Last edited 07 Mar 2022


Cradle-to-grave is: ‘A boundary condition associated with embodied carbon, carbon footprint and LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) studies. It includes the cradle to site results but also includes the GHG (GreenHouse Gas) emissions associated with the in use of the material or product (maintenance) and the end of life (disposal, reuse, recycling).’ Ref:

It is an approach to defining the boundaries of an embodied energy assessment which involves measuring or estimating the total energy consumed in through the entire life-cycle of a product (such as a building, or its individual components). This may include gas energy, electricity, oil, and so on, but can also include features that may not be as easy to quantify, such as water use and ecological impact.

The boundaries of the assessment in terms of ‘cradle-to-grave’ extend from the extraction of the resources required to create the product (‘cradle’) through its use phase, to its ultimate disposal (‘grave’) - in other words the total amount of embodied energy that the productconsumes’ during its full life cycle.

A cradle-to-grave assessment can help develop a holistic view of a project and its embodied energy, but it can be difficult to estimate accurately.

Embodied energy consumption can be divided into the following categories:

It is important to note that a cradle-to-grave assessment of embodied energy excludes the energy required to actually operate the product, such as the energy required to heat, cool, light or power a building.

Other boundaries used for the assessment of embodied energy include ‘cradle-to-gate’, and ‘cradle-to-cradle.’

NB Embodied Carbon: Developing a Client Brief, published by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) in March 2017, suggests a cradle-to-grave boundary is: ‘an LCA (life cycle assessment) system boundary term which combines all emissions up to and including the end of life scenarios. It will include demolition emissions but the calculation will change depending on what happens at the end of life.’ Where an LCA boundary (or system boundary): ‘…determines which processes (are) to be included in the LCA study.’

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