Embodied energy in building refers to the energy that is consumed during the process of building construction. It includes the energy required to extracting, processing, manufacturing and delivering of the products to the construction site.
Why is Embodied Energy Important?
Embodied energy gives an approximate indication of the environmental impact of the materials used. Many materials have a maximum effect on their surroundings in the initial stages. This energy could constitute 20% of the building energy consumption. Reducing this energy will further the overall environmental impact of the building.
This energy is considered over the lifespan if the building and at times, a material with a higher embodied energy might have lower operational energy. To increase the energy efficiency of the buildings, thus embodied energy is of utmost importance.
How to Measure Embodied Energy?
Embodies energy is measured as the quantity of non-renewable energy per unit f the material. It is expressed in kilojoules or megajoules per unit weight or area. The process of calculating this is complex and could be done only be knowledgeable professionals.
Usually, the materials with higher embodied energy are considered to have a high impact on the environment and the lower embodied energy materials the lower. But it is also necessary to take into account the course of the energy throughout the span of the building.
- Low embodied energy building materials
- Here are a few common characteristics of materials with low embodied energy.
- Recycled materials have low embodied energy than new materials
- The durability of materials reduces embodied energy over time
- Easily separable materials use less energy
- Local materials require less transportation energy thus reducing the embodied energy
- Renewable energy resources use up less embodied energy.
- Reducing wastage of materials
- Using standard sizes instead of custom designs
The embodied energy can considerably be reduced by making the processes of extraction and manufacturing more efficient. Even aspects like the mode of transportation, the fuels used, the travel distance will all play a big part in the calculation of embodied energy.
Embodied Energy of Construction Materials
Many of the common materials used in construction have higher energy. The more process materials require the more energy it consumes. To generalise, materials like wood, soil and stabilised earth has much lower energy compared to materials like ALuminium, acrylic paint and PVC.
Check the official website of the Australian Government to know more about the embodied energy of different construction materials.
How to Reduce Embodied Energy
There are many ways to reduce the embodied energy consumption of the building. It is essential to look at it in the long term and not just during the time of construction. For instance
- In a hot climate, lightweight materials use less energy
- For places with extreme summer and winter conditions, a highly insulated home would consume less embodied energy
- Use of passive energy resources will reduce energy consumption.
- Placing windows that allow winter sun and block summer sun.
- Cross ventilation across rooms
- Insulation to reduce energy consumption.
If the house is poorly insulated, even if the construction materials have low embodied energy, the house design will demand more energy use. So optimising the home for energy efficiency has to work hand in hand with the use of proper materials.
Over time, highly durable material can reduce the amount of embodied energy used in the course of the building. If energy efficiency is a serious concern for you, consider the following factors.
Size of the House
We tend to buy bigger houses that we actually require due to many reasons. Whatever the house size may imply, and even if you can afford to maintain it, it would still have a huge impact on the surroundings. Energy consumed for lighting, heating, cooling and appliances constitutes humongous energy that’s disposed of. Build a house that is right for your family, rather than building one that is vast just for impressing society.
Use of Alternate and Recycled Construction materials
Alternative materials have very less energy. For example, stabilised earth uses the energy of only 0.7 megajoules per square meter. So construction materials made from this earth like mud bricks and blocks offer low energy and provide excellent insulation. Aluminium and PVC have higher energy, but it requires less maintenance over the years.
Use of recycled materials is also encouraged for construction. You can source them from recycling centres that sell timber, recycled parts from buildings like windows, door frames, bricks, tiles, polyester and even furniture. Such materials can also be used as many interior elements including countertops for the kitchen. Recycled materials are also less expensive and require little to no processing to bring them back to excellent condition. Local builders Brisbane can help you find recycling centres that have the reputation of selling quality materials.
Reduce Waste during Construction
Waste of materials during construction is not uncommon. There might be an excess of materials or the remains of what that has been used. Paint cans can stay for a longer time, but don’t buy extra just for the sake of precaution.
There should also be measures taken to use building waste. Broken bricks could be used for paving, landscaping, garden edging and as a strong base for pouring concrete. Even concrete debris could be chipped down and used for flooring with a binding material.
Recycled materials use 95% less energy than new products. Especially materials like aluminium, plastic and glass used when recycled will reduce the impact on the environment, reducing its embodied energy to less 10 % of its energy as new material. Many brands are focusing on using such materials for furnishing also. That would be a good way to approach energy efficiency in your home.
Remember that the energy for the same material in one location and another would be totally different. It would depend on a large extent on how the material is transported from its source. While choosing to build an energy efficient building, it is relevant to discuss with the designer home builders Brisbane and architect so that the house design and construction could be chosen expertly.
Find house builders Brisbane who have expertise with energy efficient buildings by contacting Trustco.