The graphs above suggest an ‘optimum’ at around 4-6 stories, although we frequently build taller in city centres, and often with good reason. Transport makes up about one-third of an average person’s carbon footprint, and for less urban sites it can dwarf the operational and embodied carbon. Building more densely where there are good transport connections and low car usage clearly makes environmental sense and has long been the norm for planning policy.
However, that brings us back to the point that density and height are not the same thing. The research summarised here should reinforce our view that whilst high density will often be a key aspiration for any urban masterplan, our starting point should ideally be to deliver that density in as low-rise a scheme as possible. In that way, we improve our chances of achieving net zero carbon within the buildings, when they are delivered.
1. Unity Place\, 100% social housing for Brent Council
2. Graphs showing the relationship between height and embodied and operational carbon
3. Massing diagram for Gallions and Great Easter Quays Developments. Medium Rise\, high density housing
4. South Kilburn Estate regeneration masterplan.