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Open AccessArticle

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

1
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat/College of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3360 South State Street, Chicago, IL 60616, USA
2
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3201 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60616, USA
3
College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Kheir Al-Kodmany
Buildings 2015, 5(3), 1003-1024; https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings5031003
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)
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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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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