The study has developed a framework for assessing the energy consumed during production of building materials, in an attempt to quantifying energy expenditures from buildings.     

India uses more than 2 billion tonnes of construction materials per year, with energy expenditure for manufacturing building materials amounting to 20-25 percent of the country's total energy demand. There is thus an increasing demand for energy efficient building materials.

A team of researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, led by Prof Venkatarama Reddy has designed an assessment framework for quantifying the total energy expenditure, called "Embodied Energy" (EE) in their paper, says a Gubbi Labs release.

The production of building materials also results in emission of greenhouse gases. As K I Praseeda, a co-author on the paper, says, "Focus of the construction industry should be on using low energy alternative building materials".

Though earlier studies have contributed in calculating the energy expenditure, they lack agreement on the method of assessment. Praseeda says current researches in energy conservation in buildings focus more on limiting "operational energy" (lighting and air conditioning energy) in buildings, without much regard to embodied energy of buildings.

"This is mainly due to lack of data on energy consumption in manufacturing of building materials in the country," Praseeda added.

The team developed the assessment framework for quantifying the total energy consumed during building material production and tried to bridge this gap in knowledge.

The study is based on actual industrial data, which considered basic building materials like cement, steel, glass, coarse aggregate, aluminium and some building products like burnt clay bricks, concrete and laterite blocks, ceramic tiles, clay roofing tiles, polished granite and marble slabs.

The final analysis showed that among the basic materials, aluminium is found to have higher EE (141.55 MJ/kg- 549.16 MJ/m2) than steel (32.24 MJ/kg), glass (7.88 MJ/kg) and cement (2.38-3.72 MJ/kg). On the other hand, among the masonry units, burnt clay bricks have higher EE than concrete and laterite blocks. Ceramic floor tiles are also found to have higher EE.

"Energy expenditure for building construction is highly variable as it depends on the location of the building, its function or use, the selection of building materials and many other factors," says Praseeda.

"The building codes and building energy rating guidelines should mandate assessment of embodied energy of buildings and evaluation of relative significance of embodied and operational energy," he says, adding this would help in comprehensive building energy assessments.

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