Dense Downtown vs. Suburban Dispersed: A study into the sustainability implications of Urban Develop CTBUH Research

Antony Wood

, Chicago



This research focused on quantitatively investigating and comparing the environmental and social sustainability of people’s lifestyles in terms of embodied energy, operational energy use, and overall satisfaction with their quality of life in both downtown high-rise and suburban low-rise living using Chicago, IL and a surrounding suburban area of Oak Park, IL as a case study. Specifically, in both cases, the study evaluated factors such as the embodied energy of the materials that comprise buildings in each location; the predicted and actual monthly energy consumption of the homes; travel via all modes of transport including automobile, public transport, walking, and biking; and the embodied and operational energy of the infrastructure to support each mode of transportation. In addition, this research also engaged with the individual building occupants, including single individuals, couples, and families, in a large subset of downtown and suburban Chicago households to directly evaluate perceptions of their life satisfaction and sense of community, which offered a unique direct comparison between dense high-rise and suburban low-rise living.

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