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Is building tall really best? Researchers dispel the myth of climate-friendly skyscrapers

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18.08.2021

In a world of sprawling growth and exurban development, urban planners and environmentalists typically praise dense downtowns—full of people and skyscrapers—as models of efficiency and sustainability. More people on a smaller piece of land wastes less space, reduces the energy needed for transportation, and centralizes the provision of goods and services. Overall, it makes for a more environmentally friendly way to live.

But taller and denser isn’t necessarily better for the environment, according to a new study published in the journal npj Urban Sustainability. By studying the full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of urban development—from the production and transportation of the building materials to the energy required to use and live in buildings over time—an international team of researchers has found that high-rise cities are actually producing more total emissions than shorter, but still dense, urban areas.

[Image: Courtesy of Pomponi, F., Saint, R., Arehart, J.H. et al./NPJ Urban Sustainability/ CC BY 4.0]Taking into account the full lifecycle emissions of urban development, the study finds that high-density low-rise cities are more environmentally friendly than high density high-rise cities. (They’re both still better than........

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