Adaptive structures are sensed and actuated to perform tasks such as modifying their internal load-path in response to external actions to maintain optimal performance. Shape control and load-path redirection have been investigated to counteract the effect of external loads showing that well-conceived adaptive-design strategies can achieve substantive whole-life energy savings compared with traditional designs. The whole-life energy consists of an embodied part in the material and an operational part for structural adaptation. This paper presents a new optimisation method to investigate the use of large shape changes achieved via actuation as a structural adaptation strategy to counteract the effect of external loads. Numerical results show that when large shape changes are considered, embodied energy reduction is achieved with respect to both optimised active and passive structures. The embodied energy savings become substantive when shape changes are allowed to go beyond conventional serviceability limits.