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Urban Form, Energy & Bioclimatism



Contact Séverine Hermand
Keywords Urban form, Energy, Bioclimatic design, Multiscalarity, Integrated Design Process, Brussels

Holistic multiscalar city energy assessment and design

Over the last two decades, final energy consumption in cities is increasing (+20% in Brussels from 1990 to 2004), and at the same time, the planet’s fossil energy resources continue to deplete. Given the environmental challenges, such as, global climate change and resource depletion, have unfolded a priority concern in research on energy efficiency, 0-waste systems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, etc.. Occupying less than 3% of the surface of the planet, cities are the largest CO2 emission sites (80%) and energy consumption. Cities consume an average of 75 % of world energy (both for transport and housing). Today, more than half of the global population lives in urban areas. The United Nations (UN) has predicted for 2030 a world comprising 60 % of urban population (or 5 billion inhab.). However, energy consumption research is mainly focused at the building scale directly responsible for 40% of the final energy use), and the higher scales receive much less attention from the scientific community because of its complexity. What is interesting is to note that greenhouse gas emissions are not the same in all cities. Oslo for example produces ten times less greenhouse gas emissions per capita than Melbourne, despite comparable levels of life. Therefore a certain degree of freedom appears to be available in the urban design. Moreover, the study of the Urban Morphology Lab, CSTB, Paris has shown “that an efficient urban fabric alone can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by a factor of 2”.

Based on these observations, this research aims at exploring the effects of the urban morphology on building energy consumption. The focus of this study is in Brussels, Belgium located in an Oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification) where an important number of challenges in terms of urban planning exist. Indeed, since Brussels is limited by its administrative boundaries, the capital needs to work with the density and the reconversion of the brownfield in order to accommodate more than 170 000 new inhabitants by 2020. One of the major problematic in the energy assessment is the divide between quantitative (LCA, UM, MFA, I-O) and qualitative (LEED, BREAM) methodologies.Secondly, most of the focus is on building (quantitative) or at the most, at the neighborhood scale where it becomes increasingly more qualitative. The question arises as to how to address these problematic i.e. energy assessement at the scale of urban form?In this regard, this research proposes an innovative methodology - Integrated Design Process (IDP) for sustainable urbanism. The main hypothesis is that with an IDP approach, we could transcend the quantitative, qualitative divide and dealing with multi-scalar complexity.

Developing a context-specific and scale-sensitive Integrated Design Process (IDP) for sustainable urbanism (SU) through triangulated analysis of urban form (including infrastructure), bioclimatism and energy efficiency in the context of Brussels Capital Region (BCR) is the broader framework of this PhD research. Within this framework, this research intends to explore IDP at the level of neighborhood as the first stage of the research and the district and the city scales are the next two stages. A particular focus is the design of open space structure in terms of its capacity in regulating the energy performance in Brussels. The idea is to develop an IDP based assessment framework for unfolding differentiated design, planning and policy responses to facilitate an energy efficient and sustainable urban development in BCR.


This research is funded by:

  • An assistant contract (6 year employment contract: part-time doctoral research with part-time teaching)
Selected publications
 [1] Hermand, S., Khan, A. Z., & Bouillard, P. (2014, December). Exploring integrated design process for sustainable urbanism: The case of Tour&Taxis, Brussels. Sustainable habitat for developing societies – Choosing the way forward, PLEA International 30th PLEA (Passive & Low Energy Architecture) Conference, Ahmedaad, India, abstract for the paper – Submitted/preprint.
[2] Hermand, S., Bouillard, P., Khan, A. Z., (2013, September). Sustainable development by the in-between spaces in terms of energy performance analysis in Brussels.
Key references
[1] Salat, S. (2011). Cities and Forms - On Sustainable Urbanism, Paris: CSTB, Hermann.
[2] Moe, K. (2008). Integrated Design in Contemporary Architecture, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
[3] Haas, T., (2012). Sustainable Urbanism and Beyond: Rethinking Cities for the Future, New York: Rizzoli.
[4] Farr, D. Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
[5] Lynch, K. (1960). The image of the City, Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.