In 2015, the UN conference on climate change in Paris finished with a revolutionary agreement. For first time in human history, 195 nations, including China and those belonging to the G8, have committed to actively combat climate change by drastically reducing their carbon footprint. The event has changed the agenda of many nations in relation to investment in clean technology and energy efficiency.
Cities are facing rapid population growth while land resources are limited. Trying to accommodate more inhabitants, new city districts generally feature mixed-use development projects, diverse building typologies and functions, as well as a strong identity and socioeconomic network. Simultaneously, they often lack environmental and livability qualities, like comfortable buildings and open spaces, and access to efficient and low-carbon energy infrastructure. On the other hand, planned high-density districts are often divided into separate mono-functional zones, which lack urban typologies that generate socioeconomic interaction as much as systemic synergies like those observed in community-wise schemes for energy generation (i.e. district heating and cooling, and smart grids).
Planning for high internal (in buildings) and external comfort (in open spaces), access to low-carbon technology and exploitation of systemic synergies in these settlements requires a multi-scale and holistic approach to energy systems integration. In this approach, the interactions between urban and energy systems design practices are progressively explored from the building to the district scale.
Previous research (see publications) has indicated the high leverage that energy efficiency integrated into urban design practices might bring for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Conversely, it has indicated the high uncertainty that this practice brings when planning for long time horizons without addressing emergent behavior.
Coupling urban design, building systems and process engineering expertise, will give planners the opportunity to harness even larger potentials for increased sustainability, and decrease uncertainty. The CEA team is committed to identify crucial interactions between the district and the building scale.
The transfer and application of our findings in real-world cases allows important questions of feasibility and economics to be addressed and synergies to be leveraged. In order to support this knowledge transfer of research into application, we aim to develop a fast, low-barrier yet suitably detailed tool.