Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture



Major Professor

Mark DeKay

Committee Members

William B. Miller, Mark Schimmenti


This thesis combines Architecture 2030’s carbon-neutral performance targets with the SmartCode transect-based development principles, to generate guidelines for design of medium-density carbon-neutral districts. The topic examines these guidelines in medium density planned and built sites (transect types T4, General Urban Zone, and T5, Urban Center Zone) in representative cities within a cool-dry climate (IECC climate zone 5B, Denver) and a warm-humid climate (IECC climate zone 3A, Atlanta). The thesis assumes that a carbon-neutral district is more effective and potentially easier to achieve than designing independent carbon-neutral urban buildings. Within an urban context, it is now possible to connect buildings to a renewable power source and design for lower energy requirements as a neighborhood/district. This strategy relies on intensive conservation and passive design strategies for each building in addition to providing access to on-site resources for the district as a whole.

The project approaches design thinking as a research method resulting in neighborhood/district, block and street, and building volume and massing strategies and guidelines. Two existing New Urbanist developments were selected in the IECC climate zone example cities for the U.S. Existing energy demand and Architecture 2030 targets were estimated from Energy Information Administration data based on building types and region. Problematic issues for each development were identified based on analyses of climate, solar access, daylight access, and ventilation patterns. A new design for each site outlines climatically driven urban design guidelines to promote access to solar energy, daylight, and ventilation resources for each block and building. Analysis of revised development patterns shows increased density is possible in both sites while achieving high site resource availability for passive design strategies. A simple method for estimating roof area required for photovoltaics under different fossil fuel reduction targets was developed and applied to each site. Finally, building-scale access to resources and block patterns of sun and shade are maximized through multiple design and analysis iterations of block types. New design guidelines are generated to promote carbon-neutral performance in each climate zone.

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