When a building is torn down for new construction, we loose more than the built resource (and its associated heritage)—we lose embodied energy.

Every building is a storehouse of nonrecoverable energy. This is the energy that has been spent in its construction, as well as the manufacture and transportation of materials. A "teardown" not only discards the embodied energy of the existing building, but spends that energy again (and likely more, as teardowns average over double the square footage of the structure being replaced) on a new home or other building. If you're building green, embodied energy analysis begs the question: where is the energy savings? And at what cost?

The embodied energy calculator represents a rough attempt to quantify this expenditure. See our teardown calculator to view the potential energy consequences, from building lost to new construction.

Note that this is the energy alone lost and expended. These numbers say nothing of the vast amount of waste created by demolition—on average, a combined 115 lbs/sq. ft. for all residential structures.* Addressing these problems (and more) will lead us to a comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis for historic buildings.

In the meantime, continue to use embodied energy to confront the avoidable loss of a scarce resource.

* 2007 Building Energy Data Book, table 3.4.3. Available at http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/

MTWAS est. 2007

Embodied Energy
concept model
survey model
ACHP report

Demolition Debris

Total Teardowns

May T. Watts


AT gmail DOT com