The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agreed some two decades ago that the world is warming up and that this effect was human-induced through our dependence on fossil fuels and their impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The biggest contributor to GHG emissions is the built environment, accounting for up to 50% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The current UK infrastructure, technologies and lifestyle were developed for a high carbon economy; to achieve an 80% emissions cut at an acceptable cost, all of this infrastructure will have to be significantly adapted.

There is no single solution to the climate change dilemma. A complex combination of new technologies, improved systems and changed behaviours, together with realistic expectations for a lower carbon economy is required. Historical advances in technology (cars, PCs, mobile phones) were easily accommodated due to the immediate benefit derived from their use. Actively making decisions to reduce energy consumption is more difficult because the benefit is futuristic and less easily measured in practical terms. The cost manifests itself in potentially unpopular lifestyle changes. Despite this, the World Commission on Environment and Development remains convinced that it is possible to build a future that is prosperous, just, and secure. This possibility relies on international cooperation, and an adoption of sustainable development objectives as a priority.

Researchers within this theme take a holistic view of the building process from early design concept and construction right through to occupancy, maintenance and eventual demolition. This unique approach helps to foster a greater collaboration between all of the teams involved e.g. the architects, investors, contractors, engineers etc, as well as evaluating the carbon impact and sustainability of the whole life cycle. Members of the group have active research interests which aim to ensure that buildings are fit for purpose, meet all government standards for carbon reduction, reduce costs, and provide a healthy environment for their users.

Contributing staff

Dr Gillian Menzies Dr David Jenkins Dr Mehreen Gul