How corporate buildings ignore embodied energy

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Note that concrete is the most widely used material on earth with over two tonnes per person on the planet being used. Associated high usage in construction results in higher total emissions than any other material. Source:

If you look back a decade or so buildings were receiving awards for their eco-friendly practices and energy efficiency.

Nowadays sustainability goes deeper and includes embodied energy, which is a calculation of all the energy used to produce the materials that make up buildings.

Embodied energy includes energy used in mining, manufacturing and transporting the materials as well as the services that support these processes.

Take the example of a large banking group building a new complex. One example I know of is where an entire block was demolished before the banking complex was built.

Imagine how much embodied energy went to waste because of this.

The solution lies in reusing, recycling and repurposing older materials. Refurbishment and retrofitting of existing buildings can result in the reuse of embodied energy. In fact, there are companies that buy materials from demolished buildings and resell them.

Take a look at the graph from It shows just how much energy goes into materials such as aluminium sheeting, copper cables, plastics, glass, paint, ceramics and timber.

An architect I spoke to over the weekend told me about the challenges of building a new Buddhist temple in a sustainable way. The Buddhist monks wanted the entrance door to be made from a special wood but the challenge was importing it from a forest in Mozambique. The accumulation of embodied energy here would be cutting down the trees, transporting the wood to South Africa, carpentry and installation.

Building owners and architects can make a big impact on carbon on energy and carbon reduction by recognising the need for sustainability in the design construction and operation of buildings. Solutions are needed to minimise the climate impact of structures designed. For an excellent article on how to go about this click this link here

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