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Sustainable Design of Reinforced Concrete Structures through Embodied Energy Optimization



Dong Hun Yeo, Rene Gabbai


As the world struggles to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, much attention is focused on making buildings operate more efficiently. However, there is another, less recognized aspect of the built environment: the embodied energy of buildings, which represents the energy consumed in construction, including the entire life cycle of materials used. Architects and structural engineers extensively perform designs of buildings with steel and reinforced concrete – materials that, to different degrees, are energy intensive. This presents an opportunity to use structural optimization techniques, which have traditionally been employed to minimize the total cost or total weight of a structure, to minimize the embodied energy. With this in mind, an analysis is carried out to determine the implications, from the point of view of cost, of optimizing a simple reinforced concrete structural member, in this case a rectangular beam of fixed moment and shear strengths, such that embodied energy is minimized. For the embodied energy and cost values assumed, results indicate a reduction on the order of 10 % in embodied energy for an increase on the order of 5 % in costs.
Energy and Buildings


embodied energy, reinforced concrete, optimization


, D. and Gabbai, R. (2011), Sustainable Design of Reinforced Concrete Structures through Embodied Energy Optimization, Energy and Buildings, [online], (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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Created June 1, 2011, Updated February 19, 2017