A life-cycle energy analysis of building materials in the Negev desert

N. Huberman, David Pearlmutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations

Abstract

Environmental quality has become increasingly affected by the built environment-as ultimately, buildings are responsible for the bulk of energy consumption and resultant atmospheric emissions in many countries. In recognizing this trend, research into building energy-efficiency has focused mainly on the energy required for a building's ongoing use, while the energy "embodied" in its production is often overlooked. Such an approach has led in recent years to strategies which improve a building's thermal performance, but which rely on high embodied-energy (EE) materials and products. Although assessment methods and databases have developed in recent years, the actual EE intensity for a given material may be highly dependent on local technologies and transportation distances. The objective of this study is to identify building materials which may optimize a building's energy requirements over its entire life cycle, by analyzing both embodied and operational energy consumption in a climatically responsive building in the Negev desert region of southern Israel-comparing its actual material composition with a number of possible alternatives. It was found that the embodied energy of the building accounts for some 60% of the overall life-cycle energy consumption, which could be reduced significantly by using "alternative" wall infill materials. The cumulative energy saved over a 50-year life cycle by this material substitution is on the order of 20%. While the studied wall systems (mass, insulation and finish materials) represent a significant portion of the initial EE of the building, the concrete structure (columns, beams, floor and ceiling slabs) on average constitutes about 50% of the building's pre-use phase energy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-848
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy and Buildings
Volume40
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2008

Keywords

  • Building materials
  • Embodied energy
  • Energy-efficiency
  • Life-cycle analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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