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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards carbon neutrality : possibilities for North America’s suburban residential developments Miller, Nicole Marie


The objective of the thesis Towards Carbon Neutrality: Possibilities for North America’s Suburban Residential Developments is to develop a process by which an existing suburban residential development can be analysed for its potential to accept retrofit strategies towards the goal of meeting challenging sustainability targets. As a vehicle for this investigation, the thesis examines a representative residential subdivision and its ability to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, proposing that more demanding, sustainability-based goals like emissions mitigation are attainable in contemporary suburban developments. Following a review of suburban history and values and an examination of current building and community design strategies which affect energy consumption and emissions, the thesis assesses the existing conditions of the selected neighbourhood, a residential development in the Fleetwood district of Surrey, British Columbia, and describes both its physical qualities and its various contributions to carbon emissions in order to create a baseline for the study. The thesis then concentrates on developing a range of targets, "solution spaces," and scenarios in order to fully depict the design possibilities available to a given development. By working with a scenario-based approach, the thesis provides a platform for the discussion of multiple strategies and a range of emission reduction goals. As a basis for scenario development, the thesis recognises and addresses two commonly cited "barriers" to residential retrofit projects: multiple, private owners and a resistance to change in many existing suburban communities. The development of four different retrofit scenarios supports the conclusion that the study area and developments like it have the capacity to mitigate a substantial portion of their per capita greenhouse gas emissions through neighbourhood retrofits under a variety of contexts and suggests that other sustainability targets could also be successfully achieved in existing suburban conditions. The method of analysis and scenario-building described by the thesis has additional value as a useful and replicable strategy for target setting and sustainability planning in a community setting.

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