The Method

Measuring what it takes to keep a resource cycle closed“.


update 2021 (in Dutch, to be translated) : Stromingsdebiet grondstoffen-Maxergy 3.0

update 2016 : improved methodology and definitions in this document: Update- maxergy discussion details spring 2016 UK

pictures as slides with the doc 2016:  maxergy 2-0 structure v3 webversion



The closing Cycles calculation tool deals with the Embodied Energy (EE) to produce all materials and products, and the “Circular Energy”,(CE)  required to restore/regenerate the used resources , both expressed in Embodied Land ( the land to grow crops, the land to generate energy for re-concentration of molecules). if applicable, also Operational Energy (OE)  to use a product is added, also expressed in Embodied Land (EL). All three are this way related to the only net contributor to the system: Solar radiation.


The basic and elaborated description can be found in the “mother document” 

maxergy report -march2013 -with updates 010116


Here we will introduce the approach in short for practice.

Example 1: comparing light pole sfor different materials: see report

Example 2 : For a (zero energy) building for instance this consists of : The Embodied Energy (EE) to process the building materials , translated in the land area to generate this required energy.

The Circular Energy to restore the materials potential . The amount of land (EL)used for growing crops that are used in building materials like wood, hemp, flax, bamboo, etc ( m2-year) .The use of minerals and metals are compensated by calculating the energy, in land and time, to reproduce/restore the mineral/metal stocks from a dispersed sink in the resource cycle (for instance oceanwater for metals, as the high entropy reference environment)


A 0-energy building generates its own renewable energy over a years balance. In the case of an all electric building, ( as is now common In the Netherlands), this is mainly produced by solar panels. The EE and CE of the panels (for operational energy)  are included in the materials list, as a component, for which a separate Embodied Land calculation is made : including production of panels and restoring the materials . Including the space to install these panels , again expressed in “Embodied Land”. (or other indirect solar energy forms in terms of embodied land). (for a 0-energy building operational energy is not a impact, since its solar energy, only the devices to harvest and convert solar energy are impact. A (separate)  energy demand calculation results in the amount of solar panels required.

8 Recycling is a tricky thing. Basically its good of course, but how to value ? ( See my blogs on this at ) 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?)

After much discussion, the arguing is that in effect recycling is just prolonged use, with some additional energy. As such its introduced in MAXergy. See the example in the excell under Tool&Data . There is a more broad explanation in the “Mother document” and in a separate paper to be found here : on recycling (will be uploaded soon as update)



Everything in cycles: and mankind interferes at some point: degrades the stock or source, The use has to be restored by mankind: either by replanting trees for instance, or by recollecting enough concentrated molecules of any other kind of resource . This is what Maxergy does, using Embodied land to calculate: What is the Land needed to use the resource ( Embodied energy in terms of energy-land via solar route) or land to restore resources ( circular energy-land, direct via regrow of trees, or indirect via recollecting molecules at some point in the downstream cycle.)


Example 3 : comparing beams. A basic way to understand and  use Maxergy is to compare for instance the use of a wooden beam versus a steel beam to support a similar floor section (this way only materials impacts are evaluated, no operational energy). The table shows: the land use related to process energy(embodied energy EL-EE), primary land use for harvesting material (EL-CE direct) , based on multi crystalline solar PV panels, and the land use for generating energy to restore the iron use (EL-CE indirect). Note that the cycle in both cases is a closed cycle: the depletion of wood is compensated by the primary land use for regrowing, the depletion of steel is compensated by the energy for the return route via seawater filtering ( Circular energy is in fact a valuing factor for compensation of depletion of resources , usually ignored).

the Embodied Land from Embodied energy is four times larger for steel as for the wood beam (similar to embodied energy in MJ) . The Circular energy -direct is for the mining and harvesting (regrowing) : a minor area for steel (0,002 m2year), and a significant area for wood: 26 m2-year, the harvest of one year on 26 m2 wood/plantation. Circular energy indirect is for restoring the original stock: for wood this is 0 (is  included in CE direct) and for steel , based on ocean water filtering, requires a large amount of energy, when produced vi Solar panels requires a production area of ~ 110.00 m2 for a year. In the end EL for wood is 26,0 and for steel is 110.343 m2-year. (click picture, better one will be prepared…)

beam table1

The process to evaluate buildings, ( m2 shelter) or other functions and services is the same approach. (see the tool &data section)  A more elaborate comparison of beams has been carried out in the Research project IMDEP, at Zuyd university, by Jos Houben, to explore the case around the use of Bamboo. Its available in the download section and here:

IMDEP – Balken uit Hout-Bamboe-Staal-Aluminium – v1.0

the annexes: IMDEP – Balken uit Hout-Bamboe-Staal-Aluminium – v1.0 – Annex X

and the excell with data: MAXergy – Beams out of Wood-Bamboo-Steel-Aluminium – v1.0

see also many documents and links on topics mention under Download/publications by topic



1 every service in society (nature) is provided by energy and mass, with solar energy as the only net contributor to the global energy and mass system, and should be used to calculate and value services physically / thermodynamically.


2 everything in the physical environment is part of cycles, and cycles can be evaluated in terms of physical form, speed, volume, and driving energy involved in the use or interference with that cycle .


3 rehabilitation or regeneration of the cycles interrupted flow by mankind is the basis of a evaluation tool in order to guarantee continuous flow of the cycle.


4 there is no such thing as a energy optimization as such, energy measures are shifting burdens to materials, and vice versa. Only integral evaluations are useful, over all resources involved: Make Integrated analyses of combined cycle flows .


5 land (space) is the ultimate intermediate between incoming solar radiation and transfer to useful services for mankind . To grow food, to harvest energy and water, to harvest or process materials, related to a max flow in time: the space-time relation. Land in terms of space to reserve as an open “window” to incoming solar radiation.


6 fossil fuels are regarded as just a temporary available resource, providing services, and is regarded as previously invested land and time to convert and store as “fossils” .