Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Michael Utzinger

Committee Members

Brian Schermer, Kurt Zimmerman, James Wasley


The purpose of this research was to assess the embodied energy and carbon emissions of structural building materials, and determine environmental savings associated with construction. In common architectural practice, the analysis of the environmental cost of materials is typically not taken into account. This can be attributed to the lack of available data, loyalty to conventional construction methods, and complexity of embodied energy calculations. Although efforts are made to ensure accuracy of the information contained in energy databases, they are based on public domain sources and the “best” energy and carbon coefficients, with no guarantee to accuracy. Therefore, it is critical to develop new methods to accurately assess embodied energy and CO2 emissions of building materials. The need for this assessment is tied to the development of high-performance buildings that integrate and optimize energy efficiency and life cycle performance; shifting the focus to the reduction of building operational energy makes embodied energy a significant part of a building’s life cycle.

This dissertation takes a case study approach focused on the assessment of the embodied energy of the structural materials and photovoltaic system of a high-performance building. This approach facilitated a detailed calculation of the selected materials’ environmental costs, achieving accurate results in comparison with publicly available databases.