EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

7.5 Use of Land

Land use by buildings is a significant aspect in sustainable development. We can recognize direct use (because buildings and their related infrastructure occupy a certain land area for their entire lifetime) and indirect use (due to impact on land via extraction of raw materials for construction, waste disposal, etc. Both types of land use impact should be considered in environmental assessment.

Here are some key land use impacts [Hakkinen et al., 2013]:

  • Soil sealing
  • Soil compaction
  • Change of land use
  • Fragmentation
  • Extraction of raw materials
  • Reduction of biodiversity

Read the explanations to these impacts on pages 24-26 of the following article:

Reading Assignment:

  • Journal paper: Hakkinen, T., Helin, T., Antuna, C., Supper, S., Schiopu, N., and Nibel., S., Land Use as an Aspect of Sustainable Building, International Journal of Sustainable Land Use and Urban Planning, 1, 21-41 (2013).

This reading material is available in the Lesson 7 Module in Canvas.

To propose strategies to improve the building design with respect to land use, those impacts need to be assessed and possibly quantified. Introduction of metrics helps compare buildings and refer them to certain standards of advanced or poor practice. Land use indicators can be either included in the LCA for buildings or be used independently.

Examine the land use metrics proposed in some European countries in Tables 2 and 3 of the above reading [Hakkinen et al., 2013].

What are strategies to create avenues for more sustainable land use by buildings? Some of those strategies are:

  • Urban densification
  • Complexity and mixed use
  • Green zoning
  • Accessibility to public services and transport

Read about them on pages 34-35 of the Hakkinen’s paper.

Check Your Understanding:

What are adverse consequences of soil sealing?

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ANSWER:
Loss of soil functions, such as crop production, water retention, chemical absorption

 

Can you define fragmentation impact? What environmental consequences it may have?

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ANSWER:
Fragmentation involves isolation of natural habitats due to construction, disruption of ecological corridors and pathways. It increases vulnerability of ecosystem and decreases its resiliency.

 

What of the following would give a building a higher score on the land use metrics?

(a) Building plot has a large water-proof area
(b) Significant amount of rainwater is retained on site
(c) 10% of vegetated plot area
(d) Ecologically useful plot area <50%

Click for answer.

ANSWER: B - Retention of rainwater helps decrease storm water runoff and facilitates reuse. Other answers listed score low or against the metrics in Table 2 /Hakkinen et al., 2013