A life cycle energy comparison of textile and glass materials for building envelopes
Authors: Hertzsch, Eckhart ; Crawford, Robert H
ABSTRACT: An increase in building energy efficiency, including reductions in their embodied energy,
is essential in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Material selection is a key element of
any attempt to reduce the life cycle energy requirements of buildings. The building envelope itself plays
an important role in determining the operational and embodied energy consumption of a building and
therefore the materials used in the building envelope must be carefully considered.
This study considers the use of textiles as a building envelope material and analyses the life cycle
energy requirements associated with a roof construction recently erected in Melbourne, Australia using
ETFE cushions, and an alternative design for the same roof using a traditional glass structure. It was
found that the ETFE cushions resulted in a 42 per cent reduction in life cycle energy requirements. The
paper demonstrates the benefits and challenges associated with the application of textile materials in
buildings. It also provides builders, architects and planners with knowledge to support the design
decision-making process as well as further ways of achieving additional reductions in the
environmental impacts resulting from the building sector.