Embodied Carbon in Buildings

We often think of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as something that comes from power plants and cars. But did you know that the buildings we live and work in are also a major source of CO2 emissions? In fact, embodied carbon – the emissions associated with the construction and materials of a building – can account for up to 30% of a building’s total carbon footprint.

So what can we do to reduce embodied carbon in our buildings? One way is to use

Introduction Start

Embodied carbon is the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted during the production, transportation and installation of construction materials. It is a significant contributor to the climate impact of buildings and other structures, and its importance is likely to increase in the coming years as the built environment becomes an increasingly important driver of global emissions.

The good news is that there are a number of ways to reduce embodied carbon in buildings and other constructions. This report provides an overview of the issue and offers some recommendations for how to reduce embodied carbon emissions in the built environment.

What is embodied carbon?

Embodied carbon is the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere over the life-cycle of a material or a building product. embodied carbon is emitted when materials are extracted, processed, transported and installed. For example, the production of cement releases CO2, as does the production of steel. The transportation of these materials also emits CO2.

The embodied carbon of a building or product is the sum of all these emissions throughout its life-cycle. It’s important to consider embodied carbon when designing or selecting building materials because emissions from material production can be a significant contributor to a project’s overall carbon footprint.

There are two types of embodied carbon: primary and secondary.

Primary embodied carbon is emitted during the material production process, while secondary embodied carbon results from the transportation and installation of materials.

Both types of emissions need to be considered when assessing a material’s embodied carbon footprint.

The embodied carbon of buildings and constructions

The embodied carbon of buildings and constructions is the total carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the support activities, construction, operation and decommissioning of a building or other construction over its entire life cycle.

Embodied carbon is a significant source of GHG emissions, accounting for an estimated 11% of global emissions in 2016. The International Energy Agency estimates that the building sector will be responsible for 19% of global energy-related CO2 emissions by 2050 if current trends continue.

There are many opportunities to reduce the embodied carbon of buildings and other constructions through better design, more efficient materials and construction methods, and increased use of renewable energy.

The benefits of reducing embodied carbon

The benefits of reducing embodied carbon are many and varied. Perhaps most significantly, it can help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of a building or structure, and therefore the impact that it has on the environment. In turn, this can help to make a building or construction more sustainable in the long-term.

Other benefits of reducing embodied carbon include reducing the need for energy to be used during the construction process, and making buildings or constructions easier to recycle or reuse at the end of their lifespans. Additionally, it can help to improve indoor air quality and reduce the impact of a building or construction on local climates.

The challenges of reducing embodied carbon

Despite being a significant part of the carbon footprint of a building or construction project, embodied carbon is often overlooked in favor of operational emissions. This is because embodied carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions occur during the manufacturing and transportation of building materials, whereas operational emissions occur when the buildings or constructions are occupied and used.

There are many reasons for this oversight, but one of the most significant is that it can be very difficult to accurately calculate the embodied carbon of a building or construction. This is because there are so many variables to consider, such as the type of materials used, how those materials were manufactured, and how they were transported to the site.

In addition, embodied carbon can be affected by factors that are out of the control of architects and engineers, such as changes in the global economy or fluctuations in the price of raw materials. As a result, it can be challenging to reduce embodied carbon without compromising other aspects of the project.

That said, there are a number of strategies that can be used to reduce the embodied carbon of a building or construction project. These include specifying low-carbon materials, using recycled or salvaged materials, and designing for modularity and disassembly.

Strategies for reducing embodied carbon

Embodied carbon is the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with the manufacturing of products used in construction, including materials, components, equipment and transportation.

Strategies for reducing embodied carbon vary depending on the project type and stage of development. Some common strategies include:

-Specifying lower-carbon materials
-Reusing or recycling materials
-Improving construction efficiency and waste management
-Minimizing transportation distances


The research shows that the production of construction materials is responsible for a significant proportion of total embodied carbon in buildings. The study also found that the recycling of construction waste can have a significant impact on reducing embodied carbon.

Further reading

If you want to learn more about embodied carbon in buildings and constructions, there are a few key places to start.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) report on embodied carbon in the building sector provides a comprehensive overview of the issue, including the latest data and trends. The report also includes policy recommendations for reducing embodied carbon in buildings.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has also published a report on the topic, which includes case studies of low-carbon building projects.

Finally, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a report that provides an overview of the actions that various countries are taking to reduce embodied carbon in buildings.

Formation of Zero Energy Parkings

People ‘s activities are caused by climate change and the speed of current changes is unprecedented. The uncontrolled use of fossil energy leads to the depletion of the world ‘s fossil energy reserves. The slightest energy savings, especially in the thickened areas, lead to a reduction in the emission of pollutants and therefore help to protect the environment.

In the construction of new parking lots and in the conversion of old ones, it is possible to dramatically reduce the volume of fuel consumed and, as a result, energy consumption and emissions. In the near future, the priority is to switch buildings to self-sustainment – they will consume a minimum amount of electricity that will be generated on its own. The main characteristic of the architecture of buildings of the future is ultra-low and even zero energy consumption.

A zero-energy building is a building with high energy efficiency, capable of
locally generating energy from renewable sources and consuming it in equal quantity during the year. When generating energy less than is necessary for consumption, the building is called a house with almost zero consumption. [1]

Principles to be followed in the design of energy efficient parking: reduction of energy requirements, use of surplus energy, reduction of the need for artificial cooling, provision of high-efficiency control systems of microclimate and other systems, including lighting; provision of renewable sources of solar, wind, etc. [2]

Net Zero Energy Building technology

Net Zero Energy Building technology has become a real technological
breakthrough in construction and is one of the most promising today. Several important components are the cornerstone of nZEV technology. First, it is a building project that is designed to reduce heat loss, maximize natural ventilation and illumination. Second, construction materials and equipment that completely eliminate heat loss and inefficient use of electricity, sunlight and water. And third, generating energy from renewable sources. [3]

Solar systems based on photovoltaic modules, which are well established
worldwide, are commonly used for power supply. They can operate independently (using batteries) or connect to a centralized power supply network, which allows them to exchange energy among themselves, and when the network is disconnected, backup systems are used. Photovoltaic panels are typically mounted on the roof of a building at an optimal angle of inclination by means of a supporting structure. Solar panels are reliable and do not cause trouble in maintenance. Wind generators can also be used to generate electricity. The task of solar collectors and heat pumps is to provide hot water supply and heating. [4]

The development of the project should be carried out in a direct reference to a specific climatic zone. In other words, the use of solar panels, for example, is effective in southern areas with more sunny days, and for buildings located in northern latitudes, wind farms seem to be more suitable. The construction of a building with zero energy consumption undoubtedly requires the use of modern building materials that meet the requirements of energy efficiency, heat saving and economical use of resources. The additional costs required to convert the parking project from basic building code standards to zero-energy parking will increase the total cost of the building by an average of 10%. At the same time, they will vary significantly depending on the location and architecture of the building. [5]

Although buildings, and especially parkings, with zero energy consumption remain rare even in developed countries, they are becoming increasingly important and popular. Such technologies significantly reduce environmental impacts and save building maintenance costs. Obviously, the creation of zero-emission cities in the 21st century is possible not only if new energy-efficient buildings are built, but also in the case of energy modernization of a large number of old buildings.


  1. Marszal A., Heiselber P. et al. Zero Energy Building – A review of definitions and calculation methodologies // Energy and Buildings – 2011. – № 43 (4). – pp. 971-979.
  2. Schukin A. Houses of the post-carbon era // Expert – 2010. – №3 (689). – pp. 77-81.
  3. S. Pless, P. Torcellini Net-Zero Energy Buildings: A Classification System Based on Renewable Energy Supply Options // U.S. Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service – 2010. – pp. 1-14. DOI: 10.2172/983417
  4. Xiaodong Cao, Xilei Dai, Junjie Liu Building energy-consumption status worldwide and the state-of-the-art technologies for zero-energy buildings during the past decade // Energy and Buildings – 2016. – №128. – pp. 198-213.
  5. Rat G.I. , Mordinova M.A. The development of alternative energy sources in solving global energy problems // Bulletin of the Baikal State University. – 2012. – с. 132-135.


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