City Form: Buildings Typology
In many cities, there are relatively few BIG buildings that use a lot of energy, and a large number of SMALL buildings that each use small amounts of energy. The few BIG buildings and many SMALL buildings are each responsible for about half of city-wide building sector energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
This is how we visualize cities, as dense urban areas with BIG buildings:
But in reality, the city is a complex web of a relatively few BIG buildings and many, many SMALL buildings:
Also, in many cities, the relatively few BIG buildings are responsible for about half or more of citywide building sector greenhouse gas emissions. For example:
- New York City, NY: Less than 2% of buildings are over 50,000 square feet and produce 48% of total building sector greenhouse gas emissions.
- Long Beach, CA: 1% of buildings are over 10,000 square feet, and produce 40% of total building sector greenhouse gas emissions.
- Seattle, WA: 3% of buildings are over 20,000 square feet, and produce 45% of total building sector emissions.
- Minneapolis, MN: 2.5% of buildings are over 20,000 square feet, and produce 59% of total building sector greenhouse gas emissions.
Consequently, impactful policies should be implemented that address BIG BUILDINGS and SMALL BUILDINGS differently.
Achieving zero emissions from the existing building stock will require accelerating the rate and depth of energy upgrades by implementing policies that leverage building intervention points.
Building energy upgrades include:
- improvements in the energy efficiency of building operations,
- a shift to electric or district heating systems powered by carbon-free renewable energy sources, and
- the generation and/or procurement of carbon-free renewable energy.
Building intervention points occur at:
- building point-of-sale
- major renovations
- building systems, materials and equipment replacements
- capital improvement cycles
- zoning or use changes
- life-safety and resiliency upgrades (e.g. seismic, flooding, fire prevention, power disruption)
Energy upgrade policies that allow ample time for required upgrades to align with market-driven intervention points will help mitigate the cost barriers and disruption associated with any additional construction.
Energy upgrade policies will also catalyze an expanded market for building renovations and carbon-free renewable energy generation that will stimulate a sustained increase in local jobs, market growth, and tax revenue.