Density and energy performance of solar powered buildings in the urban context
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The relationships between urban density, built form and building energy performance are examined using two research methods: explorative and empirical research. In the explorative research, parametric experiments are made based on Martin and March’s urban grid approach to explore density-form-energy use relationships under the climatic conditions of Portland and Atlanta. In the empirical research, such relationships are examined in the real urban environment of Manhattan at both building and block levels. Building energy performance is simulated by an urban building energy balance modeling system developed based on state-of-art tools in different fields in this study. The results suggest different density-form-energy use relationships: for buildings without solar PV systems as a nonlinear relation with a threshold density, and for solar powered buildings as a positive relation. The findings apply to hypothetical urban environments under both Portland and Atlanta weather conditions. However in real urban settings of Manhattan, the relation between the density and energy performance becomes less prominent because the density parameters are less useful to represent the geometries in the attached buildings in Manhattan. Two alternative measures of the surface volume ratio and the area weighted sky view factor are introduced and found to have better correlations with building energy performance. The application of the findings in the urban planning field is further discussed.