Mapping material use and embodied carbon in UK construction

Michal Drewniok, José Azevedo, Cyrille Dunant, Julian Allwood, Jonathan Cullen, Tim Ibell, Will Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


The latest available high-level top-down analysis shows that the embodied carbon of the UK construction in 2018 was 43 MtCO2e, of which 80% came from materials and on-site activities. In this paper, for the first time, we combine a detailed bottom-up model of representative residential and non-residential buildings with top-down infrastructure and other material consumption data to quantify the material use and embodied carbon in UK construction. We found that almost 100 Mt of materials were used with an embodied carbon of 25 Mt CO2e. Half of these emissions were from concrete. We found that existing top-down approaches underestimate emissions by up to 20%. We developed a benchmark for UK building typologies and explore interventions to achieve the UK’s carbon reduction goals. We found that conversion from non-domestic to domestic purposes can bring 34% embodied carbon savings of the construction total, 30% by avoiding demolition, 20% by switching to the most material and carbon efficient technology options and by 10% if all new houses were multi storey buildings. We have shown that the bottom-up approach allows identifying areas with high potential for decarbionisation. Due to the flexibility of the model, it can be successfully used in other countries and regions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107056
Number of pages10
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Early online date7 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Peter Brett Associates (PBA) and Stantec especially John Rushton, Tim Hoggins from Hydrock Engineering, Robert Harrold from The PD Group and Pawel Petryszak from the Ian Harban Consulting Engineers for their invaluable assistance and expertise which was necessary conduct this research; Mineral Products Association (MPA) and The Concrete Centre (TCC) especially Claire Ackerman and Colum McCague, the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) especially Howard Button for providing the necessary data on cement, concrete and demolition waste. This work was supported by EPSRC programme grant ‘UKFIRES’ Ref. EP/S019111/1; A part of this study was supported by EPSRC grant ‘TransFIRe’ Ref. EP/V054627/1

Data availability
Supplementary Information for this study is available from the University of Leeds at


  • Bottom-up approach
  • Embodied carbon
  • Material flow analysis
  • Material use
  • UK construction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


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