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Changing significance of embodied energy: A comparative study of material specifications and building energy sources

Ajayi, Saheed O.; Oyedele, Lukumon O.; Ilori, Olusegun M.


Saheed O. Ajayi

Lukumon Oyedele
Professor in Enterprise & Project Management

Olusegun M. Ilori


© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Despite the increasing significance of embodied impacts of buildings, efforts to reduce their environmental footprints have been concentrated on the operational impacts of buildings. This study investigates the changing significance of embodied carbon over the entire life cycle of whole buildings. A case study of an office building was modelled with Revit, and sensitivity analyses of the modelled building were performed by varying the material specification and energy use pattern for seven other typologies. Using Revit, BIMWASTE tool, ATHENA Impact Estimator and Green Building Studio, comparative life-cycle analyses were carried out for the eight building typologies. The study suggests that notwithstanding the enormous impacts of the operational stage on life-cycle carbon of fossil fuel-based buildings, embodied impacts could vary between 8.4% and 22.3%. A key determinant of the proportional impacts of embodied energy is the nature of materials used for building construction. Similarly, embodied impacts of buildings become more significant and could contribute up to 60% of their life cycle impacts as they become more energy-efficient during their operational stage. As the study confirms the varying significance of embodied energy as construction materials and energy use patterns change, it implies the need for policy measures based on a whole life assessment methodology, instead of the usual ways of giving sole importance to the operational impacts of buildings. With buildings becoming more energy-efficient during their operational stage, there is an urgent need for an increased focus on the embodied impacts of buildings, especially as renewable energy resources are becoming widely adopted.


Ajayi, S. O., Oyedele, L. O., & Ilori, O. M. (2019). Changing significance of embodied energy: A comparative study of material specifications and building energy sources. Journal of Building Engineering, 23, 324-333.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 10, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 13, 2019
Publication Date May 1, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 14, 2020
Journal Journal of Building Engineering
Electronic ISSN 2352-7102
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Pages 324-333
Keywords building energy analysis, embodied emission, operational emission, renewable energy, LCA
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


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