Building design decisions are commonly based on issues pertaining to construction cost, and consideration of energy performance is made only within the context of the initial project budget. Even where energy is elevated to more importance, operating energy is seen as the focus and embodied energy is nearly always ignored. For the first time, a large sample of buildings has been assembled and analysed in a single study to improve the understanding of the relationship between energy and cost performance over their full life cycle. Thirty recently completed buildings in Melbourne, Australia have been studied to explore the accuracy of initial embodied energy prediction based on capital cost at various levels of model detail. The embodied energy of projects, elemental groups, elements and selected items of work are correlated against capital cost and the strength of the relationship is computed. The relationship between initial embodied energy and capital cost generally declines as the predictive model assumes more detail, although elemental modelling may provide the best solution on balance.