Chinese Policy Implications of Urban Form Energy Studies

While much attention on reducing carbon emission has been paid to alternative fuels and electric vehicles, better urban design is an important yet overlooked opportunity. The urban form of cities can play a substantial role in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. First, energy consumption for transportation drops when urban form gets more compact and dense.

Second, the size, configuration and orientation of urban blocks also influences the consumption of building energy, which is a significant share in overall energy use. Moreover, the shape and orientation of urban blocks can help optimize solar exposure, reducing residential energy needs for heating. Fortunately, governments are well able to shape the design of our cities through policy and regulations. Arguably the greatest opportunity to positively shape urban planning policy today lies in China.

This study has two objectives: 

  • To investigate the Chinese policy implications of urban form in energy consumption.
  • To inform and encourage policy makers to include energy performance standards in regulations for urban form.

Stefan Al

Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University
Stefan Al is an architect, urban designer, urban planner, scholar, educator, and author. He was previously an associate professor at teh Weitzman School of Design.