Research Output
A compactness measure of sustainable building forms
  Global population growth and urbanisation require countless more buildings in this century, causing an unprecedented increase in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, and resource use. It is imperative to approach maximal efficiency in buildings quickly. The building envelope is a key element to address environmental concerns, for it is responsible for thermal transfers with the outdoors, causing energy demand and carbon emissions. It also requires cladding, thus consuming a significant amount of finite resources. This paper investigates the relationship between surface area and indoor space to unravel the sustainability of building forms. Firstly, we demonstrate what the optimal form is. Secondly, as a single definite form is of little use in practice, we develop a scale independent metric to measure the degree of optimality of building forms and show its practical use. This newly developed metric can significantly help at early design stages, by quantifying how much a building form deviates from optimality and identifying the domain of alternative geometries closer to it. This compactness measure also represents a theoretical basis for further research, to explore how optimality changes when additional parameters are factored in. It therefore contributes to both theory and practice to support global efforts towards sustainable built environments.

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  • Date:

    12 June 2019

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  • Library of Congress:

    TH Building construction

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    690 Buildings

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded; EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


D'Amico, B., & Pomponi, F. (2019). A compactness measure of sustainable building forms. Royal Society Open Science, 6(6), 1-14.


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