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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Ruel Brathwaite

The Embodied Water within the Construction of a UK Sustainable Home

The UK, already leading the way in climate change remediation, has committed further to reducing CO2 levels by 26% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, down from 1990 levels. Having identified buildings as one of the major contributors to the CO2 emissions in the country, the Government of the UK has proposed the construction of a number of Eco-towns at specified sites in England, and the Code for Sustainable Homes, as the guideline for future sustainable home building. This paper evaluates the significance of the water embodied within the construction of materials and the construction processes the Kingspan Offsite Lighthouse, the UK’s first zero carbon home. The aim of this research paper is to calculate the embodied water within the construction of a sustainable home and compare this value to the operation water used over the lifetime of the building. It also shows an elemental and material breakdown to highlight the most water intensive material and the most water intensive building element. 


A method calculation known as Materials Input per Service Unit (MIPS) was used to calculate the embodied water within the Kingspan Offsite Lighthouse. It was shown that the operational water used within the home was a factor of four times greater than that calculated for the total embodied water. 818KL compared to 3504KL of water. It also reinforced McCormack’s findings to show that steel was the most water intensive material, accounting for 67% of the total embodied water per square meter of the building’s life. Although this was true, urethane accounted for twice as much of the total embodied water as that of steel and this was down to the sheer amount of urethane present within the building. In terms of the elemental breakdown, the foundation was found to be the most water intensive, and this was due to that fact that 96% of the steel used was situated in the foundation. 


The embodied water figure calculated shows that this water is a significant amount and should be addressed by the Government and included in BRE Environmental profiling, if it’s not already considered.