“Nobody can be anybody without somebody being around.”
John Wheeler

The Element

Apple’s Embodied Energy


Apple is apparently just ahead of getting a new campus approved with a huge unified “ecological” round building surrounded by green park spaces.

I couldn’t watch the entire video because I got nauseated by the superficial sweet-covering and false-hubris of the Apple real-estate guy who sounds like a hyped up … well … real estate agent.

I am assuming that maybe (just maybe) the completed campus will behave ecologically. But what is not mentioned at all (and is often ignored when people talk about ecology is embodied energy – the energy that has gone and will go into making the new campus – this includes everything from the pollution costs by people travelling to meetings in the design process through to the manufacturing of all the raw materials and transporting them to the site.

One good example of embodied energy in the presentation is the trees. Trees have already been grown for Apple so that they me planted in mature form on the campus. Each such tree is already heavily loaded with embodied energy due to the fact that it is being grown inside containers and not inside the earth. Each such tree will have to be transported to the site – this includes heavy machinery for loading/offloading/transportation/planting. An alternative, given California’s super convenient climate, would have been to plant a seed on site not to mention a whole range of solutions between that simple act and the strategy Apple has chosen. Ecology and sustainability are long-form and do not sit well with immediate gratification.

And that’s just the trees. The presenter mentions that every single detail, in the spirit of Apple’s approach to design, has been considered and tailored – the way the rounded glass is manufactured and the sprinklers. I can’t begin to fathom the overall embodied energy that will go into creating this thing and reshaping its environment. I don’t think anyone can. But that (as embodied energy often does) pulls the rug out from under the feet of “ecological” claims. And probably in 20 years or so (way before any ecological returns can be made on the embodied energy invested in it) this building will go out of style and be replaced by another fashionable and of course “even more ecological” building.

Why is this happening? What makes this possible? Do you own an Apple product? How many? Have you considered the embodied energy of those devices? Have you considered the unquantifiable embodied energy represented by the quality of life of the slaves who made them?

This potential ecological tragedy is a huge joint venture that goes way beyond Steve Jobs, Apple, their architect and the city council of Cupertino.

source: Raymond Pirouz

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