Commenced in January 2007
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The Significance of Embodied Energy in Certified Passive Houses

Authors: Robert H. Crawford, André Stephan


Certifications such as the Passive House Standard aim to reduce the final space heating energy demand of residential buildings. Space conditioning, notably heating, is responsible for nearly 70% of final residential energy consumption in Europe. There is therefore significant scope for the reduction of energy consumption through improvements to the energy efficiency of residential buildings. However, these certifications totally overlook the energy embodied in the building materials used to achieve this greater operational energy efficiency. The large amount of insulation and the triple-glazed high efficiency windows require a significant amount of energy to manufacture. While some previous studies have assessed the life cycle energy demand of passive houses, including their embodied energy, these rely on incomplete assessment techniques which greatly underestimate embodied energy and can lead to misleading conclusions. This paper analyses the embodied and operational energy demands of a case study passive house using a comprehensive hybrid analysis technique to quantify embodied energy. Results show that the embodied energy is much more significant than previously thought. Also, compared to a standard house with the same geometry, structure, finishes and number of people, a passive house can use more energy over 80 years, mainly due to the additional materials required. Current building energy efficiency certifications should widen their system boundaries to include embodied energy in order to reduce the life cycle energy demand of residential buildings.

Keywords: Embodied energy, Hybrid analysis, Life cycle energy analysis, Passive house.

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