A New View of Sustainable Building: Materials and Embodied Energy

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Michelle Addington
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Sustainable building initiatives, such as LEED, are among the efforts to transform the way the built environment is developing through the construction of buildings that have reduced energy consumption and simultaneously maintain human and environmental well-being. This paper will examine the structure and priorities of the traditional approach to sustainable building, putting at its focus the overlooked element of embodied energy. This paper will utilize Tally, a plugin for a building information modeling software, to perform a lifecycle assessment of a residential building and determine the role embodied energy plays within a building. The observations from this paper reveal that the insulation materials are one of the largest contributors to the building’s global warming potential, allowing for strategic decisions to be made to incorporate alternative materials with fewer consequences. By closely examining the effects of various material choices and processes, this paper aims to determine whether exclusively addressing the embodied energy of a building has the potential to serve as an alternative approach to uphold the principles of sustainability.