ISU Research: A Change Of Urban Population Density Will Impact The Future Building Energy Use

First Posted: Jan 16, 2017 04:00 AM EST

A team of international researchers published a new study that includes Iowa State University scientists. The research suggests that if there will be a change in the population densities in urban areas worldwide, it can have major implications for building energy use and sustainability in the incoming decades.

In a report by, an assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and also the co-author of the study, Yuyu Zhou, said that their research investigated the global urban population densities and associated the energy consumption through the computer models that interpret multiple scenarios. The researchers claim that their study is the first to conduct a global-scale analysis of future urban population densities and associated it to the building energy use.

Zhou shared that, "Getting a handle on building energy use in the decades to come will help to answer questions about sustainable urban development."

The models reach projection until 2050 and found that the evolving urban densities will have the highest effect in indicating building energy use in the developing regions. In general, as urban areas become less dense, it requires higher energy to heat and cool. As for the developed nations, the adoption of new energy efficient technology will play almost an equal role in urban building energy use.

Zhou added that, "Ideally, we want to save energy in the future, and studies like this one can show us how building energy use changes as our cities grow."

In the paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it says that in North America, the annual energy use for heating and cooling increases between 25 to 30 percent.

They also found that the regions including China, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Korea and Vietnam have an increase of 35 to 50 percent, overtaking North American energy use across nearly all of the scenarios examined in the study. However, the region also has the largest potential for savings.

According to Iowa State University, the study revealed that retrofitting aging urban infrastructure with updated and energy efficient technology plays a role in improving the global energy outlook. However, the study suggested that waiting to retrofit buildings until the energy-saving technology becomes more widely accessible could come to greater long-term energy savings.

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