UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Life cycle assessment and circular economy

Our research focusses on how we estimate the environmental performance of building products and processes from construction to demolition.

Image showing the demotion of one building, with a backdrop of a more modern building

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a procedure for estimating the environmental performance of products and processes throughout their lives. When applied to buildings, instead of focusing on environmental impact only once buildings are built and occupied, LCA looks at environmental impacts in processes from other stages in buildings life cycle: impacts from the production of building materials, transport & construction (embodied carbon), operation, repair, maintenance & refurbishment (operational carbon) and demolition (end of Life). 

Circular Economy looks at ways building components can be used once buildings reaches their end of life, in an attempt to find mechanisms for re-using construction elements & materials. 

Our work on buildings LCA relies on a mixture of research methods and tools. Our research ranges from embodied carbon analysis and life-cycle performance optimisation, through analysis of refurbishment & replacement to life-cycle-based stock modelling. Our work is often carried out in collaboration with policy makers and experts from practice, to assist stakeholders across the built environment. 

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Research areas

Buildings Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Images of cranes being used to construct a building
Buildings Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – Research around the life cycle performance of buildings include broader performance indicators, looking at the life cycle perspective of the building. Research typically follows the European Standard (EN15978) and the RICS guideline for Life Cycle Analysis in Buildings. 

Buildings embodied carbon analysis 

Construction site in London
Buildings Embodied carbon analysis – focuses on the carbon emissions associated with the construction, construction and maintenance/refurbishment of the building. Research contributes to and is carried in conjunction with world-leading guides (LETI, CIBSE and others), and focuses on the collection of the embodied carbon of case study buildings.

Embodied carbon ‘performance gap’ 

Islington council houses
Embodied carbon ‘performance gap’ – with the increase interest in embodied carbon, both in practice and academia, an ‘embodied carbon performance gap’ seem to be emerging. Research is focused on determining what causes this gap, and proposing ways to tackle it before it.   


Life cycle stock-modelling  

Photo depicting pollution in a city
Life cycle stock-modelling – stock modelling is a method for evaluating the performance of a large number of buildings on a district, city, region or national scale. Methods include a quick but generic ‘archetype’ stock-modelling approach or a slower but detailed ‘one-by-one’ approach. Using these methods, this research area investigates the life cycle performance of entire building stocks.

Recent projects

Life Cycle Assessment and Circular Economy in teaching

The Life Cycle Assessment and Circular Economy MSc is embedded in our teaching at the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering. Researchers from our theme contribute to the teaching of our MSc programmes and supervise dissertations for students who wish to undertake their own research in the area of life cycle assessment and circular economy.

Environmental Design and Engineering MSc

Bloomberg HQ in London - One of the world's highest BREEAM-rated major office buildings designed by Foster + Partners
Environmental Design and Engineering MSc meets the urgent need for more sustainable, efficient and healthier buildings, by training a new generation of experts to apply rigorous thinking and an innovative approach to environmental design and engineering. Embodied Carbon and LCA are part of the ‘Solar Design’ studio task, where students are asked to evaluate the Embodied Carbon and Life Cycle Performance of their designs. 

Here are some examples of past dissertations we have supervised focused on the state of the art of Life Cycle Performance and Embodied Carbon:

  • The design-stage embodied carbon performance gap through the RIBA stages
  • The life cycle impact of refurbishment packages on residential buildings with different initial thermal conditions
  • The rise of the Second Performance Gap? Investigating the Discrepancies between predicted and actual Embodied Carbon using A case study building

Engineering & Architectural Design MEng

Engineering and Architectural Design MEng Student working with materials

Engineering and Architectural Design MEng has been designed in close collaboration with industry leaders, to combine the major disciplines of architecture and engineering of the built environment and prepare graduates to be future industry leaders. The programme is run jointly with the Bartlett School of Architecture and the UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

For the MEng students, Net Zero design is an integral part of the Design Practice studio work. Embodied Carbon calculations are covered in the ‘Making Buildings’ module, where students are asked to calculate the embodied carbon of a selected space and propose a more efficient design. 

Doctoral Research (PhD) 

Life Cycle Analysis is integrated into several PhD research projects.

Doctoral research relating to life cycle assessment and circular economy:

  • Simon Vakeva-Baird: Combining building dynamic simulation with multi-criteria decision-making methods for a participatory design framework for net-zero carbon buildings
  • Kubra Doguc: Optimizing life cycle performance of hospital building refurbishment through low carbon measures
  • Amr Hamada: Retrofit Strategies for Public Administrative Buildings in Egypt
  • Sahar Nava: A Participatory Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment Framework for the Appraisal of Estates’ Regeneration Schemes in London
  • Dolapo Oluteye: Discovering workingscapes: Why and how hotel lobbies are transforming into workplaces for the modern worker
  • Fady Abdelaziz: An assessment framework for the energy efficiency upgrade of the new cities housing stock in Egypt: A multi-objective optimisation approach
  • Seyma Atik: Investigating the effectiveness of implementing LCA-based BIM plugins in early-stage building envelope design
  • Eleni Davidson: Towards a probabilistic, life-cycle approach to inform climate change adaptation strategies for urban higher education building design
  • Reham Alasmar: Estimating the Whole Life Cycle Carbon of Jordanian Housing Stock through Refurbishment Strategies Toward Net Zero Carbon.


Dr Esfandiar Burman 
Associate Professor

Dr Rokia Raslan 
Associate Professor

Prof Ben Croxford 
Professor of Environmental Design and Engineering

Dr Yair Schwartz 
Lecturer in Engineering and Architectural Design