A Thermodynamics-based Measurement of Environmental Resource Use in Buildings and Cultural Heritage

A Thermodynamics-based Measurement of Environmental Resource Use in Buildings and Cultural Heritage

R.M. Pulselli V. Niccolucci N. Marchettini 

Department of Chemical and Biosystems Sciences, University of Siena, Italy

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This paper presents a theoretical thermodynamics-based viewpoint on buildings that is synthetically explained through an energy systems diagram. Considering that buildings, and also historical buildings, can be conceived in terms of energy and material flows and stocks, we discussed here two methods for assessing environmental resource use due to building construction, maintenance and use. In a sustainability framework, outcomes provide information about some common activities and practices related to buildings and housing – such as planning practices based on physical limits to the construction of new buildings or more practical activities of restoration of existing buildings, including cultural heritage – in terms of energy, emergy and ecological footprint. A new research is thus needed in order to stimulate good practices such as conservation of historical buildings and the definition of new thermodynamics-based urban indexes for regulating building construction in contemporary cities.


construction, ecological footprint, embodied energy, emergy evaluation, global warming potential, historical buildings, maintenance.


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