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Buildings 2015, 5(3), 1003-1024; doi:10.3390/buildings5031003

Life-Cycle Energy Implications of Downtown High-Rise vs. Suburban Low-Rise Living: An Overview and Quantitative Case Study for Chicago

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat/College of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3360 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60616, USA
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3201 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60616, USA
College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Kheir Al-Kodmany
Received: 30 June 2015 / Accepted: 25 August 2015 / Published: 7 September 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Eco-Towers: Technology, Sustainability, and Resilience)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1678 KB, uploaded 7 September 2015]   |  


It is commonly accepted that the concentration of people in high-density urban city centers, which are typically dominated by medium- and high-rise buildings located close to public transit systems, offers greater overall energy efficiency and lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than lower-density expanded suburbs, which are dominated by low-rise single-family buildings and larger per-person automobile travel requirements. However, few studies have combined quantitative analyses of the life-cycle energy use of both buildings and transportation in both urban and suburban areas, especially in American cities. This work uses a variety of data sources to provide a quantitative comparison of the life-cycle energy consumption associated with residential life (including buildings, transportation, and supporting infrastructure) in prototypical downtown high-rises and suburban low-rises in and around Chicago, IL. We estimate that downtown high-rise living in Chicago, IL accounts for approximately 25% more life-cycle energy per person per year than suburban low-rise living, on average, contrary to some common beliefs (best estimates were ~141 and ~113 GJ/person/year, respectively). Building operational energy use was found to be the largest contributor of the total life-cycle energy in both the downtown high-rise and suburban low-rise cases, followed by vehicle operational energy. View Full-Text
Keywords: life cycle assessment (LCA); high-rise; energy; embodied energy; infrastructure; Chicago life cycle assessment (LCA); high-rise; energy; embodied energy; infrastructure; Chicago

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Du, P.; Wood, A.; Stephens, B.; Song, X. Life-Cycle Energy Implications of Downtown High-Rise vs. Suburban Low-Rise Living: An Overview and Quantitative Case Study for Chicago. Buildings 2015, 5, 1003-1024.

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