Resilient Urban Forms: Impact of Urban Morphology Descriptors on the Building Energy Use

Najeeba Kutty, Martin Dennis Scoppa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In this era of climate change, cities are paying more attention to the building energy use and carbon footprint for attaining sustainability. Recalling upon UN-Habitat's initiative for 'resilient cities', it is imperative to explore the concept of 'resilient urban forms' in terms of the flexibility offered by the city's physical form towards energy use reduction. Currently, the two main areas of debate within the field of energy driven urban design include - the effectiveness of urban morphology and the impact of densification on building energy use. Even so, scholars are still questioning the effectiveness of the physical form of cities in energy use reduction when compared to other energy dependent factors (construction materials, heating, ventilation, HVAC systems). Adding to this knowledge gap, studies have attempted to quantify and understand the relation between measures of density and building energy use. Comprehensive research reviews suggest that densification may exhibit positive, negative, or complex relations with the heating or cooling energy demands. However, scholars have failed to reach any consensus due to the conflicting nature of the research findings within this field. This may be attributed to the fact that, energy use within a city fabric varies as a function of the geographic context, climatic conditions, economies, scale and culture. Besides density, other urban morphology descriptors may also have strong correlations with the energy use. Unfortunately, the impacts of densification on total heating or cooling energy uses still present no dominant conclusions. Reflecting on the current studies in this field, we hypothesize that “form-energy relations are meaningful only when the combined influence of independent form-based descriptors on energy use are addressed”. Hence, the study proposes a methodological assessment framework using empirical and statistical approach to achieve energy efficient urban transformations within a city's 'neighborhood planning unit', an area corresponding to a standard superblock in a hot urban desert context. This goal is achieved by answering the three main questions: (1) What is the relation between urban form descriptors and building cooling energy demand at the neighborhood planning scale?; (2) Which is(are) the most significant energy driven urban form descriptor (s) that strongly associates with reduced cooling energy demand?; (3) Which is the most appropriate assessment (method) approach informing the practical experimental exploration of physical form of cities for energy-oriented planning?. Finally, the argumentative discussion of the study addresses their practical implication by implementing the framework for outlining planning and design strategies for achieving more energy efficient building systems at different scales.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationZEMCH 2021 - 8th Zero Energy Mass Custom Home International Conference, Proceedings
EditorsKheira Anissa Tabet Aoul, Mohammed Tariq Shafiq, Daniel Efurosibina Attoye
PublisherZEMCH Network
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789948310006
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event8th Zero Energy Mass Custom Home International Conference, ZEMCH 2021 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: Oct 26 2021Oct 28 2021

Publication series

NameZEMCH International Conference
ISSN (Electronic)2652-2926


Conference8th Zero Energy Mass Custom Home International Conference, ZEMCH 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates


  • Energy efficiency
  • Energy use intensity
  • UAE superblocks
  • UMI
  • Urban morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Building and Construction
  • Architecture
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Computer Science Applications


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