GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Embodied Energy of drywall

jasonmacarthur | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

As a contractor, in an effort to reduce the embodied energy in the projects I work on, I have always encouraged my clients to avoid foam insulation where possible and minimize the use of concrete where practical.

Recently I have been involved in a design process with an architect who has argued that the embodied energy in gypsum board drywall is enough to overshadow the differences between different types of insulation(for example, foam vs. cellulose). 

Since my clients would like to have drywall on their walls, but also minimize the carbon footprint of their project, I would like to be able to verify or refute this argument.   It has also made me wonder if the carbon footprint of drywall gets relatively little attention from the green building community because the alternatives are largely incompatible with conventional building techniques.

I have not found a resource which puts this information into a meaningful context for me, but I am eager to hear opinions on the matter and happy to be pointed towards information which will help me put the embodied carbon of drywall into the larger context of the entire project. 

Thank you!

Jason MacArthur

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. karlb_zone6a | | #1

    Hi Jason,

    The most comprehensive source for embodied energy info that I've come across is the ICE database:

    From their summary table, [gypsum] "Plasterboard" has an embodied energy of about 0.39 kgCO2e/kg, while an insulation like EPS foam ("Expanded Polystrene") is 3.29 kgCO2e/kg. For the purpose of this comparison, we might as well keep it mostly metric..

    From the CertainTeed drywall website, 1/2" thick drywall weighs 7.8kg / sq. meter, so:
    0.39 kgCO2e/kg * (7.8kg/m2) = 3 kgCO2e / m2

    The density of EPS foam seems to vary quite a bit (10-35 kg/m2), but for a 1" thick layer:
    3.29 kgCO2e/kg * (30kg/m3) * (1m/1000mm) * (25.4mm/inch) = 2.5 kgCO2e / m2 / inch

    So the embodied energy of 1/2" of drywall is approximately the same as a 1" thickness of EPS

    Lots of good articles comparing insulation types, such as:

    My take-aways (EE = embodied energy):
    - EE of drywall > EE of cellulose based insulation (b/c the latter is negative)
    - EE of drywall = EE of fiberglass insulation (very approximately)
    - EE of drywall < EE of foam insulation (and sometime very much less)

  2. lukasmpeter | | #2

    Can you find USG ecosmart panels in you market?
    They claim 25% embodied carbon reduction, reduced weight and other sustainability benefits.
    Not sure about the cost difference

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |