Mapping embodied environmental impacts in the built environment

Cities and their building stocks result in significant environmental effects which are critical to reduce.

However, the majority of existing studies focus on operational requirements or on material stocks. To date, very few studies have quantified embodied environmental requirements of building stocks and spatialised them.

This project has developed a bottom-up approach to spatially model building stocks and quantify their embodied environmental requirements. It uses a highly disaggregated approach where each building's geometry is modelled and used to derive a bill of quantities. Construction assemblies relevant to each building archetype (derived based on land-use, age and height) are defined using expert knowledge in construction. The initial and recurrent embodied energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions associated with each material within each assembly are calculated using a comprehensive hybrid analysis technique.

This model was applied to all buildings of the City of Melbourne, Australia. Results show that rebuilding the City of Melbourne's building stock today would require 1 547 kt of materials/km² (total: 56 007 kt), 10 PJ/km² (total: 362 PJ), 17.7 Million m³ of embodied water/km² (total: 640.74 Million m³) and  would emit 605 ktCO2e/km2 (total: 23 530 ktCO2e).

This model developed in this project is capable to generate a breadth of outputs, quantified using a detailed bottom-up approach. These include material stocks maps and breakdowns of life cycle embodied requirements by material, construction assembly, building and building typology at the city level. Using such model, city councils can better manage building stocks in terms of waste processing, urban mining and circular economy, as well as reducing embodied environmental requirements over time.

Scientific publications

  1. Stephan, A. and Athanassiadis, A. (2017) Quantifying and mapping embodied environmental requirements of urban building stocks. Building and Environment 114:187-202.This publication is available for download here and here.
  2. Stephan, A. and Athanassiadis, A. (2018) Towards a more circular construction sector: Estimating and spatialising current and future non-structural material replacement flows to maintain urban building stocks, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 129, 248-262. This publication is available for download here and here.

Lay audience articles

  1. Stephan, A. and Athanassiadis, A. (2017) With the right tools, we can mine cities. Available from: The Conversation  (accessed January 23rd). This article is available here

Project details

Major Sponsor

Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning & Graham Treloar Fellowship

Associated Research Centre

Thrive Research Hub

Research Partners

The City of Melbourne (data provider)
Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) (data provider)

Project Team

Dr André Stephan
Aristide Athanassiadis

Contact

Dr André Stephan