CFP last date
20 June 2024
Reseach Article

Developing a Calculation Tool for Embodied Energy in the Conceptual Design Phase

by Sara Maassarani, Mostafa R. A. Khalifa, Nabil Mohareb
International Journal of Computer Applications
Foundation of Computer Science (FCS), NY, USA
Volume 157 - Number 6
Year of Publication: 2017
Authors: Sara Maassarani, Mostafa R. A. Khalifa, Nabil Mohareb

Sara Maassarani, Mostafa R. A. Khalifa, Nabil Mohareb . Developing a Calculation Tool for Embodied Energy in the Conceptual Design Phase. International Journal of Computer Applications. 157, 6 ( Jan 2017), 41-49. DOI=10.5120/ijca2017912730

@article{ 10.5120/ijca2017912730,
author = { Sara Maassarani, Mostafa R. A. Khalifa, Nabil Mohareb },
title = { Developing a Calculation Tool for Embodied Energy in the Conceptual Design Phase },
journal = { International Journal of Computer Applications },
issue_date = { Jan 2017 },
volume = { 157 },
number = { 6 },
month = { Jan },
year = { 2017 },
issn = { 0975-8887 },
pages = { 41-49 },
numpages = {9},
url = { },
doi = { 10.5120/ijca2017912730 },
publisher = {Foundation of Computer Science (FCS), NY, USA},
address = {New York, USA}
%0 Journal Article
%1 2024-02-07T00:03:15.741931+05:30
%A Sara Maassarani
%A Mostafa R. A. Khalifa
%A Nabil Mohareb
%T Developing a Calculation Tool for Embodied Energy in the Conceptual Design Phase
%J International Journal of Computer Applications
%@ 0975-8887
%V 157
%N 6
%P 41-49
%D 2017
%I Foundation of Computer Science (FCS), NY, USA

Energy performance of a building is one of the main features to be assessed and optimized in sustainable building designs. While progress in reducing the operating energy is being achieved, the embodied energy remains somewhat high. The building industry is currently using around 40-50% of global raw material that is responsible for the 40-45% of the total worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. Embodied energy and carbon calculations are rather complex since they are related to different combinations of material whether in the structure or the finishing material. Reducing the embodied energy can be done by either varying the structural design, increasing the service of the building, or using recycled material. Conventionally, these calculations are not strictly part of the designer’s work during the conceptual design phase; hence, if done, they are calculated during the design evaluation phase when the design decisions have been already set, and change in design decisions is not easy. Under most circumstances, the environmental impact assessment of designs was performed by sustainability consultants who may not be present in many projects. It is better to bring the embodied energy calculations to the conceptual design phase so both the architect and the structural engineer can make informed design decisions for a more sustainable building. Many organizations are using in-house tools to make these calculations, but the tools used are not flexible enough to be adopted by a wide variety of users. A better way is to use the functionality of Building Information Modelling (BIM) software by developing plug-in tools that are simple to use in early stages of conceptual design. This paper explores two existing plug-ins that function with Rhinoceros (Rhino) and Grasshopper (GH) software, where they define a set of parameters to evaluate the embodied energy in the structure of the building. The aim of this paper is to develop a tool that can be used more easily and that adds to the existing parameters to give a more accurate estimation of the building’s embodied energy during the conceptual design stage. For this purpose, a comparative analysis will be performed of both plug-ins to determine their best features and to add the missing components concerning the embodied energy of finishing material. The proposed tool will be developed using visual basic scripting language to be used with Rhino and GH. Finally, the prototype will be open sourced for testing and verification while conclusions concerning the limitations and future development opportunities will be discussed.

  1. Spence RMulligan H. Sustainable development and the construction industry. Habitat International. 1995;19(3):279-292.
  2. Holtzhausen H. Embodied energy and its impact on architectural decisions. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment. 2007;102:377-385.
  3. Horvath A. Construction materials and the environment. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour.. 2004 Nov 21;29:181-204.
  4. Curwell S, Cooper I. The implications of urban sustainability. Building Research & Information. 1998 Jan 1;26(1):17-28.
  5. Uher TE. Absolute indicators of sustainable construction. In Proceedings of COBRA 1999 (pp. 243-253).
  6. D. Palit. Green Buildings. An occasional Paper Prepared for World Energy Efficiency Association, 2004.
  7. Huovila P. Buildings and climate change. Paris, France: United Nations Environment Programme, Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch; 2007.
  8. Anderson J. Embodied Carbon & EPDs [Internet]. greenspec. 2016 [cited 11 October 2016]. Available from:
  9. Ding GK. The development of a multi-criteria approach for the measurement of sustainable performance for built projects and facilities (Doctoral dissertation).
  10. Crowther P. Design for disassembly to recover embodied energy.
  11. Sartori I, Hestnes AG. Energy use in the life cycle of conventional and low-energy buildings: A review article. Energy and buildings. 2007 Mar 31;39(3):249-57.
  12. Keoleian GA, Blanchard S, Reppe P. Life‐cycle energy, costs, and strategies for improving a single‐family house. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 2000 Apr 1;4(2):135-56.
  13. Hannon B, Stein RG, Segal BZ, Serber D. Energy and labor in the construction sector. Science. 1978 Nov 24;202(4370):837-47.
  14. Nässén J, Holmberg J, Wadeskog A, Nyman M. Direct and indirect energy use and carbon emissions in the production phase of buildings: an input–output analysis. Energy. 2007 Sep 30;32(9):1593-602.
  15. Langston YL, Langston CA. Reliability of building embodied energy modelling: an analysis of 30 Melbourne case studies. Construction Management and Economics. 2008 Feb 1;26(2):147-60.
  16. Miller A. Embodied Energy–A life-cycle of transportation energy embodied in construction materials. InCOBRA 2001, Proceedings of the RICS Foundation Construction and Building Research Conference 2001.
  17. Basbagill J, Flager F, Lepech M, Fischer M. Application of life-cycle assessment to early stage building design for reduced embodied environmental impacts. Building and Environment. 2013 Feb 28;60:81-92.
  18. Gluch P, Baumann H. The life cycle costing (LCC) approach: a conceptual discussion of its usefulness for environmental decision-making. Building and environment. 2004 May 31;39(5):571-80.
  19. Schlueter A, Thesseling F. Building information model based energy/exergy performance assessment in early design stages. Automation in construction. 2009 Mar 31;18(2):153-63.
  20. Ariyaratne CI, Moncaster AM. Stand-alone calculation tools are not the answer to embodied carbon assessment. Energy Procedia. 2014 Dec 31;62:150-9.
  21. Motawa I, Carter K. Sustainable BIM-based evaluation of buildings. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2013 Mar 29;74:419-28.
  22. Capper G, Matthews J, Lockley S. Incorporating embodied energy in the BIM process.
  23. Koonath Surendran S, Rolvink A, Coenders JL, Welleman JW, Den Hollander JP, Hoekstra Bonnema B. Embodied energy optimization tool. InProceedings of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium" Future Visions", Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 17-20 August 2015 2015 Dec 31. KIVI.
  24. Embodied Carbon and Energy Efficiency Tool | CORE studio [Internet]. 2016 [cited 11 October 2016]. Available from:
  25. Hammond G, Jones C, Lowrie F, Tse P. Inventory of carbon & energy: ICE. Bath: Sustainable Energy Research Team, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath; 2008.
  26. Lebel GG, Kane H. Sustainable development: a guide to our common future; the report of the WCED.
  27. Foster JS, Greeno R, Harington R. Structure and fabric. Pearson Education; 2007.
  28. Tool F. Ontwerptool voor de beoordeling van constructieve alternatieven op duurzaamheid (Doctoral dissertation, TU Delft, Delft University of Technology).
  29. CORE Studio. Carbon Calculator Interface [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2 November 2016]. Available from:
Index Terms

Computer Science
Information Sciences


Embodied energy embodied carbon conceptual stage simulation computational tool design optimization