Research Questions


The methodology is clear, however practising is still ongoing work. A basic tool is working, but many things have to improve. Here is a list of what can be seen as tasks. For some, additional information is available, sometime as first thoughts or notes, sometimes as a discussion paper. The tasks can provide a subject for a thesis of doctoral work, or as research contribution. Please notify me if someone starts working on a task, to be able to connect people or to avoid double work.  More tasks and material can be added over time.


task 1       renewable energy routes compared

For the moment  multi crystalline PV conversion has been chosen as the technology to convert Solar radiation into useful energy form (with land as the indicator). This is by educated guess the best option,. However that might not be true. There are other routes, like biomass ( which includes storage) or wind turbines, or else, that might be overall more effective: leading to lower embodied land. To document and compare several routes would be a study. More info:

max-Task1 -energy routes v2 010116

max-Task1A-overview and log – energy routes to calculate 010116


task 2       data for primary land use

the data for primary land use (CE-direct,  mostly yields per hectare for ” renewable or organic resources) could use some work as well, to add some more materials but also to develop it more scientifically , organize and structure a database, add new sources etc. Data so far are available in the oveview sheet  “1.2.3Emb+circ. energy”  in tool version 2.0,  and in the separate material sheets.

max-Task2A Primary land-components 010116


Task 3       embodied energy data

Embodied energy data are widely available, and  include transport and are calculated as primary energy.

1 What we however need is end use data, not transferred to primary energy, since we want to be able to calculate how much embodied land is involved if the energy is generated via for instance the  PV solar energy route. Therefore we need final energy data ( or end use data). ( one way of doing this is using standard primary conversion factors to re-calculate in return the final demand). (in fact now in version 2.0 there is some double counting, since primary energy data are recalculated for Solar induced energy)

2 Secondly we need data preferably without including transport. For two reasons: to be able to choose transport means, and secondly , since we start from the assumption that as much as possible should be locally generated: This implies different transport distances as generally calculated in the main databases.

the generic data used so far are from the ICE 2.0 set, compiled by Craig Jones from -at the time- Bath University*. Now circular ecology). See link for ICE data in downloads/topics, and in the sheet  “1.2.3Emb+circ. energy”  in tool version 2.0

The task is to develop a new dataset for Embodied energy.


Task 4      return routes for several materials

For the non renewable  materials we have developed data for Circular energy-indirect (the  “return routes”) . But only for a basic set, mainly metals. ( see the ” mother report”.  Many are still  lacking. So the list has to be completed . For some materials it still requires to figure out how they can be re-concentrated after harvesting in nature. Data so far are available in the overview sheet  “1.2.3Emb+circ. energy”  in tool version 2.0,  and in the separate material sheets.

Gypsum: MAX-gypsum-CE calculation -010116


Task 5       water EL :

Producing materials not only involves energy but also water. (think of the  rucksack calculations by the Wuppertal institute: link in downlaod/topics). For which its needed to develop a overview database of “Embodied water” and transferred to Embodied Land  per material/product for a house for instance. The Embodied land -tool can then be extended with a calculation referring to the precipitation in a region. ( additional Embodied Land in m2-year to harvest water)

Besides: there are more routes for water, similar as for solar energy conversion: precipitation is a likely route with an easy land conversion. And can be seen as a free resource, harvesting is not increasing entropy, since its a flow mainly driven by solar radiation. A river can be a resource as well: But then how to relate this to embodied land: how much can be extracted from a river without disturbing the flow upstream or downstream: this is the capacity per m2 of river-surface.(?)  See some exploring papers (on ” Watergy” ) in the publications section.


task 6       recycling…

Recycling is a tricky thing. Basically its good of course, but how to value ? There is initial embodied land, at its first time use. But when recycled after x years, how much of the initial impact remains? And how does it relate to the years of previous use (which might not be known?) In a closed cycle approach its seen  as prolonged use, with some additional energy. As such there is a module added to the tool, to demonstrate how it works. A Update document  will soon explain this in more detail. and will be announced and for download here.


task 7       allocation/land:

For allocation we made some assumptions. See the ” mother report” . Some parts of the harvest might be used for something else.  So far we have made some choices in this, but its open for improvement.

Besides, assumed is that with classic   agriculture the land regenerates ( by incoming nutrients from rain and wind for instance, and natural fertilizing) . And yields remain the same for long periods. However, literature study could show different, or other yields depending agricultural style.  (even increased yields are possible with organic farming, as described in the book the Omnivores dilemma by Michael Pollan, )  However, It requires a different specialization to work on this and to detail the figures,  how much in that case exactly can be harvested ( taken out) of a hectare.

(For bamboo we have done some research ourselves, and found that a natural regenerating bamboo forest of a specific species could generate continuously 17 tonnes of raw material per year. (although we have found other sources with higher data, which we will study and publish if relevant)


Task 8       data about installations:

So far  some exercises with houses have been studied, and some examples of  partial functions evaluated (like the beam) . Not yet included are  the installations in a house or building: the heating devices ( materials in a heat pump for instance) . Neither have we calculated the total amount of piping in a house/building, total amount of copper (wiring, piping,) et etc. It would be a good thing to have a default value  here, for instance materials-data of the installations and piping of a 0-energy house. (energy (heat/electricity) , water). It should be a integral part of the Embodied Land calculation for a building. ( Or for any chosen object or device evaluated with EL, when its essential for its functioning/providing a service)   Some work to do, maybe gather data from lca’s of installation components etc.

(This could provide data for new partial  indicators for practice as well : for instance the amount of copper per m2 house.)


Task 9        optimal use of a 2-ha area

The Embodied Land approach could be used  the other way around: Currently there is about 2 ha per capita land available globally. Following EL, what can 1 person maximum establish with that land in a lifetime? Or: what is the  production budget ( in EL) to stay within closed cycle limits with 2 ha/cap (food, housing, energy, etc)


task 10      (road) infrastructure EL:

No building without access, by roads and sidewalks. In the extreme developed countries  world  its in fact standard part of the impact of a new housing area and could be included in and appointed to the house evaluation ( the functional unit ” providing shelter”) How much road and sidewalk , in m2 does exist in any country, per capita or per housing unit? Best would be: m2 sidewalk per m2 la (living area , net housing m2′s) and m2 road/m2 la ?

And: composition of sidewalk/road: how much materials by kind and weight per m2? (different in countries). And from these data  calculate the EL . See the document for a first exploring impression .

max-Task10-infrastructure roads sidewalks-25052015 b


task 11       Food: how much to add per capita?

MAXergy is developed from a building and construction background. But its application can be general. For instance to calculate EL per capita, and include food . In some occasion I have used average data, which is a 1000 m2 per person land for a vegetarian diet and 2500 m2 for a affluent diet with meat 5 days a week. But  a more detailed overview of diets and land use could be interesting. I have some data about green houses, that show that open land is performing better overall ( when energy materials and land sue are brought into 1 evaluation based on land) , but needs more research.


Task 12      More houses/buildings assessed/ materials data

And of course: More detailed materials data for other houses and buildings are always welcome, since more examples of embodied land results give better insight. Sometimes data are available on the web, at an architects office or project developer. ( usually without installations, but main construction materials listed). This can in any case lead to a minimum EL figure, for such a building.


Task 13      average use of screws and nails in construction

On a construction site many boxes of screws and nails are used. We need a default  indicator of how much this could be , per m2 of building .


Task 14      free research for any functional unit  or service:

Maxergy can be used to compare alternatives for any other function or service in society. Students from the university in Eindhoven have  compared different  ‘ chicken fillet production’  routes with Embodied Land…


task 15      positioning MAXergy

Further research in positioning  MAXergy compared with other approaches, like with Emergy ( Howard T Odum) . Some specific service could be compared with both methods to see what comes out and what the differences are.  Also Exergy could be further explored, in relation to MAXergy and Emergy ( Exergy on global system level = Emergy?) (Paper in preparation)


Task 16

use of MAXergy in practice

MAXergy is what it is: a closed cycle impact calculation, the land needed for regeneration of the cycle. Which gives hard data. Its a defined methodology, nothing to change about that.   However for use in practice a government could decide to only use part of the elements of the calculation . In that case the total EL remains unchanged (by definition) , but for instance leading to the use of the tool without CE indirect/return energy . This limited use can  not be expressed in  “Embodied Land”, since that is defined as for the whole, but could work under a different name. Anyway, there are several options to be explored the use for practice.


Task 17

” ICT”

work to make a online calculation tool for the website….


to be updated regularly.