Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Environmental Impact of Expositions: A Study of Some Contributing Factors

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:29 authored by Shen, Shanshan

Since the Great Exhibition of 1851, the exhibition industry has grown steadily in significance. As a result, this thesis argues that associated large environmental impacts have emerged invisibly. Because they are invisible, these impacts have not been paid adequate attention. Few relevant studies have attempted to investigate the consequence of the impacts of expositions and especially current “sustainable” expositions. This thesis investigates the whole life cycle energy use, carbon footprint and ecological footprint of large-scale exhibitions in terms of the contributing factors, including exhibition buildings, visitor-related transportation, and exhibition-related economic aspects. The aim of this research is to determine, within this scope, the environmental impact of large-scale exhibitions and define what a real sustainable exposition and sustainable exhibition building might be. More specially, it creates an appropriate and specific methodology for assessing the environmental impacts generated from exhibition-related factors.  A mixed methods research approach through integration of Life Cycle Analysis and Ecological Footprint Analysis is used. This is to account for whole life cycle energy and resource use and the resulting environmental impacts generated from exhibition buildings (over the construction, operation, maintenance, and demolition phases), different transport modes for visitor travel, and the exhibition-related economic aspect of four case studies. These are the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the National Exhibition in Shanghai, Expo 2000 in Hannover, and Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The results of comparative analysis confirm that the total energy and resource consumption of large-scale exhibitions is increasing. The exhibition-related economic aspects consumed most energy and resources, and these rise in relation to the number of visitors, especially visitors from outside the host city. For visitor travel, the choice of visitor transport modes can significantly affect the overall environmental impact. Foreign visitors going to expos by airplane lead to more energy usage than the average travel energy consumption for an expo. For local travelling, using public transport modes can effectively help to reduce energy and resource usage in host cities. For buildings, using the hightech approach currently does little to mitigate the energy and resource usage of large expo pavilions. Due to the short useful life, current sustainable exhibition buildings do not perform as well as their designers imagined. Therefore, the energy flow of sustainable exhibition buildings as influenced by actual useful life needs to be paid more attention in the process of environmental assessment.  Furthermore, it is proposed that the assessment method developed in this research can be used to evaluate the impacts of large-scale events, similar to expositions, on the environment in terms of their energy and resource consumption. The results suggest that the analysis boundary for assessment of event-related environmental impacts needs to be the “whole life cycle” and it needs to be broadened for the environmental assessment of large-scale exhibitions to include not just exhibition buildings, but visitor travel (local and international travel), and event-related economic aspects.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Vale, Robert; Vale, Brenda