
energy. The blocks are of different size; hence they have
been normalised by referring to an equivalent brick size.

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B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

Table 2
Energy in masonry materials
Type of material

Size (mm)

Stone block
Burnt clay brick

180  180  180


230  105  70

Soilcement block

Energy in one
brick/blocks (MJ)

Energy per brick


equivalent (MJ)

(Block energy)
(brick energy) (%)

0
4.25

0
4.25

0
100

230  190  100


230  190  100

2.60 (6% cement)


3.50 (8% cement)

1.00
1.35

23.5
31.7

Hollow concrete block

400  200  200


400  200  200

12.30 (7% cement)


15.00 (10% cement)

1.32
1.62

31.2
38.1

Steam cured block

230  190  100

2.58

60.6

6.70 (10% lime)

The following points are clear from the data given in the
table.
1. Stone blocks do not consume any thermal energy,
whereas burnt clay bricks consume maximum amount of
energy among the alternatives shown in the table.
2. Soilcement block with 6% cement is the most energy
efficient block consuming only 23.5% of burnt clay
brick energy.
3. Soilcement block and hollow concrete block with
78% cement have similar embodied energy values, i.e.
about 30% of the burnt clay brick energy.
4. Steam cured mud blocks consume about 60% of burnt
clay brick energy. This can be attributed to high percentage of lime and fuel used for steaming operations.

5. Energy in transportation of building materials


Transportation of materials is a major factor in the cost
and energy of a building. Bulk of the building materials in
urban and semi-urban centres are transported using trucks in
India. The transportation distance may vary depending upon
the location of construction activity. In urban areas, the
materials travel anywhere between 10 and 100 km in the
Indian context. Materials such as sand are transported from a
distance of 70100 km in cities like Bangalore, India.
Similarly bricks/blocks, crushed aggregate, etc. travel about
4060 km before reaching a construction site, in urban and
semi-urban centres.
Cement and steel travel even longer distances, of the order
of 500 km or more. Long haul of cement and steel is handled
through rail transport. Fancy building materials such as
marble, paints, etc. are sometimes transported from great
distances (>1500 km) in India.
Natural sand and crushed stone aggregate consume about
1.75 MJ/m3 for every one km of transportation distance.
Similarly bricks require about 2.0 MJ/m3 per km travel.
Assuming steel and cement are also transported using trucks,
diesel energy of 1 MJ/tonne/km is spent during transportation. Table 3 gives diesel energy spent during transportation

Table 3
Energy in transportation of building materials
Number

Type of material

Energy (MJ)
Production

1
2
3
4
5

Sand (m )
Crushed aggregate (m3)
Burnt clay bricks (m3)
Portland cement (tonnes)
Steel (tonnes)

0.0
20.5
2550
5850
42000

Transportation
50 km

100 km

87.5
87.5
100
50
50

175
175
200
100
100

of various building materials, along with the energy consumed in production. Thermal energy spent for natural sand
production is nil, but it requires about 175 MJ of diesel
energy/m3 for transporting it over 100 km distance. Crushed
aggregate consumes about 20 MJ/m3 during its production
and an additional 400800% more during transportation
for distances of 50100 km. The energy spent during transportation of bricks is about 48% of its energy in production,
for distances of 50100 km. Transportation energy required
for hauling high-energy materials such as steel and cement
is marginal when compared to the energy spent during
production.

6. Energy in mortars
Mortar is a mixture of cementitious material and sand. It is
used for the construction of masonry as well as plastering.
Cement mortar, cementsoil mortar, cementpozzolana
mortar are used for masonry construction and plastering.
Cement mortar is a common choice for masonry and rendering works. Cementsoil mortar has been used for the
construction of SMB masonry. Cementpozzolana and LP
mortars can also be used for masonry construction and other
applications. Total energy content of these four types of
mortars is given in Table 4. Details of mortar type, their
proportions and energy content/m3 of mortar are given in
this table. The following observations can be made from the
data given in the table.

B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137
Table 4
Energy in mortarsa
Type of mortar

Proportion of materials

Energy/m3
(MJ)

Cement

Soil

Sand

Cement mortar

1
1

0
0

6
8

1268
1006

Cement pozzolana mortar

0.8:0.2b
0.8:0.2b

0
0

6
8

918
736

Cementsoil mortar

1
1

2
2

6
8

849
773

LP mortar

1 (1:2)c

732

Energy content: Portland cement 5.85 MJ/kg; sand 175 MJ/m3;


pozzolana 1.5 MJ/m3.
b
Cement: pozzolana (0.8:0.2).
c
Lime: pozzolana (1:2).

133

(1:2:6) for soilcement block masonry and steam cured mud


block masonry, has been considered for calculating the
energy content of masonry.
Energy content of brick masonry is the highest with a
value of 2141 MJ/m3. Soilcement block masonry consumes
only about one-third of brick masonry energy. Hollow
concrete block masonry requires about 3845% of the brick
masonry energy. Steam cured mud block masonry consumes
about two-thirds of that needed for brick masonry. Soil
cement block masonry is the most energy efficient among
the alternatives listed in the table.

1. Cement mortar consumes more energy than other types


of mortars.
2. Replacing 20% of cement by pozzolana leads to a 25%
reduction in energy of cement mortar.
3. Dilution of cement mortars by the addition of soil, leads
to more than 25% savings in the energy content of
mortar. It is to be noted here that cementsoil mortars
are economical and have better characteristics than pure
cement mortars. They have better plasticity, adhesion/
bond leading to higher values of masonry compressive
strength [19,21].
4. LP mortar has the lowest energy value when compared
with other mortars.

7. Energy in different types of masonry


Masonry is an assemblage of masonry units (such as
bricks/blocks) and mortar. Individual volumes of these
two components in masonry will depend mainly upon the
size of masonry unit. Energy content of masonry should
include energy content of masonry units as well as mortar.
Table 5 gives energy content of 4 types of masonry. Energy/
m3 of masonry as well as equivalent of brick masonry energy
has been reported. Cement mortar (1:6) for brick masonry
and hollow concrete block masonry and cementsoil mortar

8. Energy in different types of floor/roofing systems


Varieties of alternatives are available for the construction
of roof/floor of a building. Energy content and construction
details of some of the roof/floor systems have been discussed
in the following sections. These alternative systems have
been used for construction of buildings in India.
8.1. Stabilised mud block (SMB) filler slab roof
RC solid slab is very commonly used for the floor slab as
well as roof slab construction. A portion of the material
below neutral axis in a solid slab can be replaced by filler
material such as SMB. Use of such filler material can result
in reduction in dead weight of RC slab, savings in cost as
well as energy of the roof/floor system. Fig. 1 shows the
ceiling of a SMB filler slab roof. The total energy content of
the materials constituting SMB filler slab is 590 MJ/m2 of
plan area of the slab. This is a floor slab designed as per IS
456 code [23], for a span of 3.6 m. There will be variations in
energy content for different spans of the slab.
8.2. Composite brick panel roof/floor slab
This roof consists of a reinforced brickwork panel supported on RC beams as shown in Fig. 2. Size of RC beams
will depend upon their spacing and roof span. Both the
panels as well as RC beam can be precast and assembled into
a roof slab. The energy content of such a slab for 3.6 m span
is about 560 MJ/m2 of projected plan area of the slab.

Table 5
Energy in different types of masonry
Energy/m3 of masonry (MJ)

Equivalent of brick
masonry energy (%)

Burnt clay brick masonry

2141

100.0

Hollow concrete block masonry

819 (7% cement blocks)


971 (10% cement blocks)

38.3
45.4

Soilcement block masonry

646 (6% cement blocks)


810 (8% cement blocks)

30.2
37.8

Steam cured mud block masonry

1396 (10% lime blocks)

65.2

Number

Type of masonry

1
2

134

B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

Fig. 1. Ceiling of a typical SMB filler slab roof.


Fig. 2. Ceiling of a typical reinforced brickwork panel roof.

8.3. Reinforced concrete (RC) ribbed slab roof


Thin RC slab of thickness 5060 mm is supported on
small RC beams as shown in Fig. 3. Spacing of RC beams
will be in the range of 0.751 m and the size of beams will
depend upon the roof/floor span. This type of roof/floor slab
can have an energy content of 491 MJ/m2 of slab area, for
3.6 m span.
8.4. Masonry vault roof
Fig. 4 shows an unreinforced masonry vault roof. It
consists of a thin masonry vault supported on ring beams
with tie rods. Vault can be constructed using burnt clay
bricks or SMBs. Total energy/m2 of plan area of the roof
will be 575 and 418 MJ for brick masonry and SMB
masonry vault roofs respectively.
8.5. Ferroconcrete tile roof
Fig. 5 shows a ferroconcrete tile roof. Ferroconcrete tile
can be made locally using thin galvanised iron (GI) wires
and microconcrete. The tile size is about 1:25 m  0:55 m.
These tiles can be supported on wooden rafters. The energy/
m2 of such a roof is 158 MJ.

Energy values of different types of floor/roofing systems


are given in Table 6. The table gives energy/m2 of plan area
of roof/floor and an equivalent of RC slab energy. The
following points can be summarised from the data given
in the table.
1. RC solid slab roof/floor consumes highest amount of
energy, whereas ferroconcrete tile roof is the least energy
roof.
2. Use of SMB filler in RC slab leads to about 20%
reduction in energy content.
3. Composite brick panel roof and brick masonry vault
roofs have approximately similar energy values. The
energy content of such roofs/floors is about three-fourth
that of RC slab energy.
4. RC ribbed slab roof system consumes about two-thirds
of energy of RC slab roof/floor. This is another efficient
way of reducing energy of RC solid slab.
5. Brick masonry vault consumes 575 MJ/m2 of plan area,
which is about 80% of RC solid slab energy. Substituting
brick with SMB makes the vault more energy efficient.
6. Mangalore tile roof is one of the least energy consuming
among the traditional roofing systems. Its energy
content is about 30% of the RC slab energy. Ferroconcrete tile roof, an alternative to Mangalore tile roof

Fig. 3. Cross-section through a RC ribbed slab roof.

B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

135

needs only about 158 MJ/m2, which is 30% less than


that of Mangalore tile roof energy.
The information provided in Table 6 can be used conveniently for making a selection of roofing system based on
energy content of the roof/floor system.
9. Energy and choice of building technologies
The energy content of different building materials and
building components such as masonry walls, roofs, floors,
etc. have been discussed in the earlier sections. These energy
values can be integrated into a computation of the total
embodied energy in a building. Total embodied energy of
three types of buildings is given in Table 7. This table gives
details of the building specifications, total energy and an
equivalent quantity of coal. A multi-storeyed building,
conventional two-storeyed load bearing brickwork building
and another two-storeyed building using alternative building
technologies (Fig. 6 shows the photograph) have been
considered here for the purposes of comparison.
Embodied energy of the three buildings given in Table 7 is
based on the actual quantities of materials used for the
construction of these buildings. Energy content of doors
and windows is not considered in the calculations of energy
content of the buildings. Energy/100 m2 of built-up area is
considered for the purposes of comparison. It is clear from
the table that the multi-storeyed building consumes highest
amount of energy of 21 tonnes of coal/100 m2 (or 4.2 GJ/
m2). The two storeyed conventional building with load
bearing brickwork is 30% energy efficient with an energy
of 14.6 tonnes of coal (or 2.9 GJ/m2). The soilcement block
building with filler slab roof and other alternative materials
is however extremely energy efficient consuming 62% less
energy than multi-storeyed building. The conventional twostoreyed building and the two-storeyed building with alternative building technologies have approximately similar
built-up area, but there is a wide difference in the total
embodied energy content. Soilcement block building has
consumed only 55% (1.6 GJ/m2) of energy when compared
to the conventional brickwork building (2.9 GJ/m2). The
major savings in energy can be attributed to the use of
alternative building technologies such as soilcement blocks
for walls and SMB filler slab roof/floor.
Total embodied energy is 2.9 GJ and 4.2 GJ/m2 of built-up
area for load bearing brickwork building and a multi-storey

Fig. 4. Unreinforced masonry vault roof.

Fig. 5. Ferroconcrete tile roof building.

Table 6
Energy in different roofs/floor systems (span 3.6 m)
Number

Type of
roof/floor

Energy/m2
of plan
area (MJ)

Equivalent of
RC solid slab
energy (%)

1
2
3
4
5

RC slab
SMB filler slab roof
RC ribbed slab roof
Composite brick panel roof
Burnt clay brick masonry
vault roof
SMB masonry vault roof
Mangalore tile roof
Ferroconcrete roof

730
590
491
560
575

100.0
80.8
67.3
76.7
78.8

418
227
158

57.3
31.1
21.6

6
7
8

Table 7
Total embodied energy in a building
Type of building and specifications

Number of
storeyes

Built-up
area (m2)

Total embodied
energy/100 m2 (GJ)

Equivalent amount of
coal/100 m2 (tonnes)

RC framed structure with infilled burnt clay brick masonry walls


Load bearing brickwork, RC solid slab roof/floor, mosaic floor finish
Soilcement block filler slab roof/floor, terracotta tile floor finish

8
2
2

5120
149.5
160.5

421
292
161

21
15
8

136

B.V. Venkatarama Reddy, K.S. Jagadish / Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 129137

Fig. 6. Two storeyed load bearing soilcement block masonry building with SMB filler slab roof and floor.

RC building respectively. These values are in close agreement with the energy values of 35 GJ/m2 of built-up area
reported by Debnath et al. [4]. Debnath et al. [4] suggest
using alternative materials for reducing the energy content of
buildings. Use of alternative building materials for building
construction has resulted in considerable reduction (50%)
in the embodied energy of the building (reduction from 2.9
to 1.6 GJ/m2).
10. Conclusions
Embodied energy in basic building materials, different
types of masonry materials, mortars, masonry and floor/
roofing systems and the energy expenditure in transportation
of building materials has been discussed in this paper. The
paper focuses on materials and construction techniques as
practised in India. The following broad conclusions emerge.
1. Soilcement block is the most energy efficient among
the alternative materials for walling, consuming only
one-fourth of the energy of burnt clay brick. Concrete
blocks and steam cured blocks also consume much less
energy during manufacturing process, when compared
to burnt clay brick.
2. Building materials are transported over distances in
excess of 100 km in many urban centres in India. Diesel
energy spent for transportation could be about 510% of
energy spent during manufacturing process for burnt
clay bricks. Energy spent in transporting high-energy
materials like steel and cement is negligible when
compared to the energy spent in the manufacture of
these materials.
3. LP mortars have lowest energy content when compared
with other mortars like cement mortar, cementpozzolana mortar, etc.

4. Energy content of burnt clay brick masonry is 2141 MJ/


m3. Soilcement block masonry is most energy efficient
at one-third the energy of burnt clay brick masonry.
Concrete block masonry has about 4045% of energy
content of burnt clay brick masonry.
5. Use of SMB filler blocks in solid RC roof/floor slabs
leads to 20% reduction in energy content. Masonry vault
roofs are more energy efficient than solid RC slab. Tile
roofs have least energy content when compared with
other roofing systems.
6. Embodied energy of multi-storeyed RC framed structure
building is the highest at 421 GJ (21 tonnes of coal
equivalent)/100 m2 built-up area. Building with load
bearing masonry structure using burnt clay bricks and
RC slab has 30% less embodied energy when compared
to RC framed structure building.
7. Use of energy efficient alternative building technologies
can result in considerable reduction in the embodied
energy of the buildings. Load bearing soilcement block
masonry and SMB filler slab has resulted in 62% reduction
in embodied energy when compared to RC framed structure building and 45% reduction when compared with
burnt clay brick masonry and RC solid slab building.
The results of the paper give useful tips for selecting an
energy efficient building technology leading to considerable
reduction in embodied energy of the building as a whole. Even
though the results pertain to Indian conditions, many other
developing nations have similar construction practices, where
these results can be conveniently extrapolated and used.
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