Urban Fabric, Housing Typology and Electric Energy Consumption

One of the fundamental characteristics of contemporary urbanization is that of altering the traditional form of the city. The traditional city, essentially characterized by the features of the physical compactness and functional mixture, has given way to urban settlements which main features are the spread of urbanization and the increasing functional specialization of places.  These trends, which have their origin in metropolitanization processes and territorial integration, have multiple impacts in all areas of society: from land consumption to mobility needs, cost and accessibility of services, spatial segregation of social groups or the location of economic activities. One aspect in which these effects are certainly more important is energy consumption. There is a remarkable abundance of studies on the energy impacts of urban sprawl in the area of mobility and transport. However, not similar attention has been paid to the issue of domestic energy consumption. This is all the more concerning when the trend to urban sprawl not only prevails but in many contexts deepens considerably. In particular, to analyze the sustainability of the urban sprawl processes, it would be helpful to assess in detail the relationship between urban form, residential typology and energy consumption. That is, to study the relationship between the density of the urban fabric, the housing typology (detached housing, semi-detached housing, multi-family housing) and energy consumption for both households and public spaces. The project aims, through collaboration between the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Enel Foundation, to address the issue by following these steps:

a) Identification of different metropolitan contexts with presence of complex urban fabrics.

b) Identification of neighborhoods or groups of households located in different urban fabrics (e.g. compact and dispersed) that are comparable in terms of household composition, income, age, etc..

c) Estimation of the energy consumption and electricity consumption patterns of the various groups.

d) Projection of the changing needs of energy generation and consumption according to the density and typology of the urban development planning already approved. The interest of the results, as far as the forecast of energy needs, the changing patterns of consumption and sustainability of urban development are concerned, are evident.

The research to be performed by the working team of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB onwards) sets out the analysis of the relationship between energy and electricity consumption and various urban typologies with two main goals: First, to study the relationship between, on the one side, energy and electricity consumption – both of households and public lighting- and, on the other, urban fabric and housing typology. To this aim, UAB will develop and implement a method for characterizing and comparing domestic and public energy and electricity consumptions for different housing typologies and urban forms (e.g. compact vs dispersed city). Second, to provide guidelines to utilities and planners about expected consumption patterns and energy costs associated to urban fabric and housing typology. The research also aims to provide planners and land managers with elements to evaluate possible ways of action in order to improve the efficiency of electricity distribution and consumption. Furthermore, this research will provide the utilities with elements for characterizing, understanding, and forecasting the end-use of energy and electricity needs in different socio-geographic urban contexts. In order to achieve these objectives, the research team will firstly identify a number of urban areas in different cities of Europe characterized by a diversity of patterns in urban fabric, housing typology, and energy consumption. After the identification and classification of the areas, the working team will set up a method for collecting and estimating reliable information and data on energy and electricity consumption. To this aim, Enel Foundation will facilitate the research team in retrieving, if available, data on electric consumption in the geographic areas in which Enel Group is present. The collected data will be post processed and cross-checked with urban and statistical information, as well as energy end-use information (e.g. energy sources for heating and cooking, typology of home appliances) for providing a complete picture of energy consumption in the selected areas.