High-Rise Buildings Use More Energy, Release More CO2

Electricity use, per square meter of floor area, is nearly two and a half times greater in high-rise office buildings of 20 or more stories than in low-rise buildings of six stories or less.

University College London’s Energy Institute released these findings in a new study, which also found gas use increases with height, by around 40%. As a result, total carbon emissions from gas and electricity from high-rise buildings are twice as high as in low-rise.

Phys.org reports that the project, “High-Rise Buildings: Energy and Density,” analyzed data from 610 office buildings in the UK.

Professor Philip Steadman of the UCL School of Energy, Environment and Resources said, “We suspect that the reasons for our findings are connected with the physical and meteorological consequences of building higher. Air temperature decreases with height, and average wind speed increases. Taller buildings that stand up above their neighbors are more exposed to these strong winds, as well as to more hours of direct sun. Thus, energy use for heating and cooling would both be increased. But these hypotheses have yet to be tested.”

Some new-build high-rise buildings have become more energy efficient in recent years, however. In 2015, Cornell University began construction on a Cornell Tech campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island that included a Passive-House, high-rise dorm building. The Passive-House designation is set by Germany’s Passive House Institute and is only bestowed on super-energy efficient buildings.

Further, two recently released studies anticipate significant growth in the worldwide smart building market. Zion Research says that the market will reach $36 billion by 2020. The study says that the market was only valued at $7 billion in 2014. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will be a bit more than 30 percent between 2015 and 2020.

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3 thoughts on “High-Rise Buildings Use More Energy, Release More CO2

  1. You say that new high-rise buildings have become more efficient. Our study shows exactly the opposite. The most energy-intensive offices in the UK are those built in the last twenty years

    • Thanks for your comment, Philip. I have adjusted the sentence in question to reflect was originally meant.

  2. I would suspect that inefficient management (simply turning systems on and letting them run), lack of tenant controls and split incentives (which reduce desire / ability to conserve energy) also contribute.

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