Sustainable water management in construction: life-cycle embodied water assessment of residential buildings

Abdul Rauf, Muhammad Tariq Shafiq, Malik Mansoor Ali Khalfan, Irfan Ulhaq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study aims to enhance our understanding of sustainable water management in construction through a life-cycle embodied water assessment of a villa in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It provides insights and recommendations for improving the water efficiency by identifying areas for potential embodied water saving and reduction in environmental impacts in the construction industry. Design/methodology/approach: This study uses a life-cycle assessment (LCA) approach and focuses on a UAE villa as a case study. It analyses the embodied water consumption during construction (initial embodied water) and maintenance (recurrent embodied water) using an input–output-based hybrid analysis. Additionally, it compares the embodied water observations with the operational water usage and comprehensively evaluates the water consumption in the villa’s life-cycle. Findings: The initial (28%) and recurrent embodied water (42%) represent significant proportions of a building’s life-cycle water demand. The structural elements, predominantly concrete and steel, contribute 40% of the initial embodied water consumption. This emphasises the importance of minimising the water usage in these materials. Similarly, internal finishes account for 47% of the recurrent embodied water. This emphasises the importance of evaluating the material service life. Practical implications: These findings indicate the efficacy of using durable materials with low embodiment and water-efficient construction methods. Additionally, collaborative research between academia, industry, and the government is recommended in conjunction with advocating for policies promoting low embodied-water materials and transparency in the construction sector through embodied water footprint reporting. Originality/value: Previous studies focused on the operational water and marginally addressed the initial embodied water. Meanwhile, this study highlights the significance of the initial and recurrent embodied water in the life-cycle water demand. It emphasises on the need for adaptable buildings with reduced embodied water and more durable materials to minimise the requirement for frequent material replacements.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBuilt Environment Project and Asset Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Construction
  • Embodied water
  • Materials
  • Residential buildings
  • Service life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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