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The relationship between house size and life cycle energy demand: Implications for energy efficiency regulations for buildings

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The contribution of embodied and operational energy to the life cycle primary energy demand of the house over 50 years, for selected house sizes and occupancy profiles.

House size has significantly increased over the recent decades in many countries. Larger houses often have a higher life cycle energy demand due to their increased use of materials and larger area to heat, cool and light. Yet, most energy efficiency regulations for buildings fail to adequately include requirements for addressing the energy demand associated with house size. This study quantifies the effect of house size on life cycle energy demand in order to inform future regulations. It uses a parametric model of a typical detached house in Melbourne, Australia and varies its floor area from 100 to 392 m² for four different household sizes. Both initial and recurrent embodied energy requirements are quantified using input-output-based hybrid analysis and operational energy is calculated in primary energy terms over 50 years. Results show that the life cycle energy demand increases at a slower rate compared to house size. Expressing energy efficiency per m² therefore favours large houses while these require more energy. Also, embodied energy represents 26–50% across all variations. Building energy efficiency regulations should incorporate embodied energy, correct energy intensity thresholds for house size and use multiple functional units to measure efficiency. These measures may help achieve greater net energy reductions.