Embodied Energy - As Important As Low Energy Design?
Establishing Green Priorities is always tricky (see GREEN PRIORITIES column). When it comes to energy, there can be confusion between annual energy consumption and the energy it takes to make a product - initial embodied energy.
Talk to some people about increasing insulation levels beyond Building Code minimums and you get snorts of derision, often followed by "it'll take more energy to make the extra insulation and framing material than you'll ever save". These people would be wrong.
The Nay Sayers are referring knowingly or otherwise to initial embodied energy - the energy used to create a product. Although important, initial embodied energy is nearly always dwarfed by the energy consumed by a building over its lifetime.
One study of Canadian office buildings concludes that over 50 years, the operating energy is more than 6 times greater than the total embodied energy. The total embodied being the sum of:
- initial embodied energy (used to make material used to build the building)
- recurring embodied energy (used to make material used to maintain & renovate the building)
After 50 years there is a roughly 50/50 split between initial and recurring embodied energy. Put another way, over the first 50 years, the initial embodied energy is less than 1/12th of the operating energy.
Embodied energy does start to be significant when a Factor 10 building - one that uses 1/10th the energy of a 'Code Building'. But few buildings make that standard. Until a designer tackles a Factor 10 building, they need to focus on annual energy consumption rather than initial embodied energy.
- Frame In? Frame Out?
- All Low e’s Are Not Created Equal
- Double Hung Inherently Flawed
- The Road Less Travelled
- The Affordable Energy Efficient House
- Green Priorities - Skin Deep Not Deep Enough
- Embodied Energy - As Important As Low Energy Design?
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