Professor Philip Francis Oldfield

My Expertise

My research examines how we can build to meet the needs of society, while limiting the environmental impact of the built environment. This includes special interests in tall building architecture, embodied carbon and climate literacy in architectural education.   


Fields of Research (FoR)

Architecture, Architectural science and technology, Sustainable architecture


Philip Oldfield is Head of School at UNSW Built Environment, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Philip’s research interests are focused primarily on sustainable design, embodied carbon and tall building architecture. 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...view more

Philip Oldfield is Head of School at UNSW Built Environment, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Philip’s research interests are focused primarily on sustainable design, embodied carbon and tall building architecture. 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.

My Grants

2023 - How low can we go? Approaches to Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings in Australia. Funding of $44,212
2022 - The Environmental Impact of Prefabricated Timber Fit-Out Systems. Funding of $115,366.
2022 - NABERS Embodied Emissions – Technical analysis.Funding of $40,510 to contribute to the development of a consistent embodied carbon emissions method for bildings in Australia

2019 - Low Carbon Commercial Buildings. Funding of $49,508 through the CRCLCL to research and write a design guide on low carbon performance for commercial buildings. A collaboration with mechanical engineers LCI and GHD.
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:  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. 

Currently supervising

Linda Romanovska: Evaluation of urban green infrastructure from a whole-of- life perspective

Florence Wong: Mass Engineered Timber (MET) Construction - Opportunities & Barriers of its development in hot & humid Asian Pacific cities as comparing with more advanced North America and Europe

Eunike Krisit Julistiono: Vertical Extension: Investigation into Strategies, Structural Performance and Sustainability

Noni Nuriani: Feedback Loop into Energy Modelling Practice in Australia’s Commercial Office Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits

My Engagement


Other Papers / Articles (commercial / short articles - selected)

  1. OLDFIELD, P. (2020). Architectural balancing act: Kambri at ANU. Architecture Australia, May/June 2020, pp. 38 – 45.
  2. STEAD, N., OLDFIELD, P. & KNAPP, C. (2020). Designing Hope: The Role of Architecture Education in the Climate Crisis. Architecture Australia, May/June 2020, pp. 68-69.
  3. DIXON, I., OLDFIELD, P. & AUGROS, R. (2019). Mainstreaming Low Carbon Design. Engineering Buildings: CIBSE Australia & New Zealand, Vol.2, Issue 3., pp.24-26.  
  4. VIVIAN, P. & OLDFIELD, P. (eds) (2019). Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure. Architecture Australia, Sept / Oct, 2019.
  5. OLDFIELD, P. & VIVIAN, P. (2019). Towards a Generous Skyscraper. Architecture Australia, Sept / Oct, 2019.
  6. OLDFIELD, P. & ROBATI, M. (2019). Carbon Value Engineering: Reducing Carbon and Cost in Buildings. The Building Economist. September, pp.30 – 33.
  7. OLDFIELD, P. (2019). What’s the Tallest Skyscraper it’s Possible to Build? The Conversation, May 16th.
  8. OLDFIELD, P. (2019). Next Level Prefabrication: Macquarie University Incubator. Architecture Australia. March/April, pp. 92 – 99.
  9. GUSHEH, M. & OLDFIELD, P. (2018). System, Ambience, Translation. Architecture + Urbanism. 18:09. No.576. pp.88 – 91.
  10. OLDFIELD, P. (2018). What Would a Heat Proof City Look Like? The Guardian, August 15th, 2018.
  11. OLDFIELD, P. (2018). The Poetics of Performance: Alec Tzannes. Architecture Australia.
  12. OLDFIELD, P. (2017). The EY Centre. Architecture Australia, July/Aug, pp. 78 – 86.
  13. OLDFIELD, P. (2016) Ken Shuttleworth: Venturing into Sydney. ArchitectureAU, 20th September, 2016.
  14. OLDFIELD, P. (2016) From Void-Deck to Skygarden. Urban Design Group Journal, 139, Summer 2016, pp. 33-35. ISSN 1750 712X.
  15. OLDFIELD, P. (2016) Beyond the Icon: Despite a Construction Boom, Australian Skyscraper Design Needs to Evolve. The Conversation, 20th April, 2016.
  16. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Don’t Fear the Skyscraper – Why London Needs More Tall Buildings, The Conversation, July 31, 2015
  17. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Extend UK national park model across London, say campaigners. The Guardian, 14th July, 2015.
  18. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) UK scraps zero carbon homes plan. The Guardian, 10th July, 2015.
  19. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Tree houses: are wooden skyscrapers the future of tall buildings? The Guardian, 7th July, 2015.
  20. OLDFIELD, P. (2015) Electric 'robocabs' would reduce US greenhouse emissions by 94% – study. The Guardian, 6th July, 2015.
  21. OLDFIELD, P. (2014) Height and Heritage: Tall Buildings don’t have to be the Enemies of Historic City Centres. Middle East Consultant, September, p.32.
  22. OLDFIELD, P. (2014) Skylines around the World. Architects’ Journal, 02.05.14, pp. 34 – 41.
  23. TRABUCCO, D., PETUCCO, D. & OLDFIELD, P. (2014). Research Trends in Vertical Transportation for Tall Buildings, Elevatori, Jan/Feb 2014, pp.35 – 39.
  24. OLDFIELD, P. (2013). Successful High Rise Means Building Gardens and Streets in the Sky, Too, Guardian Housing Network, 30 September, 2013.
  25. OLDFIELD, P. (2010). The 10 Tallest Buildings in 09. Emirates Business 24/7, Burj Dubai Special. January 4th, 2010. pp.34 – 37.
  26. OLDFIELD, P. (2009). Rise of the Supertall. STRUCTURE Magazine. June 2009, pp.22 – 24.
  27. OLDFIELD, P. (2009). Tall Buildings in Numbers – 2008: A Tall Building Review. CTBUH Journal, Issue 1, 2009. Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Chicago. pp.44 – 45.
  28. OLDFIELD, P. (2008). The Tallest 20 in 2020. The Big Project, February, 2008. CPI Industry, Dubai. pp.36-39.


Television, Newspaper and Radio Interviews (selected)

  1. 2021, 4th March. Interviewed on ABC Radio National Late Live with Phillip Adams discussing developments in tall buildings.
  2. 2021, 31st January. Philip Oldfield comments on the design of the new Pencil Tower Hotel in Sydney. ‘Improbably narrow’: Sydney’s latest tower is barely wider than a terrace, Sydney Morning Herald,
  3. 2021, 21st January. Philip Oldfield comments on growth of sustainability in higher education. Educators are getting serious about sustainability, and so are students Fifth Estate
  4. 2020, 27th October. Philip Oldfield comments on the QS’s role in measuring and reducing embodied carbon of buildings.IN: Johnston, P. The dark horse of quantity surveying can reduce embodied carbon and cost at the same time. Fifth Estate
  5. 2020, 24th October. Philip Oldfield comments on the design of the Crown Sydney Tower, and the role of international architects in Sydney. IN: Dennis, A. (2020). Crown Sydney architecture: Foreign-designed buildings now dominate city skyline.
  6. 2020, 13th Feb. Philip Oldfield discusses the findings of the ‘Carbon Value Engineering’ project, and the carbon benefits of timber construction. IN: Holland, O. (2020). Has the wooden skyscraper revolution finally arrived? CNN Style
  7. 2019, November 5. Philip Oldfield discusses how timber could by the office material of the future. In: Evans, J. (2019). Offices in 2050: Smart, interactive and fully personalised, Financial Times,
  8. 2019, October 20. Philip Oldfield is quoted on the environmental impact of tall buildings in Sydney. In: Taylor, A. (2019). The sky's the limit: Developers and councils transforming Sydney into Manhattan. Sydney Morning Herald.
  9. 2019, June 27th. Philip Oldfield discusses skyscraper living. Up in the Air: The Craze for Skyscraper Living. Financial Times,
  10. 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.
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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,
  16. 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
  17. 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.
  18. 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
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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,
  22. 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.
  23. 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,
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 2010, February 8th. U.S. Skyscraper Design ‘Trumps’ Competition. Philip Oldfield is quoted regarding current high-rise construction trends and the number of tall buildings completed between 2000 and 2010. International Property Journal, USA. (See also:
  32. 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.
  33. 2009, March. Skyscrapers are Getting Taller. Philip Oldfield explains the shift in tall building construction activity from the USA to Asia and the Middle East. Real Estate Marketing, USA. Issue 237, March 2009, p.10.
  34. 2009, February 19. High-Tech Engineering Helps Skyscraper Developers Reach Record Heights. Philip Oldfield discusses some of the cutting-edge sustainable technologies and design strategies that are appearing in high-rise projects around the world. National Real Estate Investor, USA. (See:
  35. 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.
  36. 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.


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