Embodied energy describes the energy consumed in providing materials for building construction. It includes the extraction and processing of raw materials, along with manufacturing, transport and product delivery processes. Embodied energy is usually sourced from fossil fuels and it can be a significant component of the total life cycle energy consumption of a material. Generally, the more highly processed a material is the higher its embodied energy.
The embodied energy of a building can be lowered by using locally available, natural materials that are both durable and recyclable, with a design that incorporates components that are easy to recover and reuse, within a structure that is easy to dissemble and dismantle.
Timber can create buildings with low embodied energy. It is often locally available and it is natural, durable and recyclable. Its versatility and light weight means it can be designed to be easy to disassemble, recover, reuse and/or recycle.
Recent research by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting compared the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the manufacture of timber products, with the amount of emissions generated by other common building materials. The results showed that by substituting timber in the construction of a typical family home, greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide1, could be saved.
To learn more about the low embodied energy of timber, see the following reports available for download below:
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1 Forests, Wood and Australia's Carbon Balance, Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Corporation.