Embodied Energy: How Should it Affect Design Standards?

The issue of embodied energy in building materials is heating up in the Washington Legislature.

Under current state laws, the design of new buildings must include an energy life cycle cost analysis. The ELCCA requires designers to run energy models to project the costs to operate a building over its lifecycle.

But, those models don’t account for the energy used to produce, manufacture, transport and construct buildings. Nor do they account for the energy to deconstruct and dispose of or recycle building materials. In other words, they do not account for embodied energy.

SSB 5485 authorizes a study to evaluate current standards and models for assessing the embodied energy in building materials. It also asks for recommendations about the next steps for taking embodied energy measurements from theory to practice.

The AIA|WA has been at the center of redrafting the bill to ensure that the study is unbiased and produces effective results. AIA|WA worked with stakeholders on all sides of the issue. At a hearing last week AIA|WA testified to the need for such a study, but also cautioned that embodied energy is only part of the picture. But, one must put the parts together to get the whole picture.

The proposed study will provide lawmakers with valuable information on which to make future policy decisions.

A revised version SSB 5485 passed the House Environment Committee this morning, with the AIA|WA’s support. Rep. Christine Rolfes led the efforts in the House to improve the quality of the study.

Watch this video for AIA|WA’s testimony.

Here is the entire hearing on the bill:

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