June 9, 2008

Tear Down or Reuse?

From Crosscut Seattle: Unsustainable Seattle

Those pushing new development often cite safety concerns — sometimes legitimately — and in Seattle, making things more eco-friendly (like “green” highrises) is a common justification for tearing down old structures. But rarely do they factor in what is called “embodied energy,” which is the energy used to build something in the first place. A building is the physical manifestation of all the carbon used to create it in the first place. Tear it down, you not only have a solid waste problem with all the debris (about 30 percent of waste comes from construction and demolition debris), but you waste all that embodied energy.

On the topic of “embodied energy,” Rypkema points out that while the “green building” movement touts energy efficiency in new construction, it tends to ignore conserving energy that is already expended. “[T]he energy embodied in the construction of a building is 15 to 30 times the annual energy use.”

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