Re: GBlist: Re: Embodied energy study

Hal Levin (
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 18:00:08 -0800

At 03:21 PM 2/12/97 -0800, you wrote:
> To: Patrick.L.Pierquet, UM
> CC: Greenbuilding List -- Comments / Data Sought
>Hm, I suspect that there is really not very much
>hard data on embodied energy, other than a DOE sponsored
>study from 1981, and the NAHB Research Foundation piece
>from 1978. When I try to get this type of data on
>products, proprietary interest seem to get in the way
>since companies don't like to reveal process energy and
>other details that could alert competitors to weaknesses.
>I think both Nadav and Alex will echo my concern that we
>only have a very small amount of good data on embodied
>energy. Much more needs to be done, and the results need
>to be peer-reviewed.
>I really think the whole community needs to be more open
>about sharing an critiquing embodied energy data and
>performance or "green-ness" claims made. There is really
>no consensus method yet agreed upon for how to establish
>the true embodied energy of anything, since there may be
>political or competitive reasons not to trace the energy
>and materials flows far enough back.


I wish to echo your call for sharing and critiquing as the path to more
meaningful claims of green-ness.

The problems that you identify are quite real in terms of getting good EE
data. However, there are people working on these problems for LCA and other
tools such as Design for Environment (DfE). I am not as pessimistic as you
are about the availability of good data. One of the biggest problems is to
know what specific plant and energy source was used for a particular
product. The same name brand product produced at different factories can
have very different embodied energy content.

Some much more current data have been obtained by Ray Cole and his
co-workers in Vancouver. They published an article last summer with an
analysis showing that the old data were really quite bad. The 1981 DOE study
you mentioned was actually based on data from the early 70s. It is simply
not useful any more.
Hal Levin <>
2548 Empire Grade, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel. 408 425 3946 Fax 408 426 6522

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