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Calculating the Environmental Impact of a Building

Calculating the Environmental Impact of a Building

Posted by Susan Spencer

In D/P/S's Office of the Future concept, we suggest building owners repurpose existing office buildings rather than build new ground-up spaces. One of the many benefits of reusing what we already have rather than investing in brand new buildings is that it greatly reduces our environmental impact and has huge energy savings.

The embodied energy in the structure of a building includes all energy required to manufacture, maintain, and dispose of its materials. By reusing the steal, concrete, and other materials in an 8-story, prototypical 80s office building, we can save the equivalent of approximately 117,417 gallons of gasoline -- or the amount it would take a semi-truck to travel nearly 1.2 million miles. That's like driving from Los Angeles to New York 423 times!

How did we calculate this? Using known information about a particular office building, we built a model in Revit®. For unknown construction types, such as concrete or reinforcement, we assigned conservative material amounts. The completed model was analyzed using Tally®, a life cycle analysis plugin, to quantify eight environmental impacts - including Energy Demand - over three life-cycle stages: manufacturing, maintenance and replacement, and end of life.

Primary Energy Demand chart from Tally

Over the three life-cycle stages, the primary energy demand was estimated to be 1.409 x 105 MJ. Because that number is difficult to fathom, we translated it to gallons of gasoline, which represents the 423 trips across the United States. This is a conservative estimate considering that our design reuses the building rather than demolishing it, which means we save the end of life energy demand.

The energy saved equates to a semi-truck driving from Los Angeles to New York 423 times

Energy savings are quickly multiplied when you consider the number of existing office buildings that could be repurposed to meet the demands of changing markets, a live/work/play lifestyle, and a tech-savvy workplace.

The analysis takes a sustainable approach that not only reuses existing inventory, but also reinvents the workplace to create a mixed-use micro-community. Co-located office, residential, wellness, and retail gives tenants access to several shared amenities and reduces the need to commute. To learn more about the Office of the Future design concept, view the video presentation or contact us.