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Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

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Energy & Buildings

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Life cycle energy of high-rise office buildings in Hong Kong

Jie Wang∗, Cong Yu, Wei Pan
Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Buildings are responsible for about 92% of the total energy end-use in Hong Kong, of which above 70%
Received 15 August 2017 is from the commercial sector. Most of the buildings in Hong Kong are high-rise, and approximately 15%
Revised 8 February 2018
of the total building stock is commercial buildings. Despite the considerable improvement in the under-
Accepted 16 February 2018
standing of the life cycle energy use of office buildings, there is still a lack of research into the life cycle
Available online 21 February 2018
energy demand of high-rise office buildings. Such knowledge is however essential for facilitating build-
Keywords: ing energy conservation in the high-rise urban environment. The aim of this paper is to investigate the
Life cycle energy life cycle energy use of high-rise office buildings. The research was carried out through a critical litera-
Embodied energy ture review and case studies of ten real-life high-rise office buildings in Hong Kong. Results show that
High-rise office building the life cycle energy consumption is 51.78–73.64 GJ/m2 over the 50-year study period. Building opera-
Life cycle assessment tion consumes 78–89% and the rest (i.e. 11–22%) is taken by the embodied energy. Despite the distinc-
tion in terms of the amount of embodied energy between high-rise buildings and low-rise counterparts,
no clear correlation is found between building height and embodied energy intensity. Moreover, energy
use for material manufacturing and transport should be prioritised in reducing the embodied energy, of
which the transport energy needs to be taken into extra consideration for the case of Hong Kong. The
findings should inform construction industry participants of the significant potential in reducing the em-
bodied energy of high-rise office buildings. The paper profiles the life cycle energy use of high-rise office
buildings and should be important for the policy formulation towards the holistic energy conservation in
high-rise buildings over their lifespans.
© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction set of specific guidelines to reach this target from economic, reg-
ulation, education and social aspects have been proposed and im-
Hong Kong is located in a typical subtropical region and is one plemented [5]. Since 1993, various policies, regulations, and legis-
of the most densely populated developed cities in the world. Build- lations have been put forward, which however have prioritized the
ings in Hong Kong are responsible for about 92% of the total energy energy conservation in building operation. Such priority falls short
end-use [1], far exceeding the world average around 35% [2]. The to consider the energy reduction of buildings over their lifespans
majority of Hong Kong’s buildings are high-rise, and around 15% as there is a trade-off existing between embodied energy and op-
of the total building stock is commercial building [3]. According to erational energy. It is therefore important to examine the life cycle
the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), around energy use of high-rise buildings and acquire its energy consump-
72% of the buildings’ total electricity consumption was from the tion characteristics. Results of such examination should help with
commercial sector. The total electricity usage of buildings has in- the policy formulation to realise more effective energy conserva-
creased by 18.5% during the last decade [2]. It can be expected tion in high-rise buildings and to achieve the long-term energy re-
that the building energy consumption will experience a continu- duction target of Hong Kong.
ous growth in the future to cater for population growth, building Previous research on life cycle energy analysis has been carried
service enhancement and indoor air-quality improvement. Energy out for both residential [6–10] and office sectors [11–16]. How-
is thus becoming a major concern of the government. ever, most of the studied buildings were low-rise and small-scale.
Hong Kong government has pledged to achieve an overall 40% The energy demand of high-rise buildings over their lifespans is
energy intensity reduction by 2025 using 2005 as the base [4]. A becoming an emerging field of research interest. Such knowledge
is essential for extending the focus of energy conservation to the
whole life cycle of the building. Therefore, the aim of this paper is

Corresponding author. to investigate the life cycle energy use of high-rise office buildings
E-mail addresses: jwang14@hku.hk (J. Wang), yucong@hku.hk (C. Yu), collected from Hong Kong. Following this introduction is a critical
wpan@hku.hk (W. Pan).

0378-7788/© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164 153

review of the building’s life cycle energy analysis. The paper then a real commercial building but didn’t state whether domestic or
describes the methodology and presents the research results. The overseas transport was examined. Chen et al. [20] pointed out that
implications of the findings are discussed before conclusions are the intensities of energy involved in the domestic material trans-
drawn. port were negligibly small compared to those involved in transport
overseas, and thereby ignored the domestic transport energy use in
2. Literature review the embodied energy analysis of high-rise residential buildings in
Hong Kong. Gan et al. [31] provided a more detailed evaluation of
Life cycle energy analysis counts all energy inputs to a build- the impacts of different procurement strategies on the embodied
ing across its life cycle. In all, a building’s life cycle may be in the carbon in the buildings of Hong Kong. The results indicated that
form of cradle to gate, to site, to operation, to grave or to cradle, shorter transport distances (within 800 km) would bring small im-
depending on how it covers these stages [17,18]. The life cycle en- pacts on the embodied carbon of a building (1–3%). While, longer
ergy of a building comprises the embodied energy and operational transport distances (beyond 6500 km) would result in a high por-
energy. Generally, the embodied energy sums up the initial em- tion of transport energy use, which could contribute as much as
bodied energy and recurring embodied energy. The former is the over 20% of the embodied energy of a building [31]. Despite ma-
energy required to extract the raw materials, manufacture compo- rine shipment was considered to be a low carbon transport due to
nents, transport materials to site and construction of the building, its large cargo capacity for long-haul transport, overseas transport
while the latter is the energy required for building maintenance has a significant influence on the embodied energy of a building
and refurbishment. over the domestic and nearby transport of Hong Kong.

2.1. Raw material extraction, transport and manufacturing

2.3. Building construction and installation
Building material manufacturing includes raw material extrac-
tion, transport and manufacturing in this study. Life cycle assess- Construction and installation energy can be very important al-
ment (LCA) can be applied to calculate the energy embodied in beit it is often neglected in the previous LCA analyses, like Shar-
material manufacturing [19]. The process-based method, input- rard et al. [32] and Srinivasan et al. [33]. However, Hong et al.
output analysis-based method and hybrid method are the three [34] demonstrated the importance subdivision of on-site construc-
main LCA methods. However, prior research [6,20–22] mainly ex- tion energy use in the initial energy of a residential building,
tracted material energy intensity data from published studies and which was above 4%. In practice, construction and installation en-
few clarified and modified the data sources to adapt to the local ergy (usually including diesel, electricity and gasoline) covers en-
contexts. These data are inappropriate to be used directly in the ergy used for power tools, heavy equipment and lighting, and as-
analysis of embodied energy. sociated transport on the construction site [35,36]. On-site input-
Previous research undertaken to date has identified the dis- output data is identified to be the main quantification method
tinction in the amount of energy embodied in building materials for construction and installation energy as process analysis data is
between high-rise buildings and low-rise or small-scale buildings. however limited [37].
Luo et al. [23] evaluated embodied carbon emissions of 78 office
buildings in China and found that the CO2 emissions per unit area
of super-high-rise buildings were 1.5 times over that of the multi- 2.4. Building operation
storey buildings. Du et al. [24] also reported embodied energy of
high-rise buildings were 50% higher than low-rise buildings after Energy is required for providing comfort conditions during op-
reviewing 42 case buildings. Moreover, Treloar et al. [25] demon- erating a building [38]. It varies considerably with climatic condi-
strated a larger gap, approximately 60% difference in terms of ini- tion, operating schedule, comfort level requirement and efficiency
tial embodied energy between high-rise and low-rise buildings. of the building and its energy system [39–42]. Using energy bills
Such difference is reported to be attributed to two reasons i.e., and household survey on energy use have been applied to deter-
(1) high-rise buildings consume more materials [23,24,26], and (2) mine the operational energy use [13,38]. Yet, estimated-based data
these materials are more energy intensive, like concrete and steel has also been widely adopted in the research [7,11,12,14,15], given
[23,25,27]. the limitation to access to the real metered data.
Nevertheless, Foraboschi et al. [28] argued that tall building
structure does not have to be with high embodied energy because
embodied energy mainly depends on the building’s flooring sys- 2.5. Building maintenance and refurbishment
tem. Oldfield [29] criticised that the embodied energy of high-rise
and low-rise buildings would be quite distinct if the functional Energy consumption for the replacement and rehabilitation of
unit measurement method was different. For example, if the em- some materials, whose lifespan is less than that of the building,
bodied energy of a building is calculated by per person, the high- is defined as recurring embodied energy. Even though structural
rise condominiums may have less embodied energy than the low- elements are the greatest contributor to initial embodied carbon,
rise dwellings. Hence, there are lots of disputes on whether or not building services and finishes are the main categories of recurring
high-rise buildings are more energy intensive than the low-rise embodied energy due to their regular refurbishment and main-
counterparts in the view of embodied energy. tenance [29,43]. Cole and Kernan [11] pointed out that recurring
embodied energy would be always greater than the initial em-
2.2. Transport of building materials to site bodied energy for office buildings due to more frequent refurbish-
ment over residential sector, but they did not validate this state-
Energy use for transport building materials to site is an impor- ment. While, Davis Langdon [44] conducted a study on embodied
tant component of energy embodied in materials. Heavy reliance carbon and carbon emissions of a tall office building. The results
on the imported construction materials, as experienced in Hong showed that recurring embodied carbon was equivalent to 21% of
Kong, may have a significant impact on embodied energy. Yan et al. initial embodied carbon. Hence, more research is needed to exam-
[30] calculated that around 6.1–8.4% of the embodied carbon emis- ine whether or not recurring embodied energy shall be larger than
sions were committed in the transport of building materials for initial embodied energy for office buildings.
154 J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

2.6. Building end-of-life 3.2. Embodied energy

There are plenty of disputes over whether or not the build- Embodied energy is comprised of initial embodied energy Ei
ing’s end-of-life energy use should be included in the scope of and recurring embodied energy Er . It can be expressed by:
the building’s life cycle energy analysis. Also, it is complex to as-
Ee = Ei + Er (1)
sess the demolition energy use because that is often related with
predicting future demolition practices. Demolition energy is often
3.2.1. Initial embodied energy
neglected in the previous LCA research [45], and published infor-
Initial embodied energy sums up the energy for building mate-
mation on the actual amount of energy incurred by the demoli-
rial manufacturing Em , transport energy use Et , and the energy use
tion and attendant transport of recyclable materials and debris is
for construction and installation Ec , which is expressed as:
limited. Besides, some studies [20,46–48] pointed out that poten-
tial energy savings from recycling or reusing the demolished build- Ei = Em + Et + Ec (2)
ing materials should be included in the building’s life cycle energy
Energy use for building material manufacturing Em is expressed
analysis. Blengini [49] quantified that the recycling potential of a
in Eq. (3).
residential building over 40 years was 29% and 18% respectively
in terms of life cycle energy and greenhouse emissions. Thormark 

[8] estimated that about 37–42% of the embodied energy can be Em = Qi × E Imi (1 + λi ) (3)
recovered through the recycling of building materials during an as- i=1

sumed 50-year lifetime. It is acknowledged that the use of recy- where i represents each type of materials; n represents the total
cling materials or even metal scrap contents in material manufac- types of materials; Qi represents the total quantity of material i;
turing process is an effective solution to reduce embodied energy. EImi represents the energy intensity of material i; λi is the waste
factor of material i due to the on-site construction.
The case buildings all consist of a core tube where lift, shafts,
lobbies and equipment rooms are located. Table 1 shows the basic
3. Methodology
information of the case buildings. With the mean building height
(above ground) of 157 m, the case buildings consume about 1846 kg
In this research, a combination of bottom-up and top-down an-
materials per construction floor area (CFA) (m2 ) on average.
alytical techniques was used to analyse the life cycle energy de-
According to ISO 14040:2006 [50], LCA study is conducted fol-
mand of high-rise office buildings. Ten real-life high-rise Grade A
lowing four steps: goal and scope definition, the establishment of
office buildings were selected from Hong Kong as the case build-
life cycle inventory (LCI), impact assessment and interpretation of
ings. This analysis is based on material and energy flows over the
results. The establishment of LCI involves data collection and cal-
building’s life cycle.
culation to quantify material and energy inputs and outputs of a
The bottom-up analytical technique was applied first in order to
product. Currently, there are a variety of databases available to fa-
acquire a detailed understanding of the material inventory of high-
cilitate the development of LCI. Some of them are closely related to
rise office buildings. Hence, the bill of quantities (BoQs) of the case
construction materials, such as Ecoinvent, ETH-ESU96, and IVAM.
buildings were collected from EMSD. Based on that, a hybrid LCA
All processes and inputs and outputs of a material are mapped.
method was conducted through the utilization of the LCA software
Since there is a lack of an LCI database (and methodology) that
SimaPro to examine the embodied energy. The employed hybrid
are directly applicable to Hong Kong at present, this study in-
LCA method includes a process-based method to investigate the
stead established the LCI mainly obtaining data from the Ecoin-
energy use for material manufacturing and transport to site and
vent 3.3 database and made modifications to adapt the data to the
an input-output analysis-based method to examine the energy use
Hong Kong contexts. The modification was made on the energy use
for building construction and installation.
for transport different raw material for manufacturing each of the
Additionally, due to the limited access to the actual metered en-
building materials, which is determined by transport distance and
ergy data in building operation, a top-down analytical technique
energy intensity of transportation mode. Thus, the procurement in-
was employed to establish building energy simulation models of
formation of various raw materials was collected from the main
the case buildings. The operational energy was estimated through
suppliers of the Hong Kong’s construction industry. Considering the
energy simulation software EnergyPlus. The specific energy simu-
imitated access to the whole procurement information for each
lation for each of the case buildings was conducted. Information
type of the materials used in the construction of the case build-
on building designs and building service installation was obtained
ings, the modification was only made for the dominant building
from the original designs and contract documents wherever possi-
materials including concrete, metal materials, and brick and block.
ble. Additional data was collected through site visits and face-to-
The energy intensity of each material is obtained by summing
face interviews with the architects, engineers and building man-
up all the modified primary energy embedded in its different pro-
agers. The energy simulation results were verified through inter-
duction steps. With the quantity of material ascertained from the
views with relevant professionals in building energy system design.
BoQs, and the modified energy intensity data, energy use for build-
ing material manufacturing can be calculated by Eq. (3). Despite
different waste factors being applied in the previous research [20],
3.1. Life cycle boundary 5% was adopted as the average waste factor for all materials after
interviews with local contractors.
As shown in Fig. 1, the research scope of this analysis covers As for the energy use for the transport of building materials
the energy use of building material manufacturing Em , transport of to site Et , the focus of this study is on the energy involved in
building materials to site Et , construction and installation Ec , build- transport from overseas to Hong Kong instead of transport within
ing operation Eo , and maintenance and refurbishment Er . Consider- the regions. A weighted average energy use for transport materials
ing the dispute and complexity associated with the estimation of from various countries or regions to Hong Kong was applied based
energy use in end-of-life stage, the demolition energy was thus not on the amount of imports and transport distance of each mate-
included in this study. The calculation methods for the energy use rial. Despite the case buildings being built around the early 20 0 0 s,
in each stage are discussed as follows. the latest trade statistics were collected from Census and Statistics
J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164 155

Fig. 1. Life cycle boundary of this research.

Table 1
Description of the case buildings.

Building no. Building type Structural frame Building height (above ground in m) Typical storey height (m) Total weight per CFA (kg/m2 )

1 Office + Retail + Carpark Reinforced concrete 160 4.18 2019.60

2 Office + Retail Reinforced concrete 123 4 2452.38
3 Office + Retail Reinforced concrete 154 3.85 1584.35
4 Office + Retail Reinforced concrete 147 4 1979.23
5 Office + Retail Reinforced concrete 135 4 1689.11
6 Office Reinforced concrete 255 3.9 1793.35
7 Office Reinforced concrete 106 4.27 2170.71
8 Office + Retail + Carpark Reinforced concrete 68 3.6 1767.82
9 Office + Retail Reinforced concrete 142 4 1790.23
10 Office Reinforced concrete 279 4.2 1389.24
Mean 156.93 4 1863.60
Std. Deviation 64.029 0.1937 304.74

Table 2 As for the energy use for construction and installation Ec , the
Energy intensities of different transportation modes.
on-site energy use of two out of the ten case buildings are avail-
Transportation mode Distance Energy intensity (EIt ) (MJ/kg km) able from EMSD [54]. The energy use data shows that diesel and
Truck transport <50 km 0.0031 electricity are alternative energy sources on site. The total on-site
Rail transport >50 km 0.0011 energy inputs (i.e. diesel and electricity) of these two projects are
Deep sea tanker – 0.0 0 02 523.8 MJ/m2 and 539.3 MJ/m2 , respectively. Information on the on-
site energy use is limited in the public domain. The average value
of the on-site energy inputs of these two projects was thus as-
sumed to be the construction and installation energy use of this
Department, Hong Kong SAR [51], to examine the current trans-
study, which is 531.55 MJ/m2 .
port energy need. The weightings used in this calculation are the
percentages of the quantity imported from various countries and
  3.2.2. Recurring embodied energy

Et = Qi × E It × D j × (4) Recurring embodied energy sums up all the embodied energy
Qi of materials used in the replacement and rehabilitation of the
i=1 j=1
building, which includes material manufacturing and transport en-
where EIt is the energy intensities of different transportation ergy use. It is usually computed based on the estimated lifespan of
modes; q is the total number of countries or regions where each the material and followed the same procedure for computing the
type of material is imported; Dj represents the transport distance energy requirement for building material manufacturing. It can be
from country or region j to Hong Kong; Qj represents the import expressed as:
quantity of each type of material from country or region j; Qi rep-
resents the total quantities of imported material i. 
p  L  
The distances of deep-sea transport and land transport have Er = (E Ii × Qi + Eti ) × −1 (5)
been determined from the website https://sea-distances.org/ and i=1
http://www.google.cn/maps, respectively. The energy intensities
of different transportation modes applied herein are shown in where p is the total types of materials that need to be replaced;
Table 2. Each transportation mode’s energy intensity was converted Eti is the weighted average energy use for transport material i (fol-
from its carbon emission intensity which was extracted from Cefic lowed the same procedure in Section 3.2.1); Lb is the lifespan of
and ECTA [52]. The carbon emission factors sourced from IEA the building, which is assumed to be 50 years; Lmi is the life ex-
[53] were applied as the conversion factors. pectancy of material i.
156 J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

3.3. Operational energy The energy use for transport the top ten materials by weight
was calculated, which contributes 98.2% of the average total
Operational energy of a building over its lifespan is expressed weight. As indicated in Fig. 3, the vast majority of materials were
as: primarily imported from mainland China and the rest from other
Eo = Eannual × Lb (6)
Important information was gained from local contractors that
where Eannual represents annual operational energy. Hong Kong imported construction materials primarily from Guang-
Despite the case buildings varying in building type as shown in dong Province of China. Thus, for materials imported from Main-
Table 1, this research is mainly focused on the above-ground office land China, transport distances were all determined by the land
part in order to obtain the representative knowledge on the life distances between Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. For mate-
cycle energy use of high-rise office buildings. Table 3 summarises rials imported from overseas, transport distances were calculated
the design parameters of the case buildings. by the average shipping distances from overseas ports to the sea-
ports of Hong Kong.
3.4. Life cycle energy Data on the life expectancies of different materials are shown
in Table 5. Based on the life expectancy data and energy use for
Life cycle energy of a building is the sum of embodied energy material manufacturing and transport obtained by Eqs. (3) and (4),
and operational energy. It can be expressed by: recurring embodied energy can be calculated by Eq. (5).
As shown in Fig. 4, the embodied energy of the case build-
ELCE = Ee + Eo (7)
ings ranges from 6.65 GJ/m2 to 13.64 GJ/m2 with the mean value
where ELCE is life cycle energy; Ee is embodied energy; Eo is opera- of 10.63 GJ/m2 . The initial embodied energy and recurring em-
tional energy. Life cycle energy is reported in Gigajoule (GJ) herein. bodied energy fall in the ranges of 5.36–10.93 GJ/m2 and 1.29–
3.97 GJ/m2 , respectively. The initial embodied energy is found to be
4. Results much larger than the recurring embodied energy. In addition, Fig. 5
demonstrates that weak linear regressions exist between building
4.1. Embodied energy of high-rise office buildings height and weight, and between building height and embodied en-
After reviewing the type of material and its quantities sourced Merely focusing on initial embodied energy, the percentage
from BoQs and the energy intensities of the material determined breakdown of the initial embodied energy is shown in Fig. 6. The
from SimaPro, this study thus gave the priority to the main materi- fraction of material manufacturing energy use is as high as about
als and components that occur in high proportions as well as those 90%, and even the lowest reaches around 80%. Besides, there is no
with a particularly high embodied energy. The average quantities much difference in the contributions of construction and instal-
of top twenty building materials of the case buildings are sum- lation energy use and transport energy use with the mean per-
marised in Fig. 2. centage of 6% and 5% respectively. In all, these two portions take
The average cumulative quantity of top twenty building materi- around 11% of the initial embodied energy with the rest for mate-
als is 1844.96 kg per CFA (m2 ), which takes about 99% of the total rial manufacturing.
weight of materials. Among the top twenty materials, eight ma- It is necessary to take a further examination of the embodied
terials show a larger standard deviation over its mean value, i.e., energy for different building materials to identify the most energy-
structural steel, acoustic insulation, stainless steel, plasterboard, intensive one. Embodied energy for the top ten energy-intensive
while a smaller standard deviation is found for the other twelve materials is shown in Fig. 7. Despite concrete having the lowest
materials. This indicates that the consumption amounts of these energy intensity (see Table 4), it turns out to be the most energy-
twelve materials are more stable compared to that of the others. In insensitive material (1.91 GJ/m2 ) due to it being present in the
general, concrete, reinforcing bar, the combination of plaster, ren- largest quantities (see Fig. 2). It is then followed by reinforcing bar
der and screed, structural steel, and the combination of brick and (1.57 GJ/m2 ) and structure steel (1.28 GJ/m2 ). The average contribu-
block are the dominant materials averagely contributing more than tion of the top three energy-intensive materials in all is quantified
90% of the total weight. Concrete alone consumes 1404.8 kg/m2 ac- to be 45% of the embodied energy. Metal materials take four posi-
counting to more than 75%, followed by rebar with 53.39 kg/m2 tions among the top ten, including reinforcing bar, structure steel,
for about 8%, and the combination of plaster, render and screed galvanised steel, and stainless steel.
with 41.09 kg/m2 for around 5%. Other materials, including struc- It can be seen from Fig. 4, Buildings No.1 demands the most
tural steel, brick and block, and so on so forth, only contribute 6% initial embodied energy, which is around twice as required by the
of the total weight. Concrete and rebar take the most weight of lowest one (Building No.8). However, there is no much difference
building materials, which is over 80% in total. This is due to re- in the overall quantities of material consumed by Buildings No.1
inforced concrete frame is predominant in high-rise buildings of (2016.84 kg/m2 ) and No.8 (1786.90 kg/m2 ). Such big difference con-
Hong Kong. cerning the initial embodied energy is primarily attributed to the
The modified energy intensities for material manufacturing are different quantities of the energy-intensive metal material used in
listed in Table 4. The results show that the energy intensity of these two case buildings. For example, the quantity of structural
concrete is lowest among twenty albeit it takes the most weight steel used in Building No.1 is over ten times of that used in Build-
of building materials, whereas its. The top three building materi- ing No.8. This is due to Building No.1 being designed to have a
als with the highest energy intensity, are plastic, rubber, polymer number of steel columns in the podium.
(68.67 MJ/kg), stainless steel (54.33 MJ/kg), and galvanised steel Moreover, a considerable gap in the recurring embodied en-
(34.80 MJ/kg). It shows that the energy intensities of some metal ergy is also identified to exist among the case buildings. The re-
materials have been much lightened, like galvanized steel, struc- curring embodied energy required by Building No.7 (3.97 GJ/m2 )
tural steel, and aluminium after recycling and reuse of building triples the lowest two buildings (i.e. Building No.8 (1.29 GJ/m2 ) and
materials are considered. Besides, concrete, the combination of Building No.2 (1.31 GJ/m2 )). Building services and finishes are the
plaster, render and screed, and the combination of brick and block main consumers of recurring embodied energy and some of them
are found to have the least energy intensity, which are 1.09 MJ/kg, are reported to be energy-intensive herein, like galvanised steel.
2.17 MJ/kg and 3.77 MJ/kg, respectively. Building No.7 has the largest weight of access floor panel, while
Table 3
Design parameters of the case buildings.

characteristics Building no.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Lift Passenger lift: 6 Passenger lift: 8 Passenger lift: 8 Passenger lift: 8 Passenger lift: 8 Passenger lift: 16 Passenger lift: 7 Passenger lift: 5 Passenger lift: 3 Passenger lift: 28
Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 1 Cargo lift: 2
Summer indoor 23 24 23 23 23 24 24 24 23 24
condition °C
Winter indoor 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 21
condition °C
WWR (N) 0.81 0.75 0.8 0.8 0.74 0.82 0.78 0.51 0.8 0.75

J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

WWR (S) 0.5 0.75 0.8 0.8 0.2 0.82 0.78 0.51 0.57 0.71
WWR (W) 0.85 0.75 0.1 0.8 0.6 0.82 0.78 0.36 0.5 0.74
WWR (E) 0.85 0.75 0.3 0.8 0.6 0.82 0.78 0.71 0.8 0.74
U-value of 1.9 1.9 2.5 3 1.8 2.3 2.1 1.4 1.6 1.03
opaque wall
(W/m2 K)
U-value of roof 0.56 0.42 0.46 0.39 0.44 0.42 0.5 0.46 0.38 0.812
(W/m2 K)
U-value of 2.1 1.7 1.8 2 1.6 2 2.1 1.8 1.6 1.5
(W/m2 K)
U-value of floor 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2
(W/m2 K)
Window type Double glazed Insulating glazed Exterior employs Low-e Solar reflective Double glazed and Double glazed Double glazed Double glazed Single glazed
unitized curtain and colour blue-green double-glazed double-glazed semi-unitized unitized curtain unitized curtain unitized curtain unitized curtain
wall anodized curtain reflective glass thermally-insulated insulating glass curtain wall wall system to wall system wall system wall system
wall windows panels systems tower
Shading 0.81 0.54 0.46 0.6 0.52 0.83 0.82 0.84 0.84 0.99
Visible light 79 39 49 61 55 75 79 79 76 89
Window 3.1 2.8 2.7 2.1 1.89 2.9 3 2.8 2.7 5.8
(W/m2 K)
AC Schedule Mon–Fri:08:30– Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri: Mon–Fri:
19:30 Sat: 08:0 0–190 0 Sat: 08:0 0–19:0 0 Sat: 08:0 0–19:0 0 Sat: 08:0 0–20:0 0 Sat: 08:30–19:30 Sat: 08:0 0–19:0 0 Sat: 07:30–19:30 Sat: 08:0 0–18:0 0 Sat: 08:00–19:30 Sat:
08:30–14:00 08:0 0–19:0 0 08:0 0–140 0 08:0 0–14:0 0 08:0 0–14:0 0 08:30–14:30 08:0 0–14:0 0 07:30–14:00 08:0 0–14:0 0 08:00–14:30
Central VAV (air-cooled) VAV (air-cooled) VAV (air-cooled) VAV (water-cooled) VAV (air-cooled) VAV (air-cooled) VAV (water-cooled) VAV (water-cooled) VAV (air-cooled) Underfloor A/C
air-conditioning (air-cooled)
COP 2.9 2.9 2.67 4 3.2 2.67 4.2 4.1 2.67 2.61

158 J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

Fig. 2. Average quantities of top twenty building materials of the case buildings.

Table 4
Energy intensities for building material manufacturing.

No. Material Energy intensity (MJ/kg) No. Material Energy intensity (MJ/kg)

1 Concrete 1.09 11 Aluminium 10.17
2 Reinforcing bar∗ 10.19 12 Formwork 14.24
3 Plaster, render & screed 2.17 13 Thermal insulation 4.68
4 Structural steel∗ 25.49 14 Stainless steel∗ 54.33
5 Brick & block 3.77 15 Acoustic insulation 4.70
6 Access floor panel 34.80 16 Plasterboard 5.06
7 Galvanised steel∗ 34.80 17 Asphalt & bitumen 14.71
8 Glass 22.67 18 Plastic, rubber, polymer 68.67
9 Stone 13.42 19 Calcium silicate board / Fibre 19.44
10 Tile 28.80 20 Plywood 29.07

Note: ∗ The positive impact of recycling and reuse of material on its energy intensity is considered. The recycle and reuse rates of
these materials were mainly referred to the studies of Hong et al. [34], Thormark [55], and Zhang et al. [56].

Table 5 tant galvanised sheet. It is therefore all assumed to be galvanised

Life expectancies of building components and materials [15,16,43].
steel in this analysis.
Components and materials Years Components and materials Years

Concrete 50 Galvanised steel 50

Reinforcing bar 50 Roofing insulation 40 4.2. Operational energy of high-rise office buildings
Structural steel 50 Curtainwall, Al panels 40
Bricks and blocks 50 Curtainwall, glazing 40 The operational energy use of the case buildings was estimated
Thermal insulation 50 Al-frame windows 40
through the energy simulation. The results are presented in Fig. 8.
Formwork 50 Stone tiles 25
Waterproofing 50 Access floor panels 20 It can be seen that annual energy consumption of the case build-
Ceramic floor tiles 50 Acoustical wall panels 20 ings is estimated to fall in the range of 247.53–334.01 kWh/m2
Wood panelling 50 Acoustical insulation 20 with the mean value of 290 kWh/m2 . Its percentage breakdown in
Stainless steel 50 Plastic 15 order of significance for the three major electricity end-users, i.e.,
HVAC (including cooling fans, pumps and heat rejection), equip-
ment, and lighting are 49.23–65.37%, 19.19–30.97%, and 14.48–
Building No.8 and No.2 have none installed. Access floor panel is 19.80%, respectively. The results are in compliance with the find-
with high-density chipboard core encapsulated in corrosion resis- ings reported by Lam et al. [57], who collected the real metered
J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164 159

Fig. 3. Percentage breakdown of imported construction materials of Hong Kong by country in the year of 2016.
160 J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

Initial embodied energy Recurring embodied energy

No.10 9.21 3.36 (12.57)

No.9 9.84 3.80 (13.64)
Case buildings No.8 5.36 1.29 (6.65)
No.7 7.76 3.97 (11.73)
No.6 7.26 2.33 (9.59)
No.5 5.48 1.57 (7.05)
No.4 9.48 3.55 (13.03)
No.3 6.84 1.60 (8.44)
No.2 8.78 1.31 (10.10)
No.1 10.93 2.59 (13.51)

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Embodied energy per CFA (GJ/m2)
Fig. 4. Embodied energy of the case buildings.

Weight Embodied energy

Linear (Weight) Linear (Embodied energy)

Embodied energy per CFA (GJ/m2)

3000 16.00
Weight per CFA (kg/m2)

1500 8.00
0 0.00
50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 300

Building height (m)

Fig. 5. Scatter distribution of weight and embodied energy of the case buildings.

Material manufacturing Transportation Construction and installation

Case buildings


0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
Fig. 6. Percentage breakdown of the initial embodied energy of the case buildings.
J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164 161

Fig. 7. Top ten energy-intensive building materials of the case buildings with mean value and percentage.

Cooling Fans Pumps Heat rejection

Lighting Equipment Total
Energy consumption (kWh/m2/annum)

No. 1 No.2 No.3 No.4 No. 5 No.6 No.7 No.8 No.9 No.10
Case buildings

Fig. 8. Operational energy consumption and its breakdown of the case buildings.

operational energy of the ten typical office buildings with a con- 4.3. Life cycle energy of high-rise office buildings
temporary design in Hong Kong.
The difference in operational energy consumption of the case The life cycle energy of the case buildings was derived from the
buildings is mainly due to the variation in cooling energy use. A summation of three main components, i.e., initial embodied en-
further investigation of the monthly cooling energy consumption ergy, recurring embodied energy, and operational energy, as pre-
of the case buildings is shown in Fig. 9. The monthly energy con- sented in Fig. 10.
sumption of the case buildings is all varied with distinct seasonal The life cycle energy demand of the case buildings is in the
patterns. Despite in the same month, the energy use for cooling range of 51.78–73.64 GJ/m2 with the mean value of 61.81 GJ/m2
the building is highly different. The gap can be estimated to be over 50 years. The energy use to operate the building is by far
as high as 8 kWh/m2 . HVAC system has been identified as the key the largest subdivision, which is 78–89% of the overall energy de-
contributor to such variations. Building No.4, No.7, No.8 utilised mand over their life cycle, whereas embodied energy takes rela-
water-cooled system, which is more energy-efficient compared to tively small share with the range of 11–22%.
the air-cooled system taken by the rest. Moreover, underfloor air
supply is found to be an efficient solution in energy saving for 5. Discussion
the central air-conditioning system through the comparison be-
tween Building No.10 and Building No.1, No.2, No.3, No.5, No.6, and The results substantiate the relative magnitudes of the compo-
No.9. Air conditioning and building envelope will also influence the sitions of buildings’ life cycle energy. It is concluded that the vari-
building cooling energy use to a certain extent. ation of the life cycle energy demand of high-rise office buildings
162 J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164

No.1 No.2 No.3 No.4 No.5

No.6 No.7 No.8 No.9 No.10

Monthly cooling energy consumption (kWh/m2)









1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Fig. 9. Monthly cooling energy consumption of the case buildings.

Initial embodied energy Recurring embodied energy

Operating energy Life cycle energy

Energy consumption (GJ/m2)


No.1 No.2 No.3 No.4 No.5 No.6 No.7 No.8 No.9 No.10
Case buildings

Fig. 10. Life cycle energy and its breakdown of the case buildings.

per CFA ranges from 51.78 GJ/m2 to 73.64 GJ/m2 with the mean control [61–63], occupancy behaviour [64,65] and building quality
value of 61.81 GJ/m2 over the 50-year study period. About 78–89% [61]. Hence, the life cycle energy of the case buildings may be fluc-
is consumed by building operation while 11–22% is attributed to tuant given the existing performance discrepancy.
the embodied energy. However, this life cycle energy analysis is The results also reveal the insufficient knowledge on the em-
measured per CFA, which is larger than the usual measurement bodied energy of high-rise buildings over low-rise counterparts. It
unit, gross floor area (GFA), as applied in the previous research. is quantified that the initial embodied energy of high-rise office
Thus, the absolute value concerning the energy use reported by buildings is about 5.35–10.93 GJ/m2 and its contribution to the life
this research shall be lower than that measured by GFA. Yet, the cycle energy use is around 9–16% in this study. This proportion is
relative values of this study still echoed with the prior findings. almost twice of low-rise office buildings. Junnila et al. [14] con-
Ramesh et al. [38] reviewed the life cycle energy analyses of 73 ducted life cycle assessments for low-rise office buildings also with
cases across 13 countries, including both residential and commer- reinforced concrete structural frame in Europe and the U.S. and re-
cial buildings. It is summarised that the life cycle energy demand ported that the shares of initial embodied energy in the total en-
of office buildings varies from 45 GJ to 99 GJ per gross floor area ergy use are 6% and 7.5%, respectively. Such gap may result from
over 50 years with 10–20% for embodied energy and 80–90% for the variation of the total mass of materials used per unit area in
operational energy. Besides, operational energy is estimated ac- different countries and regions. The total mass of materials used in
cording to the building design for the purpose of obtaining the de- the high-rise office buildings is 1389.24–2452.38 kg per CFA herein,
signed amount. Previous research [58–61], however, has identified which is much higher than that in the low-rise office buildings
the discrepancies between the simulated and actual energy. Such in Europe (1190 kg per GFA) and the U.S. (1290 kg per GFA). Luo
discrepancies come from both the predicted performance side and et al. [23] reported that CO2 emissions per unit area increase sig-
actual performance side. The former includes design assumption nificantly with the increase of building height. Despite the amount
and modelling tools [61]. The latter encompasses management and of embodied energy is diverse between high-rise and low-rise
J. Wang et al. / Energy & Buildings 167 (2018) 152–164 163

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