Considering embodied energy and carbon in heritage buildings – a review

Wise, F.; Moncaster, A.; Jones, D. and Dewberry, E. (2019). Considering embodied energy and carbon in heritage buildings – a review. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 329, article no. 012002.



Approximately 20% of UK buildings can be defined as ‘heritage buildings’, offering unique values that should be preserved. They tend to use more energy than newer buildings, creating a strong case for energy retrofits to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve thermal comfort. However, few studies of heritage retrofits examine embodied impacts, which are the energy and carbon impacts required to manufacture, transport and construct materials and components. This study considers the whole life (embodied plus operational) impacts of retrofitting heritage buildings, through a systematic literature review and thematic analysis. It concludes that; both embodied and operational impacts should be considered in retrofitting projects, retrofitting is better than demolish and rebuild in lifecycle terms, there is a lack of policy mandating for the measurement of lifecycle impacts and low impact retrofitting can be better for conserving heritage values and reducing embodied carbon.

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