Decoupling density from tallness in analysing the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of cities

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Arehart, Jay H 
Gharavi, Niaz 
D’Amico, Bernardino  ORCID logo

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThe UN estimate 2.5 billion new urban residents by 2050, thus further increasing global greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and energy demand, and the environmental impacts caused by the built environment. Achieving optimal use of space and maximal efficiency in buildings is therefore fundamental for sustainable urbanisation. There is a growing belief that building taller and denser is better. However, urban environmental design often neglects life cycle GHG emissions. Here we offer a method that decouples density and tallness in urban environments and allows each to be analysed individually. We test this method on case studies of real neighbourhoods and show that taller urban environments significantly increase life cycle GHG emissions (+154%) and low-density urban environments significantly increase land use (+142%). However, increasing urban density without increasing urban height reduces life cycle GHG emissions while maximising the population capacity. These results contend the claim that building taller is the most efficient way to meet growing demand for urban space and instead show that denser urban environments do not significantly increase life cycle GHG emissions and require less land.</jats:p>


Funder: JA also gratefully acknowledges the financial support for his time from the Temple Hoyne Buell Architectural Fellowship.

33 Built Environment and Design, 3301 Architecture, 3304 Urban and Regional Planning, 13 Climate Action, 15 Life on Land
Journal Title
npj Urban Sustainability
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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Edinburgh Napier University (N5088)
RCUK | Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (EP/R01468X/1)
Royal Academy of Engineering (IAPP18-19\215)