Strategies to Improve the Energy Performance of Buildings: A Review of Their Life Cycle Impact

Nadia Mirabella, Martin Röck, Marcella Ruschi Mendes Saade, Carolin Spirinckx, Marc BOSMANS, Karen Allacker, Alexander Passer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Globally, the building sector is responsible for more than 40% of energy use and it contributes approximately 30% of the global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. This high contribution stimulates research and policies to reduce the operational energy use and related GHG emissions of buildings. However, the environmental impacts of buildings can extend wide beyond the operational phase, and the portion of impacts related to the embodied energy of the building becomes relatively more important in low energy buildings. Therefore, the goal of the research is gaining insights into the environmental impacts of various building strategies for energy efficiency requirements compared to the life cycle environmental impacts of the whole building. The goal is to detect and investigate existing trade-offs in current approaches and solutions proposed by the research community. A literature review is driven by six fundamental and specific research questions (RQs), and performed based on two main tasks: (i) selection of literature studies, and (ii) critical analysis of the selected studies in line with the RQs. A final sample of 59 papers and 178 case studies has been collected, and key criteria are systematically analysed in a matrix. The study reveals that the high heterogeneity of the case studies makes it difficult to compare these in a straightforward way, but it allows to provide an overview of current methodological challenges and research gaps. Furthermore, the most complete studies provide valuable insights in the environmental benefits of the identified energy performance strategies over the building life cycle, but also shows the risk of burden shifting if only operational energy use is focused on, or when a limited number of environmental impact categories are assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105
Number of pages18
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2018


  • Buildings
  • Life Cycle Impact
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Energy efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems


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