Author(s): Ming Hu
Knowledge and research tying the environmental impact and embodied energy together is a largely unexplored area in the building industry. The aim of this study is to investigate the practicality of using the ratio between embodied energy and embodied carbon to measure the building’s impact. This study is based on life-cycle assessment and proposes a new measure: life-cycle embodied performance (LCEP), in order to evaluate building performance. In this study, eight buildings located in the same climate zone with similar construction types are studied to test the proposed method. For each case, the embodied energy intensities and embodied carbon coefficients are calculated, and four environmental impact categories are quantified. The following observations can be drawn from the findings: (a) the ozone depletion potential could be used as an indicator to predict the value of LCEP; (b) the use of embodied energy and embodied carbon independently from each other could lead to incomplete assessments; and (c) the exterior wall system is a common significant factor influencing embodied energy and embodied carbon. The results lead to several conclusions: firstly, the proposed LCEP ratio, between embodied energy and embodied carbon, can serve as a genuine indicator of embodied performance. Secondly, environmental impact categories are not dependent on embodied energy, nor embodied carbon. Rather, they are proportional to LCEP. Lastly, among the different building materials studied, metal and concrete express the highest contribution towards embodied energy and embodied carbon.