It is estimated that buildings, their construction,
operation and disposal, account for over 40% of the total
energy consumption. This causes the depletion of natural
resources and for the production of pollution leading to
problems such as global warming and acid rain.
Buildings take energy to construct them. This is called
'embodied' energy, which is all the energy required to
extract, manufacture and transport a building's materials as
well as that required to construct and 'finish' it. As
buildings become increasingly energy efficient, the energy
required to create them becomes proportionately more
significant in relation to that required to run them. Some
modern materials, such as aluminium, consume vast amounts of
energy in their manufacture. The common building material
with least embodied energy is wood. Brick is the material
with the next lowest amount of embodied energy, (4 times
that of wood). From the perspective of embodied energy,
every building, no matter what its condition, has a large
amount of energy locked into it. This is yet another factor
in favour of conserving and restoring old buildings, and for
designing long life, loose fit buildings that easily
accommodate change. Also, because the energy used in
transporting its materials becomes part a building's
embodied energy, this is a motivation to use local
Smaller is better: Optimize use of interior space. Be
energy-efficient: Use high levels of insulation,
high-performance windows and tight construction. Use
renewable energy: passive solar heating, day lighting and
natural cooling. Design water-efficient, low-maintenance
landscaping and grey water from sinks, showers etc. can be
recycled for irrigation.
Spread the environmental impacts of a building over as long
a period as possible to improve durability. Make sure the
structure is adaptable to other uses, and choose materials
and components that can be reused or recycled in the future.
Because manufacturing is very energy-intensive, a product
that lasts longer or requires less maintenance usually saves
energy. Where possible, select building materials that will
require little maintenance or whose maintenance will have
minimal environmental impact. Choose building materials with
low embodied energy. Heavily processed or manufactured
products and materials are usually more energy-intensive.
Locally produced building materials cuts transportation
costs, and thus reducing pollution.
Building products made from recycled materials cut energy
consumption in manufacturing and save on natural resources.
Solvent-based finishes, adhesives, etc. release toxic
compounds into the air and should be used to a minimum.
Products with excessive packaging, is an energy waste and
should be avoided.
a lot of people to learn that a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient,
passive-solar house built today may consume less heating and cooling
energy over 30 or even 50 years of operation than was required to build
it. To effectively reduce energy use, we will need to focus on embodied
energy as well as operating energy