Theses Master's

Guidance for Calculating Embodied Carbon Emissions from Structural Interventions for Existing and Historic Buildings

Phetteplace, Eleanor

This research investigates the embodied carbon emissions resulting from the structural intervention in historic and existing building reuse by analyzing New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut case studies. Historic buildings require structural intervention for various reasons, such as maintenance, repair, restoration, and reuse. Intervention design approaches are often based on numerous considerations, such as cost, constructability, and minimized intervention, though fail to consider the carbon implications of structural intervention despite the imperative to reduce carbon emissions. Preservationists must seek to better understand environmental contributions and change practices and standards to positively impact the decarbonization of the built sector.

Through the exploration of case studies, this research compares carbon assessment methods to develop guidance for practitioners and provide recommendations for future work in this study area. This research uses two methods to estimate embodied carbon emissions: (1) the CARE Tool, a free online early design consideration tool that estimates and compares embodied, operating, and avoided carbon impacts, and (2) The Structural Carbon Tool manual calculation tool developed by Institution of Structural Engineers (UK).

These methods are applied to four selected case studies in New England and New York to compare and assess methodologies to inform and encourage implementation of carbon estimation in typical design practice. This research found that the CARE Tool, while providing directionally correct outputs, produced over estimations for embodied carbon emission of structural interventions of existing buildings. Further, current industry focus on new construction skews what is considered significant in industry, academia, and practice, relating to embodied carbon, thus, it is essential that embodied carbon accounting for existing building interventions be further researched. Methods of accounting must be harmonized across the built sector and new policy and regulations related to embodied carbon must be put in place to change industry standard practices.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2026-06-01.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Michiels, Tim L.G.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 29, 2024