Operational vs. embodied emissions in buildings - A review of current trends

T. Ibn-Mohammed, R. Greenough, S. Taylor, L. Ozawa-Meida, A. Acquaye

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    401 Scopus citations


    Global awareness of environmental impacts such as climate change and depletion of ozone layer has increased significantly in the last few years and the implication for emissions reductions in buildings are widely acknowledged. The goal, therefore, is to design and construct buildings with minimum environmental impacts. Lifecycle emissions resulting from buildings consist of two components: operational and embodied emissions. A great deal of effort has been put into reducing the former as it is assumed that it is higher than the latter. However, studies have revealed the growing significance of embodied emissions in buildings but its importance is often underestimated in lifecycle emissions analysis. This paper takes a retrospective approach to critically review the relationship between embodied and operational emissions over the lifecycle of buildings. This is done to highlight and demonstrate the increasing proportion of embodied emissions that is one consequence of efforts to decrease operational emissions. The paper draws on a wide array of issues, including complications concerning embodied emissions computation and also discusses the benefits that come with its consideration. The implication of neglecting embodied emissions and the need for an urgent policy framework within the current climate of energy and climate change policies are also discussed.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)232-245
    Number of pages14
    JournalEnergy and Buildings
    StatePublished - 2013


    • Buildings
    • Climate change
    • Embodied and operational emissions
    • Environment
    • Policy instruments


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