Glossary of terms used

Circular Economy

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.

Embodied carbon 

Embodied carbon refers to carbon emissions associated with producing materials and building construction. It’s estimated from the energy used to extract and transport raw materials as well as emissions from manufacturing processes. The embodied carbon of a building can include all the emissions from the construction materials, the building process, all the fixtures and fittings inside as well as from deconstructing and disposing of it at the end of its lifetime.

Material bank 

Material banks are repositories or stockpiles of valuable materials that might be recovered. If those materials replace primary resources used during the construction, the need for primary resource mining, for example, of rare earth elements, can be reduced or eliminated.

Material passport 

Materials passports are electronic data sets that collect characteristics of materials and assemblies, enabling suppliers, designers and users to re-use them at their highest value in a circular supply chain. The availability and relevance of this data, in particular of the use history and reuse potential of a component, facilitates reuse, recycling and biodegradation of that component.

Net Zero 

The term net zero means achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed. In a building context, it means a building’s whole life carbon must be zero through either on-site or off-site means. 

Operational carbon emissions 

refers to the emissions associated with energy used to operate the building, including heating, hot water, cooling, ventilation, lighting systems, equipment and lifts. 

Pre-demolition Audit 

A pre-demolition audit is a survey carried out by qualified personnel to determine the quantity of material in a building before its demolition or deconstruction. It helps to identify materials within the building that could be reused or repurposed.


Retrofit refers to any improvement work on an existing building to improve its energy efficiency, making them easier to heat, able to retain that heat for longer, and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Whole house retrofit 

Whole house retrofit describes the “whole house” methodology of approaching retrofit to a domestic property whereby upgrades are done in tandem or in a staged manner; thinking holistically about the upgrades to fabric and building systems (e.g. heat pumps) to avoid any unintended consequences.

Whole Life Carbon 

The combined total of embodied and operational emissions over the whole life cycle of a building. The whole life cycle of a building is the entire life of a building from material sourcing, manufacture, construction, use over a given period, demolition and disposal, including transport emissions and waste disposal.