Finding a balance between operational energy, embedded carbon, embedded plastic


Carbon zero targets are often presented in relation to operational energy. Design solutions to achieve these goals alone can, in many instances, result in increased embodied carbon and embodied plastic content and can reduce opportunities for material re-use. This is particularly notable in the construction industry, where solutions to reducing energy demand often include a significantly increase in the use of complex polymer insulations and air tightness tapes.

In 2019, Dr Abrahams co-founded Changing Streams CIC with the intention of tacking this issue and finding balanced solutions to carbon zero targets which takes account of operational energy / carbon, embodied carbon, embodied plastic and material re-use.

This project will build on this focus through the following aims:

  1. To better understand how such balances are and might be formed in the construction industry, what the trade-offs are and how this may vary for different kinds of problem/solution.
  2. To consider how and where these lessons may be transferred into other sectors.
  3. To identify mechanisms that could be put in place to better understand and monitor this balance and to establish a cross sector approach to zero carbon, plastic reduction measures and material re-use.


Case study method based on real-world design and construction projects undertaken by Peel L&P. These case studies will be used to audit and track the amount of operational carbon, embodied carbon and embodied plastic in live projects. Methods of data collection and analysis:

  • Analysis of design documents (building plans and details) NBS specification, Bill of Quantities
  • Energy modelling through software such as PhPP10
  • On site monitoring
  • Interviews with design, construction and client teams
  • Interviews with key members of Unilever


PhD will be undertaken as a PhD by publication. Target of 3-5 peer reviewed paper publications.

Industry focused report to be open access through Changing Streams CIC website and presented as You Tube presentations for wide dissemination.


When applying please ensure you quote the supervisors & project title you wish to apply for and note ‘Cleaner Futures EPSRC Prosperity Partnership’ when asked for details of how you plan to finance your studies (‘Other Information – Finance and Publicity’ section of the online application form). 

If you have any questions regarding the online application process, please refer to the "How to apply for a PhD programme" webpage.