Embodied energy is a term used to describe the energy consumed in the extraction and fabrication of building materials and in the construction process. Embodied energy calculations seek to quantify generally the electricity or gas inputs required to produce the building components and assemble the building. Embodied energy is not the energy consumed in running a building (it’s operating energy) but is the energy consumed in producing the building, prior to it’s operation.
Embodied energy is generally expressed in terms of total kilowatt hours (kilowatts used over how many hours) consumed in the fabrication of the building. Once a measure of the construction energy consumption of the building has been determined, it is possible to then, based on the energy supply source, determine how much carbon dioxide was produced in the generation of the electricity, gas or fuel energy source. Thus with the construction energy demand and the carbon dioxide production level per unit of energy produced, it is possible to determine the level of carbon dioxide produced in the construction of our buildings. As the ultimate goal is to reduce global warming, and carbon dioxide, a gas that is a greenhouse effect producing gas, which is also the most prevalent of these greenhouse producing gases due it’s production in most of our energy production processes, our goal to reduce carbon dioxide is integral in our goal to reduce global warming.
The goal of reducing global warming is critical alongside other environmental goals of protection of habitat and natural environments. Moving towards achieving these goals can and needs to occur in many fields. In considering existing proven options in how we design and build our buildings we can have a significant impact in moving towards the above goals. By considering different embodied energy options in conjunction with expected operating energy outcomes and materials impacts on habitat and natural environments, building professionals can play their part in reducing global warming and the footprint that we leave on the earth for future generations.