The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 83 (2005) > Issues > Issue 11 > The significance of embedded energy for buildings in a tropical country
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The significance of embedded energy for buildings in a tropical country

A computerised relational database management system is used to represent and calculate the embedded energies and carbon coefficients of building materials. The embedded energy requirements are also calculated on the basis of the lowest quality energy (called a ‘bio-equivalent’ basis), in addition to the more conventional basis of Tonnes of Oil Equivalent. Comparisons are then made between alternative materials for building components such as purlins, walls, roofs and windows. Among the more common construction materials considered, the lowest energy option is timber while the highest is steel, with concrete in between. Timber products have negative carbon coefficients as well, i.e. they store more carbon than is emitted in their use for house building. The walls and wall plastering contribute significant proportions of the gross energy of a building, indicating that the use of low energy materials for walls and the elimination of wall plastering will make significant contributions to reducing the embedded energy of buildings. The ratio between total embedded energy and annual operational energy for selected buildings ranges from 14 to 35 for the houses, while for an office building with air-conditioning loading, it is around 5. S. P. Pooliyadda, BSc Eng, MPhil Structural Project Engineer, London Borough of Haringey Professor W. P. S. Dias, BSc Eng, PhD (Lond), DIC, CEng, MIStructE, FIE (SL) Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka