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Dr Alice Moncaster MA (Cantab) MSc PhD CEng MICE

Dr Alice  Moncaster, MA (Cantab) MSc PhD CEng MICE

Director, IDBE Masters Course, Departments of Engineering and Architecture

Fellow, College Lecturer and Director of Studies in Engineering, Newnham College

Office Phone: 01223 332976


Alice Moncaster is currently Director of the IDBE post-graduate Masters course at the Departments of Engineering and Architecture.  She is a chartered engineer who has worked for ten years in industry as a geotechnical and building structures design engineer.  Her research on sustainable construction crosses the boundaries between academia and practice, and incorporates the fields of engineering, architecture and the social sciences.  She is particularly fascinated by the 'wicked' socio-technical nature of reducing carbon emissions from the built environment.

A current main strand of research focuses on understanding and reducing the embodied carbon of buildings.  Alice is the invited UK representative on the International Energy Agency Annex 57 on “Evaluation of Embodied Energy and Carbon Dioxide Emissions for Building Construction”, a three year (2012-2015)  multi-national project led by Japan.  This builds on her work at the Centre for Sustainable Development from 2010-2012, for which Alice won £180k EPSRC funding (as part of a £1.1m industry-academia consortium) to develop a whole life embodied energy and carbon tool. 

Overlapping her research appointment at Cambridge, Alice was funded by the EPSRC to study for her PhD at the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA.  This interdisciplinary research traced decisions and interpretations of sustainability through policies, procurement, design and construction of four school buildings.  The carbon emissions were calculated, and social power theory used to analyse the decisions which had led in three cases to higher, not lower, emissions.

From 2008-2010 Alice worked at the Centre for Sustainable Development on ISSUES, within the EPSRC Sustainable Urban Environments programme, comparing the 'pipeline' dissemination model with the co-production of knowledge between academia and industry.  Other recent research projects include: the TSB-funded Design for Future Climates; and Carbon Costs of Retrofit, a South Cambs District Council funded project.  In the 1990s Alice was employed at the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre at Bristol University investigating soil-structure interaction under shear loading as part of the early development of Eurocode 8.

Alice is currently supervising postgraduate doctoral and masters theses on the following topics: The social value of economic infrastructure: case studies of flood defence schemesUK Planning: an examination of the apparent conflict between energy efficient retrofit and conservation and heritage;  Delivery mechanisms for emissions reductions in social housing stockIncorporating embodied carbon into the design process - comparing BIM, LCA and BREEAM;   Climate change induced overheating in existing primary school buildings;   Properties of unfired clay for use in low cost housing in S America;  Investigating the carbon cost of building resilience to climate change.

Alice is a Fellow, College Lecturer and Director of Studies for undergraduate engineers at Newnham College where she supervises in structural mechanics, and an Associate of Cambridge Architectural Research Limited ( She lives in Cambridge with her family and has designed her own low-carbon two-storey extension made from timber, lime and recycled materials.

Research Interests

  • Calculating whole life carbon and energy of buildings
  • Socio-political impacts on decisions for sustainable construction

  • Energy-efficient retrofit and adaptation for future climates
  • Timber and low carbon materials
  • Adaptation of Science and Technology Studies for the built environment


Key Publications

  • Moncaster A M and Symons K E (2013): A method and tool for 'cradle to grave' embodied carbon and energy in compliance with the new TC350 standards, Energy and Buildings, 66:11, pp514-523, Available at

  • Friedman, K, Moncaster A M and Guthrie, PM  Planning hindrance of energy retrofits (forthcoming in special issue of Building Research and Information on Energy renovations of owner-occupied homes )
  • Moncaster A M, Soulti E, Mubarak G and Symons K E  (2013) Retrofitting solid wall buildings: energy and carbon costs and savings, Proceedings of SB13 Graz, 25-28 Sept, Graz, Austria
  • Symons K E, Moncaster A M and Symons D, (2013) An Application of the CEN/TC350 standards to an Energy and Carbon LCA of timber used in construction, and the effect of end-of-life scenarios,  Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society (ALCAS) conference, 15–18 July, Sydney, Australia
  • Moncaster A M (2013)  The impact of procurement processes on the sustainability of school buildings, Proceedings of SB13 Munich, 24-26 April, Munich, Germany
  • Moncaster A M and Song J-Y. (2012): A comparative review of existing data and methodologies for calculating embodied energy and carbon of buildings, International Journal of Sustainable Building Technology and Urban Development, 3:1, pp 26-36  Awarded 'Best paper of the year' for the journal in 2012
  • Sahagun D. and Moncaster A. M. (2012): How much do we spend to save? Calculating the embodied carbon costs of retrofit, Retrofit 2012 Conference, 24-26 January 2012, University of Salford, UK
  • Moncaster A. M., Cheng, V., Littlewood, E. and Muscat, D. (2012): Designing climate resilient schools: St Faith's School, Cambridge, Conference on Urban Sustainability and Resilience, 5-6 November 2012, UCL, London, UK
  • Moncaster A. M. and Song J-Y. (2011): A comparative review of existing data and methodologies for calculating embodied energy and carbon of buildings, World Sustainable Building Conference SB11, 18-21 October 2011, Helsinki, Finland
  • Moncaster A. M., Hinds D., Cruickshank H., Guthrie P. M., Crishna N., Baker K., Beckmann K. and Jowitt P. W. (2010): Knowledge exchange between academia and industry, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Engineering Sustainability 163 ES3, pp 167–174