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Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE)

Part-time Master's and Postgraduate Certificate courses from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

research areas 1

Sustainability in the built environment can be seen as underpinning all research, as good environments may be viewed as inherently sustainable.  There are four broad primary components of sustainability relating to built environment research[1]:

  • Economic sustainability which is understood as the capacity and ability of a practice to be able to put local/regional resources to productive use for the long-term benefit of the community, without damaging or depleting the natural resource base on which it depends and without increasing the development’s ecological footprint. This implies taking into consideration the full impact of the production cycle.
  • Social sustainability which refers to the fairness, inclusiveness and cultural adequacy of an intervention to promote equal rights over the natural, physical and economic capital that supports the livelihoods and lives of local communities, with particular emphasis on the poor and traditionally marginalised groups. Cultural adequacy means, in this context, the extent to which a practice respects cultural heritage and cultural diversity.
  • Ecological sustainability which pertains to the impact of built environment production and consumption on the integrity and health of the region and global carrying capacity. This demands the long term consideration of the relation between the state and dynamics of environmental resources and services and the demands exerted over them.
  • Built environment sustainability which is concerned with the capacity of an intervention to enhance the liveability of buildings and infrastructures for ‘all’ without damaging or disrupting the region environment. It also includes a concern for the efficiency of the built environment to support the local economy.

Expertise and IDBE interests in this area include:

International Energy Agency ECBCS programme Annex 57 on Evaluation of Embodied Energy & Carbon Dioxide Emissions for Building Construction 2011-2015

This is a major four year international research project (2011-2015) led by Professor Tatsuo Oka from Utsonomiya University in Japan. Dr Moncaster and Eleni Soulti are the UK participants, with senior researchers in this area from around 20 other countries. The project will provide information and advice to Governments and the construction sector, through the development of guidelines including the following information:

1) The state of the art of research into embodied energy and carbon emissions due to building construction,

2) Methods for evaluating the embodied energy and carbon emissions due to building construction,

3) Measures to design and construct buildings with low embodied energy and carbon emissions.

Project Butterfly 2010-2012

In April 2010 the Technology Strategy Board awarded funding of £1.1m to a consortium including Cambridge Centre for Sustainable Development, to develop a whole life financial and carbon costing tool for housing. The consortium was led by BLP Insurance, and included Willmott Dixon Housing and the UCL Energy Institute. The team at Cambridge led by Dr Moncaster developed the embodied carbon/energy algorithms and data input for the software.

Selected publications:

  • Galvin R (2014). “Are passive houses economically viable? A reality-based, subjectivist approach to cost-benefit analyses”. Energy and Buildings (in press):  available at:
  • Georgiadou, M.C., Hacking, T., Guthrie, P (2013). "Future-Proofed Energy Design for Dwellings: Case studies from England and Application to the Code for Sustainable Homes", Building Services Engineering Research and Technology, 34(1); pp. 9-22.
  • Moncaster AM, Symons KE  (2013). “A method and tool for ‘cradle to grave’ embodied energy and carbon impacts of UK buildings in compliance with the new TC350 standards”, Energy and Buildings. 66 (11) pp 514–523
  • Verve Architects and project partners (2013). St Faith’s School Masterplan: Design for Future Climate.  Report to Technology Strategy Board, January 2013
  • Galvin R (2012). “Including fuel price elasticity of demand in net present value and payback time calculations of thermal retrofits: Case study of German dwellings”. Energy and Buildings; 50: 219-228.
  • Georgiadou, M.C., Hacking, T., Guthrie, P. (2012). "A Conceptual Framework for Future-Proofing the Energy Performance of Buildings", Energy Policy, 47; pp. 145-155.
  • Georgiadou, M.C. and Hacking, T. (2012). "Strategies and Techniques to Future-Proof the Energy Performance of Housing Developments", International Journal of Energy Sector Management, 6(2); pp. 160-174.
  • Parkinson A.T., Friedman K.S., Hacking T., Cooke A.J., Guthrie P.M. (2012). Exploring scenarios for the future of energy management in UK property. Building Research and Information, 40(3) 373-388.
  • Moncaster A M and Symons K E (2013) A method and tool for ‘cradle to grave’ embodied energy and carbon impacts of UK buildings in compliance with the new TC350 standards, Energy and Buildings, Available at:
  • Moncaster A M, Soulti E, Mubarak G and Symons K (2013) Retrofitting solid wall buildings: energy and carbon costs and savings, Proceedings of SB13 Graz, 25-28 Sept, Graz, Austria

  • Symons K, Moncaster A M and Symons D, (2013) An Application of the CEN/TC350 standards to an Energy and Carbon LCA of timber used in construction, and the effect of end-of-life scenarios, Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society (ALCAS) conference, 15–18 July, Sydney, Australia

  • Soulti E, Symons, K, Moncaster A M, Mubarak, G, Cooke A and Guthrie, P (2013) Evaluation of Energy Efficient Technologies: Embodied Energy and Carbon Study of SIG insulation products University of Cambridge, Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment (EEBE) Research Programme

  • Moncaster A M (2012) Response of the designers, in Review of a LCA tool for embodied carbon and energy developed at Cambridge University, Verachtert, KU Leuven

  • Moncaster A M and Song J-Y (2012) A Comparative Review of existing data and methodologies for calculating embodied energy and carbon of buildings, International Journal of Sustainable Building Technology and Urban Development, 3 (1), pp 26-36.

  • Sahagun D and Moncaster A M (2012) How much do we spend to save? Calculating the embodied carbon costs of retrofit Proceedings of Retrofit 2012, 24-26 January 2012, University of Salford, UK

  • Moncaster A M and Song J-Y (2011) A review of data and methodologies for calculating embodied energy and carbon of buildings, Proceedings of World Sustainable Building Conference (SB11), 18-21 October 2011, Helsinki, Finland

Supervised theses

  • Ariyaratne, C. (2013) Incorporating embodied carbon into the design process: a comparison of assessment tools IDBE MSt thesis, Dept of Architecture, University of Cambridge

  • Gavotsis, E. (2013) Investigating the carbon cost of building resilience to climate change, MPhil thesis , Dept of Architecture, University of Cambridge

  • Sahagun, D. (2011) Embodied Carbon and Energy in Residential Refurbishment- A Case Study, MPhil thesis, Dept of Chemical Engineering , University of Cambridge


[1] Allen, A. (2009). ‘Sustainable cities or sustainable urbanisation?’. summer 2009. palette. UCL.

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Becky Stanley, Senior Project Manager