Densification of Vancouver's neighbourhoods: Energy use, emissions, and affordability

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Author: Pardy, Aaron
The City of Vancouver in British Columbia has committed to use 100% renewable energy and reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Like many cities in North America, much of the Vancouver's land area currently consists of single-family detached home neighbourhoods—a type of land use that has been associated with higher than average per capita energy use and emissions. In this study, I used an energy-economy-emissions model, CIMS, to evaluate how densifying these low-density neighbourhoods with medium-density housing forms would influence energy use, emissions, and home energy and personal transportation affordability. While densification was found to have a modest influence on reducing building emissions, zero-emission building regulations were found to be much more effective, highlighting the importance of energy-switching policy for residential building decarbonization. However, an affordability co-benefit of densification was found: smaller, more energy efficient dwellings in dense building forms reduce annual energy costs relative to detached homes, especially when coordinated with policies and actions to limit vehicle ownership.
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