What really matters in multi-storey building design? A simultaneous sensitivity study of embodied carbon, construction cost, and operational energy

Hannes Gauch, C. F. Dunant, Will Hawkins, André Cabrera Serrenho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Buildings account for over one-third of global emissions and energy use. Meeting climate pledges will require achieving high operational energy efficiency with low embodied impacts in new construction. Yet, a systematic identification of the relative influence of building design parameters on both operational and embodied efficiencies has rarely been attempted. In this paper we explore for the first time the sensitivity of a wide range of design and operation parameters in terms of embodied carbon, construction cost, as well as heating and cooling loads for multi-storey buildings. We devised a model to estimate the relative importance of a large set of input variables, describing a building’s shape, size, layout, structure, ventilation, windows, insulation, air, and use for residential and office multi-storey buildings, across different climates. We found that increasing building compactness, using steel or timber instead of concrete frames, lowering window-to-wall ratio, choosing the most suitable glazing, and employing mechanical ventilation with heat recovery are the most important measures to decrease embodied emissions and operational energy. The most significant trade-offs with construction cost were found for the choice of frame material and in the decision whether to install mechanical ventilation. We estimate that 28–44% of yearly heating and cooling energy and 6 Gt cumulative embodied CO2e until 2050 could be saved in multi-storey buildings, without employing new technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120585
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Energy
Volume333
Early online date12 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by EPSRC programme grant ’UK FIRES' — ref. EP/ S019111/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Building and Construction

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