skip to main content


Title: Global scenarios of urban density and its impacts on building energy use through 2050

Here, urban areas play a significant role in planetary sustainability. While the scale of impending urbanization is well acknowledged, we have a limited understanding on how urban forms will change and what their impact will be on building energy use. Using both top-down and bottom-up approaches and scenarios, we examine building energy use, specifically, for heating and cooling. We also assess associated cobenefits and trade-offs with human well-being. Globally, the energy use for heating and cooling by midcentury will reach anywhere from about 45 EJ/yr to 59 EJ/yr (respectively, increases of 5% to 40% over the 2010 estimate). Most of this variability is due to the uncertainty in future urban forms of rapidly growing cities in Asia and, particularly, in China. Compact urban development overall leads to less energy use in urban environments. Delaying the retrofit of the existing built environment leads to more savings in building energy use. Potential for savings in the energy use is greatest in China when coupled with efficiency gains. Advanced efficiency makes the least difference compared to the business-as-usual scenario in energy use for heating and cooling in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa but significantly contribute to energy savings in North America and Europe.more » A systemic effort that focuses on both urban form and energy-efficient technologies, but also accounts for potential co-benefits and trade-offs, can contribute to both local and global sustainability. Particularly in mega-urban regions, such efforts can improve local environments for billions of urban residents and contribute to mitigating climate change by reducing energy use in urban areas and associated greenhouse gas emissions.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [4] ;  [5] ;  [6] ;  [7]
  1. Texas A & M Univ., College Station, TX (United States)
  2. Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA (United States)
  3. Central European Univ., Budapest (Hungary)
  4. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
  5. Boise State Univ., Boise, ID (United States)
  6. Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA (United States); Yale Univ., New Haven, CT (United States); Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing (China)
  7. Yale Univ., New Haven, CT (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424; KP1703030
Grant/Contract Number:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 114; Journal Issue: 34; Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC (United States)
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
42 ENGINEERING; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; urbanization; cities; urban form; climate change; mitigation
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1398181