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/
May T. Watts
AT gmail DOT com