[Sbse] embodied energy savings potential

Susan Roaf s.roaf at btinternet.com
Sat Apr 10 08:40:30 PDT 2021

I Say - SBSE Chums,

We all know that with heavy materials - it is not how much you have got 
- but what you do with it than matters - size is a secondary 
consideration in truly 'sophisticated design' echelons.  I am sub-editor 
on services and environment sections of the Amazing 2nd Edition of the 
Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World (Paul Oliver did 
the 1st edition) out in 2022 - possibly. This one is going to be in 5 
volumes.  The amazing way different vernacular peoples optimised and 
utilised mass was fantastic.

Lets not forget the WHY question...  why are you building a building?

We could all live in paper bags  - possibly as long as they have heated 
toilet seats and Kotatsu.

You could chose to live in a fibro and matchstick mansion in Arizona - 
but dont expect me to hang around in a heatwave, when the power grid 

I think I did catch your drift here - Yikes Scuby - shit / fan /hit / 
what is going to keep us safe when the light go out in a blizzard 
(Texas?) or a heatwave (anywhere - anytime).   You know we need mass to 
dampen temperature extremes (shave) and provide a thermal buffer (shift) 
so we need to develop low carbon materials, dense heavyweight materials. 
Great question

Let us think outside the paper bag here -  we can use water (SHW - 
inter-seasonal at a building / community / city level)  - we can use ice 
(PV generated - 1 Bryant Place NY) - Batteries? and we can use the earth 
- but as my mate Anthony McDermid found in Oklahoma in February - the 
blizzard this year blew over his GSHP pump house knocking out the two 
(big house) GSHPs - so where can we fund heat in an extreme blizzard, 
with the power out for a week?

Answers to me on a post card...... I know at least two places.....  I 
would love to know more.

Great info in this thread - thanks for that - Sue

NB: LCA is interesting but slightly well-dodgy as - like building 
simulations can be - because they depend on the assumed assumptions put 
into them.....     too many for a start.  EE is a bit of a red herring I 
think - lets start talking about great climatic design - and inform that 
design a wide palette of thinking and material choices?  Think about 
designing every new building for the extremes? great website on extreme 
cold design in Fairbanks Alaska - now part of NREL  - ColdClimate 
Housing Research Center (CCHRC), https://urldefense.com/v3/__http://www.cchrc.org__;!!JYXjzlvb!0RUy5fHzLyF8ca_c9gx_lHLq5RZqZAYKQF7SYd4_lh8gwjwGDm0alE7_8i8a1g$  <https://urldefense.com/v3/__http://www.cchrc.org/__;!!JYXjzlvb!0RUy5fHzLyF8ca_c9gx_lHLq5RZqZAYKQF7SYd4_lh8gwjwGDm0alE6Pza-A8A$ > . 
We will increasingly have to design for an Extreme Weather Event - 
Coming to a Town Near You!  Oops it has arrived.....

By the way - lots of interesting stuff on our Carbon Accounting website 
including stuff on storage - https://urldefense.com/v3/__http://www.icarb.org__;!!JYXjzlvb!0RUy5fHzLyF8ca_c9gx_lHLq5RZqZAYKQF7SYd4_lh8gwjwGDm0alE6MaCaZmA$     (you may find it 
reassuring that I think about things like this before I witter to you 
about them)

I think the best answer is to a) Trust in ones Self - and mug up on 
stuff before hand - and b) hope the Force is With You - when designing 
but the real best way is c) Have a great teacher....


------ Original Message ------
From: "Koester, Robert" <rkoester at bsu.edu>
To: "Larry Strain" <lstrain at siegelstrain.com>; "Don Watson" 
<lakesidedj at aol.com>
Cc: "Don Watson" <EarthRise001 at SBCglobal.net>; "sbse" <sbse at uidaho.edu>; 
"Norbert Lechner" <lechnnm at auburn.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, 10 Sep, 19 At 16:29
Subject: Re: [Sbse] embodied energy savings potential

Also check into the work in this area by Pliny Fisk at CMPBS.
He has mapped and quantified the entire materials industry.

Robert J. Koester AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
Professor of Architecture
Director, Center for Energy Research/Education/Service

Chair, Council on the Environment
University Liaison for ACUPCC, CLC, IGCN, ISCN, STARS, USGBC

Ball State University
2000 University Avenue
Muncie, Indiana 47306-0170


765.285.1135 o
765.285.5622 f


From: SBSE <sbse-bounces at uidaho.edu> On Behalf Of Larry Strain
  Sent: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 10:08 AM
  To: Don Watson <lakesidedj at aol.com>
  Cc: sbse <sbse at uidaho.edu>; Don Watson <EarthRise001 at SBCglobal.net>; 
Norbert Lechner <lechnnm at auburn.edu>
  Subject: Re: [Sbse] embodied energy savings potential

Great reference. Stein’s book is still one the best books on total 
energy use by the building sector. It’s what Architecture 2030 based 
their original estimate of embodied emissions on.

One thing  to note about it’s methodology is it uses an economic input / 
output LCA that takes energy use by sectors of the economy (material 
manufacturers) and divides it into different types of buildings. This is 
different from the current  whole building LCA methodology which 
calculates energy and emissions at the the  material level and adds it 
all up - top down vs bottom up. The EIO method is probably a better 
method for getting a picture of  embodied energy / emissions for average 
building  types, whereas if you want to understand and improve the 
materials in a particular building the whole building LCA or even a 
database such as the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) are the way to 

And Derek’s references on new ways to createl material is great. There 
is a lot happening in materials right now, the question is can we get it 
to scale fast enough.

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 10, 2019, at 5:40 AM, Don Watson <lakesidedj at aol.com 
<mailto:lakesidedj at aol.com> > wrote:


Among the archival references on the topic (and the very first that I 
know of published in the U.S. to make the case for net energy analysis 
in the building sector) is “Energy Required for Building Construction” 
by Richard G. Stein and  Diane Serber, (in Watson, D. “Energy 
Conservation through Building Design” 1979. The Stein/Serber book 
chapter summarizes a substantial research report of the same title, 
summarizing then current data for cost of mining, manufacture, transport 
and on-site  assembly of each building material and for various building 
types by Hannon, Stein, Segal, Serber and C. Stein. One of their 
findings (again, 1970s data) states “…it will take 15 years of operation 
to equal the amount of capital energy required to build the  building” 
and further, “a reduction (in net energy) of 20% seems feasible.”

While the data for this finding is dated, the methodology is not. The 
monographs that the AIA “Task Force on Energy Consumption (Daly, Stein, 
Ehrenkranz, Eberhard, Demkin)  published 1975-76, including “Energy and 
The Built Environment:  A Gap in Current Strategies,” (Stein was lead 
author) includes the same notions and still resonate today. In the 
1990s, AIA Committee on Environment published an extended series of 
monographs on net energy / life cycle energy analysis, especially 
valuable  for flagging environmental impacts on health of worker and 

I think I got the above “history of the idea” right…always benefiting 
from the shared stewardship that Sir Norbert and other SBSErs.

Don Watson

On Sep 10, 2019, at 4:55 AM, Derek Clements-Croome 
<d.j.clements-croome at reading.ac.uk 
<mailto:d.j.clements-croome at reading.ac.uk> > wrote:

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 them.

Advancements in modifying traditional materials as well as developing 
new ones are described in the bookNanotechnology 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 <mailto:sbse-bounces at uidaho.edu> > 
On Behalf Of Larry Strain
  Sent: 10 September 2019 05:52
  To: Norbert Lechner <lechnnm at auburn.edu <mailto:lechnnm at auburn.edu> >
  Cc: sbse <sbse at uidaho.edu <mailto: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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