American Society of Civil Engineers


Comparing High and Low Residential Density: Life-Cycle Analysis of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions


by Jonathan Norman, (corresponding author), (Grad. Student, Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of Toronto, 35 St. George St., Ontario, Canada M5S 1A4 E-mail: jon.norman@utoronto.ca), Heather L. MacLean, M.ASCE, (Asst. Prof., Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of Toronto, 35 St. George St., Ontario, Canada M5S 1A4. E-mail: hmaclean@ecf.utoronto,ca), and Christopher A. Kennedy, (Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of Toronto, 35 St. George St., Ontario, Canada M5S 1A4. E-mail: christopher.kennedy@utoronto.ca)

Journal of Urban Planning and Development, Vol. 132, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 10-21, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9488(2006)132:1(10))

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: This study provides an empirical assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with high and low residential development. Three major elements of urban development are considered: construction materials for infrastructure (including residential dwellings, utilities, and roads), building operations, and transportation (private automobiles and public transit). Two case studies from the City of Toronto are analyzed. An economic input–output life-cycle assessment (EIO-LCA) model is applied to estimate the energy use and GHG emissions associated with the manufacture of construction materials for infrastructure. Operational requirements for dwellings and transportation are estimated using nationally and/or regionally averaged data. The results indicate that the most targeted measures to reduce GHG emissions in an urban development context should be aimed at transportation emissions, while the most targeted measures to reduce energy usage should focus on building operations. The results also show that low-density suburban development is more energy and GHG intensive (by a factor of 2.0–2.5) than high-density urban core development on a per capita basis. When the functional unit is changed to a per unit of living space basis the factor decreases to 1.0–1.5, illustrating that the choice of functional unit is highly relevant to a full understanding of urban density effects.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Canada
Emissions
Energy consumption
Residential buildings
Residential location