Getting Building Height Right for the Climate

Published by GTM: Skyscrapers use and lose more energy than low-rise buildings, research shows. Can smarter design and technology change that? It may seem obvious that cities filled with big buildings use energy more efficiently than dispersed suburban landscapes, and that newer, taller buildings are more energy-efficient than older, squatter structures. But now some climate-minded architects and engineers are questioning that orthodoxy. It’s starting to look like there might even be a sweet spot for building height. “There are [many]…ways to prevent emissions when you retrofit a tall building,” said Cathy Higgins, research director with the New Buildings Institute in Portland, Oregon. Besides the obvious — LED lights and heat-pump-based heating and cooling — she cited heat-pump water heaters and ice chilling.

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