Sunk embodied energy as a means of valuing the built environment
Authors: Williamson, Terry; Pullen, Stephen
The study of the embodied energy of construction materials has developed considerably over the past decade and the design of sustainable buildings often considers the use of materials with low embodied energy. In addition, the estimation of embodied energy has contributed to research into the overall energy consumption of buildings. This paper views embodied energy from an alternative perspective and provides a conceptual approach to its use. Embodied energy may be viewed as a capital energy investment in a building and can be compared with the initial and sometimes irrecoverable funds known as sunk costs which are required to commence a commercial enterprise.
The concept of sunk embodied energy for valuing the built environment is introduced and it is proposed that this provides a measure of cultural patrimony. Existing buildings and infrastructure can contribute to the quality of life and cultural identity of local communities and this should be considered when neighbourhoods are changed. The paper concludes by promoting the expenditure of sunk embodied energy which has a large component of recoverable building materials, components and buildings as this maximizes the cultural benefits yet minimises the environmental disadvantages.