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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban form and building energy : quantifying relationships using a multi-scale approach Miller, Nicole


Cities and energy are fundamentally connected. Approximately half of the energy consumed in urban areas is used by buildings, resulting in over 35% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Urban form (i.e. building morphology and urban structure) plays an important role in building energy; however, few studies have addressed this role in a comprehensive and quantitative way due to the complexities involved in modeling urban systems. This study provides a multi-scale examination of the relationships between urban form and building energy, using the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada as an example. The thesis applies consistent methods of 3D and energy simulation modeling at three scales, ranging from individual buildings to urban patterns (i.e. neighbourhood-scale). Quantified impacts of urban form on building heating demand, cooling demand and local energy generation potential are presented. In total, 12 building archetypes and 14 urban patterns are modeled, ranging in density from 0.3 to 2.3 FAR (10 to 250 uph). Each pattern varies in building form, building arrangement, street configuration and mix of building activities. The results illustrate that building morphology and urban structure do influence building energy demand and local energy generation potential; however, the complexity and heterogeneity of urban form at larger scales is found to abate net impacts as “tradeoffs” occur between the energy-reducing and energy-increasing effects of urban form characteristics. For example, while the heating and cooling demand of individual buildings can vary significantly (30%-70%) with urban horizon angle (an indicator of shading from adjacent buildings), the net impact modeled at the urban pattern scale is far less (as little as 5%). The results suggest that urban form will be one of many tools needed to mitigate current energy consumption and GHG emission levels, and synergies between urban form, building systems and materials, and occupant behaviour should be sought. Findings from this thesis will inform the work of local governments and urban planners with interest in building energy at scales larger than individual buildings.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International