The mothership - a mixed-use high-density proposal to combat urban sprawl

Date

2019-09-30

Authors

Bowley, Wesley

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Abstract

The built environment is responsible for a large portion of total energy use and emissions. A large portion comes from the buildings themselves, but also the transportation system to move people around. As global populations grow, and more people migrate to cities, it is critically important that new city growth is done in the most sustainable manner possible. The typical North American pattern of urban growth is urban sprawl, characterized by single use type zoning, low density, transportation system dominated by personal vehicles, and poor public transit. Urban sprawl has numerous downsides, including poorer energy efficiency in buildings and infrastructure, more congestion and higher emission from vehicles, as well as many negative health effects. This thesis presents the concept of a Mothership, a large, high-density mixed-use building designed to combat urban sprawl and minimize energy use and emissions of the built environment. A mothership is designed to provide all the amenities and housing of a typical suburb for 10,000 people. The analysis in this thesis employ building simulation tools to model various mothership designs and analyse the operational and embodied energy and carbon emissions for each design, and compare it to base cases of more traditional building use types such as single detached homes, and different types of apartment buildings. The effect of high-performance building envelopes and other building materials on operational and embodied energy and emissions are analysed. A multi objective optimization analysis is performed to determine which technologies and combinations of technologies provide the lowest cost solution to meet the mothership’s energy demands while also minimizing emissions. The mothership’s effect on transportation emissions is also investigated. The building’s mixed-use nature allows trips to be satisfied within walking distance in the building. The high concentration of people makes for a good anchor load for public transportation, so the emissions reductions of implementing a bus rapid transit system from the mothership to the central business district is estimated. To reduce transportation emissions further, the effect of an electric car share fleet for mothership residents use is also quantified. The energy system of a mothership is optimized, along with base cases of single detached homes, under numerous scenarios. These scenarios are designed to explore how the energy system changes in an attempt to answer a series of research questions. Some of the measures explored are a high carbon tax, net metering, and emissions limits of net zero, and negative emissions with two different electrical grid carbon intensities. Results showed that a highly insulated, timber framed mothership can achieve very high reductions in energy use and emissions. Overall it showed reductions of 71%, 73%, and 74% in operational energy, embodied energy and embodied carbon respectively, over a baseline case of single detached homes. It was estimated that transportation emissions could be reduced by 58% through the mixed-use development reducing the number of trips and electrically powered transportation vehicles and bus rapid transit. This gives a combined total emissions reduction of 61%. Energy system optimization showed that the mothership design in achieved far lower costs and emissions (4 and 8.7 times lower respectively) than the base case of single detached homes. Of the mothership cases examined, the most expensive case was the one which had a carbon tax, with an annualized cost of $4.3 million. The case with the lowest annualized cost was one with, among other factors, a net zero carbon emissions restriction (annualized cost of $3.08 million. Many of the cases had negative operating costs due to the sale of renewable energy or carbon credits. This illustrates that the integration of renewable energy technologies is not only beneficial for reducing emissions but can also act as an income pathway for energy systems.

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Keywords

Building Energy Simulation, District Energy, Urban Planning, Energy Systems

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