Associate Professor Philip Francis Oldfield

My Expertise

My research is centred on the architecture of tall buildings, with a specific focus on their sustainability. This ranges from their environmental performance and design, to how their respond to the context of the city, and finally includes how communities are formed, and people live in high-rise.

Field of Research (FoR)


Philip Oldfield is Director of the Architecture program at UNSW Built Environment. Prior to joining UNSW, Philip was the co-creator and Course Director of the MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings at the University of Nottingham, UK – the world’s only course and qualification dedicated to the design and research of high-rise architecture. He has also taught at universities in Chicago, Venice and Singapore. 

Philip’s research interests are...view more

Philip Oldfield is Director of the Architecture program at UNSW Built Environment. Prior to joining UNSW, Philip was the co-creator and Course Director of the MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings at the University of Nottingham, UK – the world’s only course and qualification dedicated to the design and research of high-rise architecture. He has also taught at universities in Chicago, Venice and Singapore. 

Philip’s research interests are focused primarily on tall building design, sustainability, liveability and embodied carbon. He is an active member of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), and is author of the book “The Sustainable Tall Building: A Design Primer” published by Taylor and Francis in 2019. He has led over $1 million of funded research projects with diverse inter-disciplinary teams from industry and academia, tackling issues varying from how we use evidence to create high performance buildings, to strategies to simultaneously reduce embodied carbon and cost in buildings. He was a guest editor for Energy and Buildings on a special issue dedicated to embodied carbon, and has also published in The Journal of Architecture, Architectural Science Review, Solar Energy, A+U, Emotion Space and Society and more.

He has a passion for teaching in higher education, across both architectural studio and seminar courses, and has been recognised as a Scientia Education Fellow at UNSW. In addition, he is a British Science Association Media Fellow and regularly writes articles for Architecture Australia, Architects’ Journal, the Guardian and many other publications. He is a guest editor of a special edition of Architecture Australia dedicated to 'Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure', published in September 2019.

My Grants

2018 - Offset Core Research Project. CI of this seed-funded project of $6,021AUD supported by the CTBUH. The project aims to document trends and drivers in the construction of offset cores in high-rise architecture. 
2017 - Carbon Value Engineering. CI of this 1.5 year $378,507AUD project funded through the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL). The project aims to identify the carbon impact of value engineering, and develop new strategies to reduce embodied carbon and cost in multistorey buildings in the early design process. Collaboration between UNSW Built Environment, UNSW Civil Engineering and Multiplex.
2016 – Closing the Loop. CI of this 3.5 year $609,962AUD project funded through the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL). The project aims to identify how evidence is used in the creation of low-carbon commercial buildings, and to develop better mechanisms for evidence-based-design. The project is a collaboration between UNSW, CRCLCL and Curtin University and funds two full time PhD studentships, a full-time post-doctoral researcher, and a part-time Research Assistant.
2012 – Roadmap on the Future Research Needs of Tall Buildings. $5,000USD awarded by the CTBUH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat) and CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction). The Roadmap was a joint initiative led by Philip Oldfield of the University of Nottingham, and Dario Trabucco of Università IUAV di Venezia, with contributions from the CTBUH, CIB and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). 

My Qualifications

PhD, DipArch (Distinction), BArch (First Class)

My Research Activities

Philip's research is concerned with exploring and improving the sustainable performance of high-rise architecture and high-density cities. More specifically, his research is engaged with three primary themes:
1. The environmental performance of tall buildings and dense cities: Identifying and developing architectural and technological strategies to improve the performance of high-rise architecture and dense cities to contribute to reduced global carbon emissions.
2. Embodied carbon and material sustainability in large and tall buildings: Identifying the contribution of embodied carbon to buildings’ total carbon footprint. Developing design strategies, technologies and mechanisms to reduce embodied carbon in buildings.
3. Social sustainability and liveability in tall buildings: High-rise architecture can only contribute to reduced carbon emissions if the typology offers attractive and equitable places to live. As such, this research explores the narratives and experiences of those who live and work in tall buildings. It seeks to develop design strategies and governance mechanisms to improve these experiences.

My Research Supervision

Areas of supervision

I am interested in supervising students in the areas of high-rise architecture, tall building environmental and social performance and lifecycle-analysis and embodied carbon. 

My Engagement


Articles (selected)

  1. OLDFIELD, P. (2019). What’s the Tallest Skyscraper it’s Possible to Build? The Conversation, May 16th.
  2. OLDFIELD, P. (2019). Macquarie University Incubator. Architecture Australia. March/April, pp. 92 – 99.
  3. GUSHEH, M. & OLDFIELD, P. (2018). System, Ambience, Translation. Architecture + Urbanism. 18:09. No.576. pp.88 – 91.
  4. OLDFIELD, P. (2018). What Would a Heat Proof City Look Like? The Guardian, August 15th, 2018.
  5. OLDFIELD, P. (2017). The EY Centre. Architecture Australia, July/Aug, pp. 78 – 86.
  6. OLDFIELD, P. (2016) Ken Shuttleworth: Venturing into Sydney. ArchitectureAU, 20th September, 2016.
  7. OLDFIELD, P. (2016) Beyond the Icon: Despite a Construction Boom, Australian Skyscraper Design Needs to Evolve. The Conversation, 20th April, 2016.
  8. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Don’t Fear the Skyscraper – Why London Needs More Tall Buildings, The Conversation, July 31, 2015
  9. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Extend UK national park model across London, say campaigners. The Guardian, 14th July, 2015.
  10. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) UK scraps zero carbon homes plan. The Guardian, 10th July, 2015.
  11. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Tree houses: are wooden skyscrapers the future of tall buildings? The Guardian, 7th July, 2015.
  12. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Electric 'robocabs' would reduce US greenhouse emissions by 94% – study. The Guardian, 6th July, 2015.
  13. OLDFIELD, P. (2014) Skylines around the World. Architects’ Journal, 02.05.14, pp. 34 – 41.
  14. OLDFIELD, P. (2013). Successful High Rise Means Building Gardens and Streets in the Sky, Too, Guardian Housing Network, 30 September, 2013.
  15. OLDFIELD, P. (2009). Rise of the Supertall. STRUCTURE Magazine. June 2009, pp.22 – 24.


Television / Film Interviews

  1. 2019. Building to the Sky. Wildbear Productions.
  2. 2016. March 8th. Supersize Structures. Episode 1: Living Big.  Wildbear Productions.  Philip Oldfield discusses the design and performance of some of the tallest buildings in the world.
  3. 2015, September 21st, 7.30pm. Inside/Out, BBC 1. Philip Oldfield presents a segment of BBC 1’s housing crisis special, looking at future housing, with a focus on tall buildings and prefabricated houses.
  4. 2015, September 11th, 8pm. Incredible Engineering Blunders – Fixed, The Discovery Channel. Philip Oldfield discusses the external solar shading of London’s 20 Fenchurch Street Skyscraper and how it mitigated previously problematic solar reflections.

Newspaper, Magazine, Website and Radio Interviews (selected)

  1. 2019, June 27th. Philip Oldfield discusses skyscraper living. Up in the Air: The Craze for Skyscraper Living. Financial Times,
  2. 2019, April 18. Meet the ‘plyscraper’: Construction complete on the world’s tallest tower made of wood. Philip Oldfield discusses the world’s tallest timber tower and the pros and cons of tall timber construction. Domain.
  3. 2019, March 20. Architecture Students Win Best Projects in the State. Philip Oldfield discusses the success of UNSW Architecture students in winning the undergraduate and graduate medal at the NSW AIA Student Awards.
  4. 2018, August 9. High density lessons: How community spaces can help make apartment living more appealing. An article features the research of Philip Oldfield and colleagues which suggest skygardens can provide psychological escapism from the high-rise dense urban environment. Domain.
  5. 2018, July 27. Overheating Cities. Philip Oldfield discusses how buildings can be adapted in the UK to mitigate the effects of increasing heatwaves. Radio Five Live.
  6. 2018, February 5th. When Passive House Goes Big. Philip Oldfield is interviewed about the opportunities and challenges of Passivhaus high-rise buildings, including the findings of his recently published research. WILSON, J. (2018). When Passive House Goes Big. Building Green
  7. 2017, November 1st. Philip Oldfield discusses how to improve the design quality of tall buildings in Sydney. Mornings with Wendy Harmer, ABC Radio Sydney
  8. 2017, August 30th Philip Oldfield discusses height limits and how to integrate tall buildings successfully into their urban context. ABC Hobart Drive.
  9. 2017, July. The Rise of the Plyscraper. Philip Oldfield talks about his research on reducing embodied carbon in tall buildings, and his visions for future sustainable high-rise. UNSW Magazine.
  10. 2017, July 16th. City Tattersall’s Club chairman Patrick Campion vows to build mega tower on top of historic bar. Philip Oldfield is interviewed on the technical challenges of constructing tall buildings above sensitive historical architecture. Daily Telegraph
  11. 2017, July 16th. High-Rise Living. Philip Oldfield is interviewed on the social and political history of high-rise living, in the wake of the Grenfell fire. ‘Rear Vision’, ABC National Radio.
  12. 2017, June 17th. Architects Urge Change in Attitudes Towards Safety after Grenfell Fire. Philip Oldfield suggests the horrific Grenfell fire is not the end of tall buildings, but a watershed moment in attitudes towards how we refurbish them. The Guardian.
  13. 2017, May 27th. Australia’s Tallest Building: Gold Coast and Melbourne in Sky High Construction War. Philip Oldfield discusses the current tall building construction boom in Australia, and the drivers behind the race for the region’s tallest skyscraper. 
  14. 2017, April 4th. Can we Finally Say Goodbye to Glass Skyscrapers? Philip Oldfield is interviewed on the environmental and architectural shortcomings of all-glass buildings. Architecture and Design.
  15. 2017, March 29th. Australia’s High Rises Could Become Heat Traps. Philip Oldfield discusses his research outlining the environmental and health failures of fully-glazed skyscrapers, questioning what would happen in a power failure in a heat wave? UNSW Newsroom.
  16. 2017, March 13th. Rethinking the Australian Skyscraper. Philip Oldfield presents three projects designed by his students that look to create a vertical architecture inspired by Sydney’s climate, culture and context. Bookmarc
  17. 2017, March 11th. Reaching for the Clouds, with Wood! Philip Oldfield discusses the opportunities timber presents as a future building material for Australia’s skyscrapers. Blueprint for Living, ABC National Radio.
  18. 2017, February 27. Can You Extend That Skyscraper? Yes You Can! Philip Oldfield discusses the opportunities and challenges for vertical timber additions to extent tall buildings in Melbourne, Australia. The Age,
  19. 2017, January, 31. Timber Revolutionises High-Rise Construction. Philip Oldfield discusses the role timber as a structural material can play in improving the environmental credentials of tall buildings. Expotrade.
  20. 2017, January 11th.From Boardrooms to Bedrooms: Could the Apartment Boom Kill Melbourne’s CBD? Philip Oldfield is quoted on the need to futureproof tall building designs to accommodate future programmatic and technological changes. The Age

  1. 2016, November 29th. How high can we go? Melbourne's future skyscraper forecast. Philip Oldfield discusses how high Melbourne’s future skyline could potentially rise, and the limitations of a ‘Mile High Tower’. The Age.
  2. 2016, November 8th. How Can Australia Build Great Skyscrapers? Philip Oldfield discusses what he feels are the most important factors for building new supertall skyscrapers in Australia. Sourceable
  3. 2016, July 29th. Central Sydney reaches skyward. Philip Oldfield calls for a new generation of socially conscious towers in Sydney. S&P Global Market Intelligence
  4. 2016, July 20th. City of Sydney looks to the sky in largest development in three decades. Philip Oldfield is interview on the challenge of creating a supertall Sydney skyline. Altmedia.
  5. 2016, June 6th. Philip Oldfield is interviewed on the design and construction of skyscrapers in the Australian context. ABC Brisbane, 612 Afternoons Programme.
  6. 2016, April 29. Will new rules limiting the heights of skyscrapers push up prices or lead to better buildings? Philip Oldfield is questioned on new regulations designed to provide more community spaces in skyscrapers in Melbourne.
  7. 2015, September 21st. 'Million' new homes aim declared by minister Brandon Lewis. Philip Oldfield present his student’s visions for ‘vertical villages’ as a solution to the UK’s housing crisis. BBC News,
  8. 2015, September 21st. UK Housing. Philip Oldfield is interviewed by BBC Radio Coventry, Nottingham, Stoke, Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester and on the Mark Forrest Show in six separate interviews. He discusses his upcoming segment in BBC One’s ‘Inside/Out’ and how he feels tall buildings can play a role overcoming the UK’s future housing challenges.
  9. 2015, March, 15th. How Architects Plan to Stop Skyscrapers from Blocking out Sunlight. Philip Oldfield comments on a proposal by architects NBBJ for skyscrapers that reflect light previously shaded public spaces on the ground. The Independent,
  10. 2015, February. Skyscrapers. Philip Oldfield is interviewed alongside Renzo Piano, Blair Kamin (Architecture Critic at the Chicago Tribune) and Daniel Safarik (Council on tall Buildings and Urban Habitat) on the Why Factor, BBC World Service.
  11. 2015. January 20th. Tall Buildings in South Korea. Philip Oldfield is interviewed on South Korean radio on the international boom in tall buildings, the safety of constructing supertall towers, and the expertise of the tall building industry in South Korea. TBS eFM Primetime, Seoul, South Korea.
  12. 2014. September 10th. Nottingham Students Shortlisted for Skyscraper Prize. Philip Oldfield discusses the architectural design projects produced by two of his students that has been shortlisted for the CTBUH 2014 Student Design Award, in: FULCHER, M. (2014). Nottingham Students Shortlisted for Skyscraper Prize. Architects’ Journal, 10th September, 2014.
  13. 2014. April 14th. Tall Towers Can Grace the Skyline. Philip Oldfield comments on the recent London Skyline campaign, noting that whilst tall buildings are essential for London’s future development, greater consideration of their design and quality is necessary. Evening Standard, p.46.
  14. 2014. April 11th. Skyline Campaign: Prospects and Views. Philip Oldfield presents his comments on London’s rapidly changing skyline alongside Peter Rees, Tony Travers, Graham Stirk, Keith Griffiths, Bob Lang and Michael Squire. Architects’ Journal, 11th April, 2014, p.
  15. 2013. September 4th. Faulty Tower Given Sunscreen to Stop it Frying Neighbourhood. Philip Oldfield discusses 20 Fenchurch Street, noting that “…the original design included small horizontal balconies on the south façade rather than the continuous glass facade as built now. This would have surely mitigated any significant glare…” In OWEN, J. (2013). Faulty tower given sunscreen to stop it frying neighbourhood, The Independent, September 4th, 2013, p.23.
  16. 2013. September 4th. What's Frying at Walkie Scorchie? Philip Oldfield says “…too many developers are still stuck in the mindset of the 1950s that saw glass as futuristic.” when discussing the glare issues caused by the under construction 20 Fenchurch Street Tower. In WALLOP, H. (2013). What's Frying at Walkie Scorchie? The Telegraph, September 4th, 2013, p.29.
  17. 2013. September 3rd. Walkie Talkie has few design solutions as beam warms shops to 70°C. Philip Oldfield is asked about the solar hotspots reflected from the under construction 20 Fenchurch Street tower (the Walkie Talkie), including how this could be overcome. In WATERSON, J. (2013). Walkie Talkie has few design solutions as beam warms shops to 70°C, CityAM, September 3rd, 2013.

  1. 2013. July 16th. Skyscraper Builders Reach for the Stars Once Again. Philip Oldfield discusses how some new tall building developments are being driven by the desire to portray how developed a city or a country is, and not purely to fulfil a need for space. In EVANS, P. (2013). Skyscraper Builders Reach for the Stars Once Again, Wall Street Journal, page C6, July 16th, 2013.
  2. 2009, April 7th. As Economy Sank, Skyscrapers Soared Even Higher. Philip Oldfield explains why skyscrapers continue to exceed record heights, despite the global economic downturn in an interview with Anya Kaplan-Seem. Architectural Record, Vol. 197, No. 5, p. 36. USA.
  3. 2008, April. Who’s Tall Now? Philip Oldfield is interviewed on the future of the world’s tallest buildings. Architect Magazine, Vol. 97, No. 5. Hanley Wood, Washington DC. p.38.
  4. 2007, October 29. The Future is Looking Up: Designs by Tomorrow’s Architects. Philip Oldfield comments on student high-rise design projects from the University of Nottingham. Crain’s Chicago Business. Chicago, USA. p.28.
  5. 2007, October 29. Looking Up, All Around. Philip Oldfield is quoted on the sustainable credentials of 30 St. Mary Axe, London. Crain’s Chicago Business. Chicago, USA. p.37.





My Teaching

Philip is involved in the following courses at UNSW;

Course leader - ARCH1161: Architectural Science and Building Environment 1

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February 20, 2015. IIT, Chicago, USA. Philip Oldfield presents opportunities for rethinking the design of the tall building typology.