[Sbse] embodied energy savings potential

Susan Roaf s.roaf at btinternet.com
Sat Apr 10 08:04:28 PDT 2021

Have you all seen the great brick developed by one of my ex-students - 
Sam Chapman and Gabi Madero from Heriot Watt - Way To Go.


By the way I co-chaired two sessions on Living in the Arctic - at the 
Arctic Science Summit last month - and a great presentation on the 
collapsing brick buildings in Northern Russia with perma-frost melt - 
loads of building rubble there!


------ Original Message ------
From: "Derek Clements-Croome" <d.j.clements-croome at reading.ac.uk>
To: "Larry Strain" <lstrain at siegelstrain.com>; "Norbert Lechner" 
<lechnnm at auburn.edu>
Cc: "sbse" <sbse at uidaho.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, 10 Sep, 19 At 09:55
Subject: Re: [Sbse] embodied energy savings potential

In addition to Larry’s excellent summary I would add__

    *  Concrete, bricks and steel have relatively high levels of 
embodied energy compared with timber for example. But ways are being 
developed to decrease this by studying the basic chemical processes and 
using innovative  approaches to modify the chemical interactions. 
Another approach is to embed other substances or digital devices within 

Advancements in modifying traditional materials as well as developing 
new ones are described in the book Nanotechnology in eco-efficient 
construction 2019 edited by Pacheo-Torgal et al., (Woodhead Publishing). 
It describes how nano-technology is making cement, concrete, asphalt, 
steel, thermal insulation, windows and paints more sustainable  in use. 
Materials are evolving for example with embedded graphene which will 
give control over thermal and electrical properties besides adding 
strength to materials.

    * The use of waste materials to give low energy composites as Larry 
points out is important too. Bee bricks are one example another is the 
mushroom tower  by David Benjamin at Living Architects in New York. Bee 
bricks made here in UK use composites and perforations on the face of 
the brick are made so that solitary bees can leave their eggs---another 
way of how sustainable architecture can connect with nature  .

From: SBSE <sbse-bounces at uidaho.edu> On Behalf Of Larry Strain
  Sent: 10 September 2019 05:52
  To: Norbert Lechner <lechnnm at auburn.edu>
  Cc: sbse <sbse at uidaho.edu>
  Subject: Re: [Sbse] embodied energy savings potential

Based on our own experience it is pretty easy easy to reduce embodied 
emissions by 30% using currently available materials at no extra cost. 
That’s not good enough.

It is possible to build carbon neutral buildings or even carbon 
sequestering buildings by using carbon sequestering materials such as 
agricultural waste products -  straw, hemp, etc, and  wood (although 
wood can be carbon negative or carbon  positive depending of  forestry 
practices) and even materials made from sequestered emissions - Blue 
Planet concrete, and some other cool products in development. Many of 
these materials are typically more appropriate for smaller scale 
buildings. All are available  but not all are common.

For more about these materials see the New Carbon Architecture  by Bruce 
King (and others), New Society Publishers 2017

If you can’t get to zero embodied emissions there are good, real offset 
programs to make up the difference.

Reusing buildings may be a more realistic approach, Reuse results in 
much lower embodied carbon emissions than new construction (typically 60 
- 80% less), particularly when you can reuse the foundation and 
structure which represent the  majority of embodied emissions in most 
buildings. But the key to reusing existing buildings is to couple it 
with deep energy upgrades, thereby reducing existing operating emissions 
at the same time. I would modify Carl’s excellent statement to: The 
greenest building is the one that already exists - and needs to be 
retrofitted to be very efficient, or ZNE.

Reuse + energy upgrades avoid future embodied emissions (compared to new 
construction) and reduce current operating emissions.

Architecture 2030 estimates that 80% of the emissions from  new 
buildings between now and 2030 will be embodied emissions. But keep in 
mind that global annual operating emissions from existing buildings are 
two and a half times greater than global annual embodied emissions -28% 
for operating vs 11% for embodied.

For new buildings we should be focused on embodied carbon and for 
existing buildings we should be focused on operating carbon.

See my chapter in the New Carbon Architecture -" Rebuild: What You Build 
Matters, What You Don’t Build Matters More"

Larry Strain, FAIA  LEED AP

  S I E G E L  &  S T R A I N  A r c h i t e c t s
  6201 Doyle Street, Emeryville, CA  94608
  510.547.8092 x103   fax 510.547.2604
  (Enter on 62nd Street)
  lstrain at siegelstrain.com <mailto:lstrain at siegelstrain.com> 

On Sep 9, 2019, at 8:46 PM, Norbert Lechner <lechnnm at auburn.edu 
<mailto:lechnnm at auburn.edu> > wrote:

Does anyone know how much embodied energy can be reduced in buildings? 
Do we know what the real world limit is? We have a good idea of how much 
the  operating energy can be reduced, but is there some documented 
estimates of what is possible in the reduction of embodied energy in 
different building types?  When I think about this problem, Carl 
Elefante's words come to mind: " The greenest building is the one that 
already exists".  If the possiblereduction of  embodied energy in 
buildings is modest, we should know that.



Norbert  Lechner, Prof. Emeritus & Architect
  Auburn University
  311 Oakland Lane

Chapel Hill, NC 27516
  334-707-7963 cell
  lechnnm at auburn.edu <mailto:lechnnm at auburn.edu>

Heating, Cooling, Lighting: Sustainable Design

Methods for Architects, 4 ed., 2015

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