Energetic Calculator for Ancient Buildings - EnCAB

Project Goals and Methodology

Project Goals

EnCAB is designed as a digital publication based on a collection of algorithms drawn from diverse sources and applicable to construction projects in pre-industrial societies. The goal is to provide a single resource where algorithms are collected, made available with interactive fields, categorized and with a discussion of the categories, and a critique of the use of such algorithms. Thus EnCAB makes the algorithms and the assumptions used to estimate energetic cost explicit, reproducible and with a bibliographic status to which scholars can refer.

As a digital publication, EnCAB is citeable and has its own DOI, and references any information drawn from external sources in a complete bibliography. The HTML pages and algorithms have been written by specific authors, to whom credit is given. The algorithms used by EnCAB are drawn from a wide variety of sources and chronological contexts, and have been adapted to a standard format in order to provide users with interactive fields. This adaptation of the algorithms, their classification and descriptions as well as their inclusion in chains have all been carried out by the authors mentioned above, and form the core of the publication. The interactive algorithms can be used by scholars working with the built environment in order to calculate energetic and material costs of specific tasks. These algorithms should be used with a full understanding of the possible faults in the methodology, and this should be made clear in any derivative works.

EnCAB is of great utility because of its ability to compare diverse structures across a wide range of contexts. These comparisons can be divided into three categories: local, regional and inter-cultural. On the local level, EnCAB could be used to compare contemporary individual buildings within a category, for example houses, or could be used to examine differences between buildings of the same type across time, for example changes in houses from one period to another. Regional studies could focus on the same types of comparisons as on the local level, perhaps adding the difference in quantity of work between two types at different sites: how much more is invested in palaces when compared to houses at site A, and does that proportion remain the same across the sites of the region? Finally, inter-cultural comparisons could ask the same types of questions but seeking examples from different cultural contexts, examining how much energy and materials were expended in Mesopotamia on temples when compared to Elamite or Greek temples.

EnCAB allows scholars to define not only the details of construction, but use that data to explore broader questions, such as monumentality & prestige, the relative value of materials and the added value of traded goods, investment across diverse types of public construction (palace/temple vs. city wall/canal), or the relative difference in types of construction across cultural, geographic or chronological boundaries.

What EnCAB is not

EnCAB is by no means the only way to describe architecture. Architecture is an extremely complex and rich resource for scholars studying the past, and the study of the effort required in construction is merely one way to understand it. Energetics can be of particular use when comparing buildings, as the same algorithms can be used to analyze diverse buildings and the differences in those answers can lead scholars to conclusions about a wide range of cultural aspects.

Supporting descriptions

While the algorithms build the core of EnCAB, there is a great number of descriptive pages linked to the six categories into which the algorithms are classified:

The index of material categories can be found here.
The index of steps in the process can be found here.
The index of source chronology categories can be found here.
The index of source geography can be found here.
The index of source types can be found here.
The index of algorithm types can be found here.

In addition to the categories, there are also pages describing the units used in the algorithms and a complete bibliography of the publications used.

The index of units used can be found here.
The bibliography can be found here.

Further individual pages give additional information on EnCAB, such as this page or the author pages.

Project -- Algorithms and Pages

A total of 30 algorithms are currently in EnCAB (as of July 1, 2018), along with 71 unique HTML files and 21 references in the bibliography. The Python 3.6 scripts and associated files run to a total of 565 lines of code.

Project -- Future Plans

While EnCAB, as presented here, is a finished publication (one that will hopefully will be expanded by other contributors) there is still quite a bit of work to be done; the generation of new algorithms to fill gaps in the chains and to create more overlap is perhaps the most important. Future research would also include a range of case studies showing how algorithms can aid in intra- and inter-cultural comparative studies.


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