Embodied Carbon & Life Cycle Assessment in Traditional and Heritage Buildings

Explore energy efficiency in traditional and heritage buildings and discuss emerging research on climate change and its effect on heritage buildings.


This course explores energy efficiency in traditional and heritage buildings and discusses emerging research on climate change and its effect on heritage buildings. It draws from a study commissioned by several governments on the effects climate change will have on our built environment and the built environment's role in mitigating climate change.

Research findings such as the Central European Standard in “Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings” (CEN 16833:2017) – Climate Change Adaptation Sectoral Plan for Built & Archaeological Heritage and more recently “Understanding Carbon in the Built Environment” has led to a great understanding of the importance of our built environment and the role our existing building stock can play and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. Most international directives have concentrated on the reduction and/or greening of “Operational Energy” yet these study findings show that “Embodied Carbon” and the reduction in the use of carbon-intensive products in construction is the best way to deliver government targets of carbon reduction in the Paris Agreement.

The course features a number of international case studies, discusses the process to understand carbon in the built environment, and explains the study results, as well as suggests ways to drive this thesis and highlight the need to a) have a dedicated LCA Tool for existing buildings and b) propose a few policies that should be considered. You will complete the course prepared to discuss and debate adaptive reuse and the need to eliminate maladaptation of our existing building stock.

Learning objectives

  • Compare the energy performance of traditional and heritage buildings against the impact of energy upgrades.
  • Recognize how the use of inappropriate insulations and other carbon-intensive materials are detrimental to older buildings causing accelerated decay of historic fabric and health risks to occupants.
  • Discuss data driven approaches for sensitive and well thought out adaptive reuse of existing buildings to contribute to lower CO2 emissions.
  • Articulate the need for a life cycle analysis designed specifically for existing buildings, and the importance of carbon calculating.
  • Advocate for codes and standards that include embodied carbon and life cycle carbon calculation, rather than solely focusing on operational carbon.


This session was hosted by the Historic Resources Committee (HRC), an AIA Knowledge Community, and recorded live on February 25, 2021. 

User rating:
Average: 4.5 (113 votes)
 $45  non-member
 $30  member
1.00 LU
  • HSW
  • RIBA


  • Peter Cox

    Peter A. Cox

    Managing Director | Carrig Conservation International Limited

    Peter has a primary degree in chemical engineering, he has worked in the analysis of decay of...