Skip to content
Sustainable urban design is about ways to plan, design, construct and operate the buildings and built environments that will be needed as part of a more sustainable society. The focus is both on new developments and on modifications that can be made to existing developments.

Environmental performance of settlement form

The research team has developed a classification system for urban forms in New Zealand. Using this framework, the potential environmental sustainability contributions of residential urban forms at varying densities can be assessed by comparing indicators such as domestic energy use, transport choices, carbon sequestration, local food production, and waste management.

GIS-based analyses and ecological footprint assessments are being used as integrated measures of sustainability. The research, using a case study approach, examines environmental sustainability performances at neighbourhood and urban design scales. It also explores how spatial characteristics (solar orientation), construction factors (roof design), potential for on-site service delivery (solar water heating, photovoltaic electricity generation, rainwater collection and use) and community behaviour could contribute to reductions in energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions across the various urban forms.

Life cycle analysis of building & infrastructure design

Life cycle analysis is a methodology that can be used for evaluating options for buildings and infrastructure. The methodology captures maintenance and in-use operational requirements, in addition to the use of construction resources. Hence it provides a holistic evaluation of performance. By using computer modelling, resource use can be quantified in terms of energy, carbon emissions and cost over the useful life of systems. Our research focuses on the life cycle costs, resource use, and environmental impacts of residential construction, water supply, and energy generation sectors.

Sustainability assessment methods

As sustainability objectives in the built environment become more popular with decision makers, there is a need for verification of progress towards these goals. Landcare Research has experience with all forms of assessment at the building and neighbourhood scales, including commercially applied systems such as the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS), GreenStar and LEED.

Our main research focus is on performance-based assessment, which allows widely acceptable comparisons both within New Zealand and on the global stage. The research extends across all spheres of sustainability, including environmental, economic, social and cultural objectives.

We are also investigating the process of sustainability-focused decision making and how as

Publications

Boyle C, Mudd G, Mihelcic JR, Anastas P, Collins T, Culligan P, Edwards M, Gabe J, Gallagher P, Handy S, Kao JJ, Krumdieck S, Lyles LD, Mason I, McDowall R, Pearce A, Riedy C, Russell J, Schnoor JL, Trotz M, Venables R, Zimmerman JB, Fuchs V, Miller S, Page S, Reeder-Emery K 2010. Delivering sustainable infrastructure that supports the urban built environment. Environmental science & technology 44(13): 4836-4840. CCC:000279304700005.

Gabe J, Trowsdale S, Vale R 2009. Achieving integrated urban water management: planning top-down or bottom-up? Water science and technology 59(10): 1999-2008. ISI:000266782800015.

Gabe J, Vale R, Vale B 2009. Trompe l'oeil : architects, consumers, and the need to rediscover technical function for ecologically sustainable housing. International journal of consumer studies 33(5): 604-610.

Frame B, Vale R 2006. Increasing uptake of low impact urban design and development:the role of sustainability assessment systems. Local environment 11(3): 287-306.

Vale B, Vale R 2005. The all-electric house: Past and future. International Journal of Sustainable Development 8(3): 173-.