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The influence of dwelling type and residential density on the appropriated carrying capacity of Canadian households Walker, Lyle Andrew


This thesis compares the "ecological footprints" of Canadian households living in various dwelling types and densities. A household's "ecological footprint" is the land area required to produce the biophysical resources it uses and to assimilate the wastes it generates sustainably. Urban density, measured as the number of persons or dwelling units per unit land area, directly and indirectly influences resource consumption for housing, transportation, and infrastructure. This thesis tests the hypothesis that as density increases the ecological footprint per occupant will decrease. Ecological footprint calculations are conducted for households living in a typical detached house, townhouse, walk-up and high-rise apartment in Canada. Three variations on the detached house are included: a standard efficiency house, an R2000 house, and a house on a small lot. The method links housing characteristics with the consumption of directly occupied land, forest products, and fossil energy. The consumption of forest products and fossil energy are translated into land area equivalents using forest productivity and the C02 assimilation capacity of forests. An occupant of a detached house was estimated to have the largest ecological footprint, at about 1.5 ha. The smallest per occupant ecological footprints were for high-rise and walk-up apartments at about 60 and 64% of the detached house value, followed by the townhouse at 78%. Therefore as density increases, the per occupant ecological footprint declines. Occupants in R2000 and small lot houses have ecological footprints approximately 84% and 92% the size of the standard house respectively. The largest components of the ecological footprints are operating energy for housing and transportation. The dwelling type associated with the largest per occupant ecological footprint, detached houses, form the majority of the existing and newly built housing stock. The main policy implication is that higher densities should be promoted in order to reduce the ecological footprint of housing.

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