Embodied Carbon of Retrofits

Institute for Real Estate Economics (IIÖ), Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CREEM),
Sven Bienert, Hunter Kuhlwein, Yannick Schmidt, Benedikt Gloria, Berivan Agbayir.

In the race to net zero, the real estate and construction sector takes center stage for achieving global climate goals, as they are responsible for over one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. For some properties, up to 70% of these emissions can be attributed to the construction, transportation, and demolition of building materials, known as ‘embodied carbon’.
In the pursuit of a decarbonised future aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, the imperative lies in effectively tackling the challenge presented by the existing building stock, since, in developed countries, most of the properties that will be used in 2050 are already erected today. A key aspect of this endeavor involves retrofitting energy-inefficient buildings with a primary focus on reducing their energy consumption and, ultimately, operational carbon emissions. In turn, however, energetic retrofits of existing buildings require not only significant investments but simultaneously trigger massive construction activities: Buildings are insulated, triple glazing is installed, and the building automation is mostly renewed.

This report focuses on the trade off between operational savings and embodied carbon, which are resulting from retrofit activities.

Want to stay up to date?

Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular updates on the most exciting news, research, case studies, and events related to sustainable design.