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Are the Greenhouse Gas Implications of New Residential Developments Understood Wrongly?

  • Jukka Heinonen


    (Department of Surveying and Planning, School of Engineering, Aalto University, P.O. Box 15800, Aalto 00076, Finland)

  • Antti-Juhani Säynäjoki


    (Department of Surveying and Planning, School of Engineering, Aalto University, P.O. Box 15800, Aalto 00076, Finland)

  • Matti Kuronen


    (RAKLI—The Finnish Association of Building Owners and Construction Clients, Annankatu 24, Helsinki 00100, Finland)

  • Seppo Junnila


    (Department of Surveying and Planning, School of Engineering, Aalto University, P.O. Box 15800, Aalto 00076, Finland)

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    Built environment carbon reduction strategies materialize predominantly in city-level greenhouse gas (GHG) management, where new residential development appears as one of the key instruments. However, city-level assessments are often incapable of producing data at a community or neighborhood level and thus they may heavily underestimate the emissions from new construction. This paper explores the implications of low-energy residential construction as an instrument of climate change mitigation in the built environment and demonstrates why city-level approaches easily fail to identify the significance of the emissions from construction. We employ a hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to demonstrate that, when the temporal allocation of emissions from the construction and use phases is taken into account, construction phase emissions come to have a central role in finding effective GHG mitigation strategies—even when the emissions from all consumption activities during the use phase are included in the assessment. In fact, their role would seem to be so central that new residential construction cannot be utilized as an instrument of city carbon management, even over a relatively long period. While we analyze a case study from Finland, the analysis intends to highlight the situation throughout the globe.

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    Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Energies.

    Volume (Year): 5 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 8 (August)
    Pages: 2874

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    Handle: RePEc:gam:jeners:v:5:y:2012:i:8:p:2874-2893:d:19278
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    1. Jukka Heinonen & Seppo Junnila, 2011. "A Carbon Consumption Comparison of Rural and Urban Lifestyles," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(8), pages 1234, August.
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    6. Karen Turner, 2009. "Negative rebound and disinvestment effects in response to an improvement in energy efficiency in the UK economy," Working Papers 0902, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
    7. Wagner, Gernot, 2010. "Energy content of world trade," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(12), pages 7710-7721, December.
    8. McGregor, Peter G & Munday, Max & Swales, J Kim & Turner, Karen, 2011. "How responsible is a region for its carbon emissions? An integrated input-output and CGE analysis," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2011-06, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    9. Wright, Andrew, 2008. "What is the relationship between built form and energy use in dwellings?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 4544-4547, December.
    10. Lenzen, Manfred & Dey, Christopher & Foran, Barney, 2004. "Energy requirements of Sydney households," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 375-399, July.
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