Conceptualising urban density, energy demand and social practice

Jenny Rinkinen, Elizabeth Shove, Mattijs Smits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In urban studies and in energy policy there is much debate about the relationship between energy demand and the density of residential areas, measured in units like those of population per hectare, or per Km2. In this paper we take a different approach. Rather than evaluating the relative merits of compact or sprawling urban forms we focus on the spatial configuration of the infrastructures, appliances and systems of provision on which city life depends. An interview based study of households living in the same extremely ‘dense’ neighbourhood in Hanoi allows us to show how practices of cooling, laundering and cooking (and the energy demands associated with them) are shaped by material arrangements that exist within the home and that stretch far beyond it as well. The conclusion that supply and demand are constituted across multiple spatial scales has practical implications for urban design, and for how the relation between energy demand and density is defined and understood.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBuildings & cities
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5200 Other social sciences

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