Operational and embodied carbon: housing

Over the life of a home, the operational CO2 emissions of a house have far more environmental impact than the embodied CO2 of the materials used to build it. Some 50 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions are due to the energy used to heat, cool and light buildings. It is essential, therefore, that energy consumption during a building's lifecycle is taken into account when evaluating construction materials. A building's environmental impact does not stop once it has been built.

Independent research, carried out by Arup Research & Development, takes account of experts' predictions for climate change and demonstrates that the thermal mass in masonry homes reduces the need for air conditioning.

It also highlights the additional savings that can be achieved through using thermal mass to capture solar gains, thereby reducing the consumption of winter heating fuel. These savings can offset the slightly higher level of embodied CO2 in a masonry house in as little as 11 years and ultimately lead to the lowest whole life CO2 emissions.