Embodied Carbon Measurement, Mitigation and Management Within Europe, Drawing on a Cross-Case Analysis of 60 Building Case Studies

Moncaster, Alice; Birgisdottir, Harpa; Malmqvist, Tove; Nygaard Rasmussen, Freja; Houlihan Wiberg, Aoife and Soulti, Eleni (2018). Embodied Carbon Measurement, Mitigation and Management Within Europe, Drawing on a Cross-Case Analysis of 60 Building Case Studies. In: Pomponi, Francesco; De Wolf, Catherine and Moncaster, Alice eds. Embodied Carbon in Buildings: Measurement, Management, and Mitigation. Springer, pp. 443–462.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72796-7_20

Abstract

This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the state of the art on this subject within Europe. In order to do so, it draws on a cross-case analysis of over 60 European case studies, developed and analysed by the authors as part of the International Energy Agency Annex 57 project.

Embodied impacts have been considered for many years in this part of the world and have now reached a certain level of maturity; recently the publication of European standards EN 15978 and EN 15804 has helped to develop a more harmonised approach, while environmental certification schemes such as BREEAM from the UK and DGNB from Germany are increasingly encouraging European designers to use LCA to measure and reduce the whole-life carbon and energy of buildings. However, there are still a wide range of methodological approaches in use both in academic studies and in industry tools, hampering efforts to draw conclusive recommendations for low-carbon design strategies.

Two issues are of particular importance for the European context. First, as in other areas of the world, there is a focus on minimising the whole-life energy and carbon cost of new buildings. This paper uses the analysis of the Annex 57 case studies to provide a general quantification of embodied carbon and energy in European buildings for different life cycle stages and building components. It then identifies a number of approaches to reducing these impacts and, by comparing with a review of the international literature, discusses which of these identified mitigation strategies are particularly suitable in Europe.

The second issue recognises the unique aspects of this historically urbanised region of the world. Here the high proportion of old and very old buildings means that refurbishment and adaptation projects account for a significant proportion of construction sector impacts. Meanwhile, rising populations are leading to increased pressures for the densification of already-developed brownfield sites. While refurbishment, in preference to demolition and rebuild, has been identified in the academic literature as frequently a lower-carbon strategy, this is seldom an issue taken into account in industry practice. This chapter concludes that this area is one of particular importance on which industry and academia should work together across Europe.

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