Chapter 2
Embodied versus Operational Carbon Emissions in Buildings
Embodied Emissions from Extracting and Producing Building Materials
Embodied Emissions: From End-of-Life to Re-Use and Recycling
Implementing a Whole Life-Cycle Approach to Building Materials
The Whole Life-Cycle Approach: Pathways for Decision-Makers
Strategies Towards a Building Materials Revolution: “Avoid-Shift-Improve”

Figure 2.7 Key stakeholders whose participation is critical to the decarbonization of buildings at different life phases

They include scientists; architecture, engineering and construction firms; building occupants; and waste management and recovery professionals.

Adapted from Keena and Dyson 2017; Keena et al. 2023.

The Whole Life-Cycle Approach: Pathways for Decision-Makers

Assessing the carbon costs of built environment systems must include measuring the impacts on the productive capacity of global ecosystems.

Globally, strategies for decarbonizing buildings will differ greatly by region depending on local natural resources and the building stock, as well as on projected needs for the future. Patterns in material flow scenarios suggest that in developed countries, the priority is to renovate the existing and ageing building stock, while repurposing waste into “material banks.” In developing countries, rapid urbanisation means a focus on new construction; in this context, the potential to transform economies by designing out waste in the early stages – from the district to the building scale – has great promise.

Because there is no one strategy to decarbonise materials, decision-makers must take cumulative measures across the lifespan of buildings. Active participation across stakeholders is central – everyone from earth science professionals; to architecture, engineering and construction firms; to building occupants and communities; to waste management professionals. Access to correct information is also key for data-driven policies, financial instruments and research incentives to support each phase of the building and material life cycle, and for each stakeholder group (see Figure 2.7).