Demonstrating How Urban Morphology Matters by Reaching towards Broader Context-specific Transformations

By Mark Deakin, Alasdair Reid and Fiona Campbell.

Published by The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 11, 2014 $US5.00

Recent studies of urban morphology, suggest the design, layout and texture of district centres, neighbourhoods and buildings have as much a bearing on levels of energy consumption and rates of carbon emission as either buildings or their occupation. They suggest urban morphology matters and both the design, layout and texture of district centres, neighbourhoods and buildings are as significant in setting levels of energy consumption and rates of carbon emission as the occupation and use of such structures.

This paper aims to reiterate this message and demonstrate how urban morphology does matter, not only with respect to the geometry i.e. surface and volume of the design typologies, building systems or occupational behaviours that such studies drawn particular attention to, but with regards to a matter which they have hitherto overlooked. That is with regards to the potential which plan-led, well designed, suitably laid out and their context specific transformations of district centres and neighbourhoods, have to not only lower levels of energy consumption and rates carbon emission, but mitigate the climate change associated with the occupation and use of buildings.

In meeting this aim and demonstrating how urban morphology does matter, the paper shall draw upon the experiences of a transformation taking place in the London Borough of Sutton and known as the Hackbridge Project: a mass retrofit proposal designed as a sustainable suburb with distinct centres, neighbourhoods and buildings, laid out and contextualised as an energy efficient, low carbon zone. Building on a brief critique of the state of the art on urban morphology, the geometry of the design typologies, building systems and occupational behaviours, the paper offers a case study analysis of a recent attempt to reduce energy consumption and the associated levels of carbon emissions by way of and through what has been termed: “an active and integrated institutional arrangement”. That is, by way of a mass retrofit proposal which is active and integrated through an urban regeneration strategy; whose vision, district-wide master plan, programme of neighbourhood renewal and redevelopment of suburban housing estates, is capable of sustaining the ongoing transformation of Hackridge into an energy efficient, low carbon zone. Offering a context specific analysis of how institutions can begin to plan for and sustain the development of energy efficient, low carbon zones, the case-study draws particular attention to the type of baseline assessments needed to legitimate not only the strategic value of such transformations, but their practical worth as measures able to meet the standards of environmental sustainability required under the 2008 UK Climate Bill.

Couched in such terms, the case study serves to highlight the methodological challenges mass retrofit proposals raise, not only in relation to the data that is needed to examine them, but in terms of the information which is also required to carry out the profiling analyses and baseline assessments integral to such evaluations.

Keywords: Urban Morphology, Layout, Texture, Context Specific, Transformation

The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design, Volume 7, Issue 3, April 2014, pp.57-74. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 11, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.022MB)).

Prof. Mark Deakin

Director, Centre for Sustainable Communities, Napier University, Edinburgh, Lothian, UK

Alasdair Reid

Research Assistant, Institute for Sustainable Construction, Centre for Sustainable Communities, Napier University, Edinburgh, UK

Fiona Campbell

Napier University, Lothian, UK