Special Issue "Low Carbon Building Design"


A special issue of Buildings (ISSN 2075-5309).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2014

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Alice Moncaster
Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, UK
Website: http://www.arct.cam.ac.uk/people/amm24@cam.ac.uk
E-Mail: amm24@cam.ac.uk
Phone: +44 1223 332976
Interests: embodied carbon and energy of buildings; socio-political impacts on sustainable construction; energy efficient retrofit and adaptation to future climates; timber and other bio-based construction materials

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The need to reduce carbon from buildings, new and existing, is becoming increasingly critical. The problem is complex: carbon is emitted from energy use during the operational phase of buildings, but also from the production of materials and from the construction, refurbishment, demolition, and end of life phases. There are multiple regulations, financial mechanisms, tools, and certification schemes designed to encourage carbon reduction. Within this framework, the carbon impact of a building is determined by individual and collective decisions taken by clients, designers, and contractors, and by the occupiers throughout the lifetime of the building. These decisions are also influenced, however, by individual and professional interpretations, values, and practices, as well as by the commercial, political, professional or other interests that influence the ways in which decision-makers understand and engage with the carbon reduction problem.

The Special Issue editors aim to represent the latest understanding of this complex interdisciplinary field by collecting together new research within the field and by crossing into different areas. Papers are sought concerning the impact and use of low carbon building materials and of building-scale renewable energy technologies; embodied carbon approaches and the latest developments in life cycle analysis of buildings; the effects of improved collaboration within design teams; best practice (“zero carbon”?) new build and refurbishment; the impacts of occupiers and the potential for behavioral change; the effective use of tools and assessment schemes; and the impacts, intentional and unintentional, of policies, financial mechanisms, and regulations. Papers that span the technical and social disciplines, and which develop an understanding of carbon emissions as an inherently socio-technical problem, are particularly encouraged.

Dr. Alice Moncaster
Guest Editor


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Buildings is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.


  • energy efficiency
  • low/zero carbon
  • low carbon building materials
  • building-scale renewable energy technologies
  • embodied carbon
  • life cycle analysis
  • impacts of policies, regulations and financial mechanisms
  • tools for low carbon buildings
  • low carbon behaviours
  • science and Technology studies for the built environment

Published Papers

No papers have been published in this special issue yet, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Type of Paper: Article
Design Stage Whole Building Modelling for Low Carbon Offices – Case Study Evidence
s: HF Castleton*1, EA Hathway2, E Murphy3 and SBM Beck4
1 Sheffield School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, UK
Department of Civil & Structural Engineering, University of Sheffield, UK
Mott MacDonald, Sheffield, UK
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Sheffield, UK
In recent years the building energy performance gap has become a core topic in the endeavour to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment. Where estimations of building energy consumption have been made at the design stage, higher energy consumption is often recorded once the building is operational. Two new office buildings of similar design and located in the same UK city have provided real life case studies to investigate what modelling predictions were originally made at the design stage, how close these were to measured building performance, and how these could better represent what is happening in-use. Energy performance assessment of both buildings showed that one building used 27% less electricity and 30% less heat than predicted. The second building used 32% more electricity and approximately the same amount of natural gas as predicted. A detailed, longitudinal energy analysis has enabled the in-use energy end use breakdown to be calculated and compared to modelling predictions. True occupancy hours and density have been determined, with longer hours and lower density than expected in both buildings. Design stage dynamic simulation model settings and results have been analysed to understand the modelling approach taken at the design stage. Measured building performance was then used to update these model settings and compare back to the original design stage settings. This has shown that, with greater consideration of how a building will be operated, better informed design stage model settings should lead to more accurate energy predictions. Consideration of out-of-hours loads should also be made in design stage models. Where a number of roof mounted photovoltaic panels are present on one of the buildings, a comparison between the energy generation predicted by the design stage model has been compared to measured electricity generation of the panels over a two year period.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Future-Proofed Energy Design Approaches for Achieving Zero-Carbon: Enhancing the Code for Sustainable Homes
Maria Christina Georgiadou *, Theophilus Hacking and Peter Guthrie
Centre for Sustainable Development, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1PX, UK*: Corresponding author, Email: mcg36@cam.ac.uk
Under the label ‘future-proofing’, this paper examines the temporal component of sustainable construction as an unexplored, yet fundamental ingredient in the delivery of low-energy homes. In the UK, future-proofing is theoretically part of current environmental legislation, standards and policy mechanisms for achieving zero-carbon homes. Planners and property developers have also to deal with an increasingly stringent regulatory framework in conjunction with climate change, especially in the context of zero-carbon homes from 2016 onwards. Based on a pre-developed conceptual model, the paper seeks to explore the integration of future-proofed design approaches into current leading design practice in the UK. As regulation has been the most significant driver on the low-carbon housing agenda and given that the construction industry has a low receptiveness to long-term thinking, policy mechanisms are considered the best available means to incentivise integration into mainstream design practice. To better reveal this gap between the need for future-proofing and the lack of effective implementation by building professionals, the study focuses on the example of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH), as the best platform for this practical application. Even though this is considered the leading tool to drive the ‘step-change’ required for achieving zero-carbon new homes by 2016 and is the single national standard to encourage energy performance beyond the current regulatory minima, it lacks assessment criteria that explicitly promote a futures perspective. Not all future-proofed design approaches of the conceptual model can be practically integrated into the energy design of new homes. 39 interviews with building industry professionals were conducted to identify the ‘feasible’ and ‘reasonably feasible’ transferable findings to provide useful guidance and promote more widespread future-proofed energy design. The results of a high-level gap analysis reveal eight future-proofed design approaches with the potential to enhance the ‘Energy and CO2 Emissions’ category of the CSH. These include: Demand Side Management strategies; Post-Construction Audit and Post-Occupancy Evaluation; embodied energy and carbon considerations from ‘cradle-to-gate’ and/or ‘cradle-to-grave’; Lifecycle Assessment at building material and construction component scale; design for resilience to overheating; design for internal space flexibility; dynamic building performance evaluation; and stochastic analysis of future overheating risk. The findings seek to transfer knowledge to UK mainstream construction and inform policy-making in relation to building energy performance.
Code for sustainable homes; Energy design; Future-proofing; Policy and practice

Type of Paper: Article
Title: What can we learn from the Household Electricity Survey?
Jason Palmer, Nicola Terry and Daniel Godoy *
Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, 1-5 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1PX, UK
The reasons for high carbon emissions from domestic buildings are complex, and have social and technical dimensions. At the same time, it is costly and very time-consuming to gather reliable data tracking energy use in the home. The authors had privileged access to data from the Household Electricity Survey – the most detailed survey of electricity consumption in UK homes ever undertaken. This survey monitored electricity use in 250 homes – both at the distribution board and at the level of individual appliances. The survey data allowed us to investigate a series of socio-technical questions drawn up by the UK Government: why do some households use far more than average, whereas others use much less? what potential is there for shifting ‘peak load’ so that electricity demand is more even through the day? why is so much electricity used in homes even when householders are asleep? what evidence is there of rebound effects for electrical appliances? The answers were seldom definitive, but statistical tests found significant relationships between high electricity use and social grade, large household size, unemployment and middle age. We also found significant relationships between low electricity use and single-person households, small dwellings, and retirement. This paper draws out key findings from the work, and explains how these insights affect our broader understanding of carbon emissions from the built environment.

Last update: 18 March 2014

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