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Towards a comprehensive life cycle energy analysis framework for residential buildings

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Current assessments of residential building energy demand focus mainly on operational energy, notably in thermal terms. The embodied energy of buildings and the transport energy consumption of their users are typically overlooked. Recent studies have shown that these two energy demands can represent more than half of the life cycle energy over 50 years.

This article presents a framework which takes into account energy requirements at the building scale, i.e. the embodied and operational energy of the building and its refurbishment, and at the city scale, i.e. the embodied energy of nearby infrastructures and the transport energy (direct and indirect) of its users. This framework has been implemented through the development of a software tool which allows the rapid analysis of the life cycle energy demand of buildings at different scales.

Results from two case studies, located in Brussels, Belgium and Melbourne, Australia, confirm that each of the embodied, operational and transport requirements are nearly equally important. By integrating these three energy flows, the developed framework and software provide building designers, planners and decision makers with a powerful tool to effectively reduce the overall energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions of residential buildings.