Science Inventory

Renewable Substitutability Index: Maximizing Renewable Resource Use in Buildings


Srinivasan, R., Dan Campbell, AND W. Wang. Renewable Substitutability Index: Maximizing Renewable Resource Use in Buildings. Buildings. MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland, 5(2):581-596, (2015).


The degree to which any structure or function of society is sustainable in the long run is directly dependent of the fraction of renewable energy and materials that can be incorporated into the production functions for societal structures and functions. Furthermore, the concept of renewability must be applied over the entire life cycle and over the complete concatenation of transformative processes that are used in the construction process. This paper used a novel assessment methodology, emergy evaluation, and a conceptual framework based on establishing the maximum degree to which renewable energy and materials can be incorporated into structures to optimize the renewability and sustainability of new structures and to progressively move existing structures toward higher sustainability through the substitution of renewable material and energy use in the ordinary replacement cycle. This principle though applied to buildings in this paper is completely general and may prove to be of broad use by society.


In order to achieve a material and energy balance in buildings that is sustainable in the long run, there is an urgent need to assess the renewable and non-renewable resources used in the manufacturing process and to progressively replace non-renewable resources with renewables. Such progressive disinvestment in the non-renewable resources that may be substituted with renewable resources is referred to as “Renewable Substitutability” and if implemented, this process will lead to a paradigm shift in the way building materials are manufactured. This paper discusses the development of a Renewable Substitutability Index (RSI) that is designed to maximize the use of renewable resources in a building and quantifies the substitution process using solar emergy (i.e., the solar equivalent joules required for any item). The RSI of a building or a building component,i.e., floor or wall systems, etc., is the ratio of the renewable resources used during construction, including replacement and maintenance, to the building’s maximum renewable emergy potential. RSI values range between 0 and 1.0. A higher RSI achieves a low-energy building strategy promoting a higher order of sustainability by optimizing theuse of renewables over a building’s lifetime from formation-extraction-manufacturing to maintenance, operation, demolition, and recycle.

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Record Details:

Product Published Date: 05/22/2015
Record Last Revised: 06/19/2015
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 308188