Embodied Energy in Design

This morning Geri-Ann Quinlivan, one of ID’s LEED Certified Architects, discussed with us a new way to think about “building green”. Centered around Roboticist Catherine Mohrs’ Ted Talk dubbed, “The Tradeoffs of Building Green” Geri-Ann launched into her discussion about embodied energy and what it truly means to both think and build green. 

Geri-Ann introduced us to the term “embodied energy” by explaining that it is the total energy required for the extraction, processing, manufacture and delivery of building materials to a building site. This sum of used energy, which can be looked at as an energy debt, is present in any manufactured product, and must be made back over a product’s lifetime to be considered sustainable.

Embodied Energy

To further this thought, Geri-Ann explained how normally, design professionals don’t often think about design decisions in terms of energy, or at least the energy used before the product arrives on site. So instead of just looking at the energy savings that a typical LEED certified building would save over its lifetime, we must now begin to look at the energy used in the acquiring, building and transporting of the materials used in the construction of a new building. Embodied Energy

Geri-Ann made clear how much energy is required just in the manufacturing of necessary building materials like windows and steel and how that embodied energy should be considered when constructing buildings that are focused towards “going green”. This diagram below shows that process and how many steps are involved in the manufacturing of a simple product such as a window.  

Embodied Energy in Design.gif

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