Over the life of a building the operational energy used to run it generally exceeds the embodied energy used to build it (save the likes of a passive house). This explains part of why there has been such a push for efficiency in recent years.
2. Energy Production
As the cost of residential solar has fallen it has become more and more fashionable (and economic) to have solar panels on the roof. It’s fast becoming a badge of honor and far more trendy than solar hot water ever was. Australia has now installed more than 2 million small scale renewable energy systems – reaching the target just eight months after the country achieved its first one million rooftop solar systems.
3. House Size
This is where it often starts to go a bit wrong with ‘sustainable homes’. There is little doubt that as countries get wealthier they want bigger homes. But big and sustainable are unhappy bedfellows. A bigger home needs more energy to build (embodied energy), more energy to run (use energy), more stuff to fill it (more embodied energy) and is often further from things you need, due to the nature of population density and development.
Where your home is in relation to your work, shopping, friends, schools and other amenities has a huge effect on your whole carbon footprint, not just the energy you use at home. Being able to walk, cycle or take public transport on a daily basis can slash your footprint.
5. Embodied Carbon
The embodied carbon of a product is the carbon footprint of making that product. Each building material used in the construction of a home has its own carbon footprint. If you tally up all the embodied carbon in each material used to build a home, plus that of any energy used in the process you can estimate the embodied carbon of a building. For a new home in the UK that figure might be in the 40-50 t CO2e range. But UK homes are small. The average suburban home in Australia could easily be over 100 t CO2e.