Assessment of embodied energy analysis methods for the Australian construction industry
Authors: Crawford, Robert H; Treloar, Graham J.
ABSTRACT: Environmental assessment of buildings typically focuses on operational energy
consumption in an attempt to minimise building energy consumption. Whilst the operation of Australian
buildings accounts for around 20% of total energy consumption nationally, the energy embodied in
these buildings represents up to 20 times their annual operational energy. Many previous studies, now
shown to be incomplete in system boundary or unreliable, have provided much lower values for the
embodied energy of buildings and their products. Many of these studies have used traditional
embodied energy analysis methods, such as process analysis and input-output (I-O) analysis. More
recently, hybrid embodied energy analysis methods have been developed, combining these two
traditional methods. These hybrid methods need to be compared and validated, as these too have
been considered to have several limitations.
This paper aims to evaluate a recently developed hybrid method for the embodied energy analysis of
the Australian construction industry, relative to traditional methods. Recent improvements to this hybrid
method include the use of more recent I-O data and the inclusion of capital energy data. These
significant systemic changes mean that a previous assessment of the methods needs to be reviewed.
It was found that the incompleteness associated with process analysis has increased from 49% to
87%. These findings suggest that current best-practice methods of embodied energy analysis are
sufficiently accurate for most typical applications. This finding is strengthened by recent improvements
to the I-O model.