Evaluating the sustainability impact of improved building insulation: A case study in the Dubai residential built environment

Kambiz Rakhshanbabanari, Wilhelm Alexander Friess, Sahand Tajerzadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental sustainability considerations are slowly being integrated into governing criteria and regulations in industrial and urban development worldwide. A “cradle to grave” analysis increases understanding the implications of specific design options in the context of creating an environmentally sustainable product, however in commercial real estate the focus is generally on reducing cost, while long term operational and end-of-service considerations remain on a second plane of importance. The balance between initial costs and operational costs (environmental, economic and energetic) is directly reflected in the building energy use which, while requiring a higher initial investment, constitutes the principal driver in reducing the carbon footprint of the dwelling. But constructive measures that decrease operational energy use and thus also decrease operational greenhouse gas emissions require the use of more insulation materials. The embodied energy and GHG emissions associated with the full lifecycle of these additional materials needs to be included in the overall sustainability balance sheet of the development. This study shows that, in the particular case of the residential built environment of Dubai and the prevailing local electric power source generation mechanisms, the environmental sustainability cost of adding the insulation levels required to significantly mitigate transmission losses is small in comparison to the operational GHG emissions saved by their application. However, and in part due to typically short building lifetime and lack of comprehensive waste management strategies, the overall impact of using these materials within the full lifecycle of the Dubai built environment requires special consideration to end of service treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-110
Number of pages6
JournalBuilding and Environment
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental sustainability
  • Sustainable building
  • Embodied CO2
  • LCA


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